Sunday Talks, House Intel Chairman Mike Turner Discusses Likely China Objectives with Massive Surveillance Balloon

Posted originally on the conservative tree house on February 5, 2023 | Sundance

House Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), Chairman Mike Turner (R-OH) appears on Meet the Press to discuss his perspective on the motive of China to send a massive surveillance balloon over key U.S. military facilities.

According to Chairman Turner, it appears (a) the balloon was designed to capture some intelligence that satellites cannot; and (b) the flight path of the surveillance balloon was steered to cover areas housing key the strategic military bases and missile defenses. WATCH (Transcript Below):

CHUCK TODD: Joining me now is the Republican Chair of the House Intel Committee, Mike Turner of Ohio. Chairman Turner, welcome back to Meet the Press.

REP. MIKE TURNER: Good morning, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD: All right. Let me start with what you know here. So the decision to take this down – what more have you learned? And you’re part of the so-called Gang of Eight. I don’t think you guys have gotten a personal briefing, but I know staff has. What more can you tell us about the take-down operation?

REP. MIKE TURNER: Yeah. Well, clearly the president taking it down over the Atlantic is sort of like the quarterback—sort of like tackling the quarterback after the game is over. The satellite had completed its mission. This should never have been allowed to enter the United States, and it never should’ve been allowed to complete its mission. If you ask somebody to draw an X at every place where our sensitive missile defense sites, our nuclear weapons infrastructure, our nuclear weapon sites are, you would put them all along this path. Clearly, this was an attempt by China to gather information, to defeat our command and control of our sensitive missile defense and nuclear weapon sites. And that certainly is an urgency that this administration does not recognize.

CHUCK TODD: Do you think we should have a policy that just anything that enters our airspace that’s a balloon from China gets shot down immediately?

REP. MIKE TURNER: Well, first off, you have to understand this administration didn’t just fail here; they failed to prepare after the first time this happened during this administration. The administration has already admitted, which I’ve been briefed on, that China has done this before in the continental United States during this president’s tenure –

CHUCK TODD: When did that happen?

REP. MIKE TURNER: I – you have to let them release it; I can’t release classified information, but they can tell you.

CHUCK TODD: Were you also briefed on – there was apparently two or three incidents in the previous administration as well.

REP. MIKE TURNER: Well, that’s what they’re saying now. But I think that the administration needs to come forward, because this is not an ability to say that this is a crisis that was handed to them. This is a crisis that has developed as a result of this president during his administration allowing China to do a similar act before, not responding and then clearly in this one, not seeing the urgency of what was unfolding. I mean, the president allowed this to go across our most sensitive sites, and wasn’t even going to tell the American public. If you hadn’t broken this story, the American public would not have even known. There was no attempt to notify Congress, no attempt to put together the Gang of Eight. I think this administration lacks urgency.

CHUCK TODD: Do you – the Pentagon says that they were able to use some countermeasures that blocked or limited the ability of China to extract information from this balloon. Do you buy that?

REP. MIKE TURNER: No. And certainly you don’t either. Here’s the thing that’s interesting. The administration says there was nothing for them to gain here. This was quite a risk by China, quite a calculation that they would take a balloon, put it up in China, take it across the United States where it’s clearly going to be discoverable by us. They clearly had some information that they were trying to garner, that they can’t garner from space, so they did not have otherwise.

CHUCK TODD: What could that be? Have you – I mean what – you’re pretty familiar with this. What is it that they think they could have gotten from a balloon? Or what can be done with a balloon that can’t be done with a satellite?

REP. MIKE TURNER: Well, the key obviously is not just the balloon. The key is the payload that was attached to it, which you’ve reported is, you know, the size of three buses. That’s obviously huge. And it was being commanded and controlled by mainland China, and delivering data and information back to mainland China. Again, if you look at the path, and you put X’s where all of our sensitive missile defense and nuclear weapons facilities are, I believe that they were trying to gain information on how to defeat the command and control of our nuclear weapon systems and our missile defense systems. That’s a crisis. That certainly should’ve had an urgency to the president, and not just wait until this gets to the Atlantic to take it down.

