According to a source familiar with the situation, the Chinese spy balloon that transited the US earlier this year was able to capture imagery and gather signals intelligence from US military sites.
According to the source, the balloon was able to transmit data back to Beijing in real time, and the US government is still unsure whether the Chinese government was able to wipe the data as it was received. This raises the question of whether the balloon was able to gather intelligence that the US is still unaware of.
Nonetheless, the intelligence community has not been overly concerned about the information gathered by the balloon, according to the person, because it is not much more sophisticated than what Chinese satellites can gather as they orbit over similar locations.
The US also knew the balloon’s path and was able to protect sensitive sites and censor some signals before the balloon could pick them up, according to officials.
According to CNN, the US intelligence community last year developed a method of tracking what it claims is a fleet of Chinese military-controlled balloons operating around the world.
The FBI is still investigating the balloon, but officials have learned more about how it worked so far, including the algorithms used for the balloon’s software and how it is powered and designed.
CNN has reached out to the White House National Security Council and the Pentagon for comment. NBC was the first to report on the new information.