The Chinese spy balloon that transited the US earlier this year was able to capture imagery and collect some signals intelligence from US military sites, a source familiar with the matter tells CNN.
The balloon was able to transmit information back to Beijing in real time, the source said, and the US government still does not know for sure whether the Chinese government could wipe the balloon’s data as it received it. That raises questions about whether there is intelligence the balloon was able to gather that the US still doesn’t know about.
Still, the intelligence community has not been overly concerned about the information the balloon was able to gather, the person said, because it is not much more sophisticated than what Chinese satellites are able to glean as they orbit over similar locations.
A US intelligence official told CNN on Monday that “although analysis of the wreckage of the High Altitude Balloon remains ongoing, thus far, its flight over the United States does not appear to have provided critical new insights to the People’s Republic of China.”
The US also knew what the balloon’s path would be and was able to protect sensitive sites and censor some signals before the balloon was able to pick them up, officials have said.
As CNN has reported, the US intelligence community last year developed a method of tracking what it says is a fleet of these Chinese balloons operating across the globe, controlled by the Chinese military.
The FBI is still examining the balloon, but so far officials have been able to glean additional information about how the device worked, including the algorithms used for the balloon’s software and how it is powered and designed.
CNN has reached out to the National Security Council at the White House and the Pentagon for comment. NBC was first to report on the new intelligence.