CHUCK TODD: Do you at all accept – I mean, it sounds like he did put the order in on Wednesday to shoot it down, and then it’s the military that said, “Hey, it’s not safe yet.” Do you accept that?

REP. MIKE TURNER: Yeah, no. There’s no excuses here. When this first occurred last time during this administration — remember, this is the third year of this administration — they should have been preparing for this. They knew what this was. They know what the balloon is, what its capabilities, maneuverability is, from having observed previous actions by China. They should have been prepared. They seemed not only to be unprepared, but to even be waiting. You know, where is the balloon going to go? What are they trying to do? That’s not how you look at the actions of an adversary. China is a self-declared adversary. They are clearly expanding their military capabilities. They are tripling their nuclear weapons capabilities. They’re fielding hypersonic weapons, they’re expanding in space. In this instance, this president should’ve taken this as an urgency, and so should’ve our military. This should have been taken down before it entered the U.S. airspace, when it was over Alaska.

CHUCK TODD: This, there’s some sort of surveillance technology with this balloon. There’s been some speculation that it might have the capability of launching its own drone – sort of miniature drones to do extra surveillance. Do you know anything about that, or has there been any reports to confirm any of that?

REP. MIKE TURNER: No. I have not been briefed on that. But I can tell you — and we’re supposed to be briefed this week as to what we know. But I think what we can believe is that this administration says, “We don’t really know.” And if we don’t really know, how they keep telling the American public this is not a threat, that there was no need to act is just extraordinary to me. This administration does not understand the urgency of taking action to protect our national security –

CHUCK TODD: What do you believe the actual threat is right now? What is it that they’re trying to do? I mean, you see this as just a simple military exercise by the Chinese.

REP. MIKE TURNER: Absolutely. I mean, they didn’t go and look at the Grand Canyon; they went and looked at our nuclear weapon sites and the missile defense sites throughout the country. And whatever was in this humongous payload — I mean, there wasn’t a camera on this thing. I mean, I’m certain there were cameras, but at the same time, this was huge. The expanse that was there, and what they were trying to accomplish obviously was important enough to China to take the risk of something that was overt. This was not covert, this wasn’t secret. They did it in such a grand scale. They knew that the United States would know, and they did it anyway.

CHUCK TODD: So was it the right call for Secretary Blinken to postpone his trip?

REP. MIKE TURNER: Sure. But if you noticed – and I have a great deal of regard for Secretary Blinken – but if you notice, he didn’t cancel it until it was already public, and there was public scrutiny of the fact that he was going.

CHUCK TODD: Well, there’s some that argue that it shouldn’t have been canceled, that this should be immediately they – we should be immediately confronting them. What do you make of that idea?

REP. MIKE TURNER: What should’ve happened is the first time this happened during this administration, there should have been outrage. They should have addressed this with China. They should have prepared for when this balloon was coming. They should have understood that there was a great deal of risk at our national security. And they should have been prepared the moment this balloon was launched, because they knew what this was like, they knew what it was capable of, and they should have responded.

CHUCK TODD: So what now should be the American response here? What would you like to see going forward in our, in response to this incursion?

REP. MIKE TURNER: Well I – first off, the president needs to shift and understand that he has urgent national security matters. You can’t just act like nothing matters if it matters to our adversaries. If our adversaries think this is important, we need to thwart it and we need to respond. With respect to this balloon, obviously, you know, the administration’s indicated they’re going to try to collect whatever is left of having this strewn across the ocean to see what we can learn there. We’re going to find what signals intelligence that the administration might have been able to capture, and from that, understand what this was doing. But they need to make clear to all our adversaries, “You’re not going to get to come to the United States and take a tour of our most sensitive military sites and have a free shot.”

CHUCK TODD: How aggressive should we be about these balloons that are in the Western Hemisphere, not over our airspace, but we know there’s reports that there’s one of these balloons in Latin America right now?

REP. MIKE TURNER: Right. Well, I think all of these – if the administration had, when they became aware that China was deploying this capability, if they had been aggressive to determine how to capture them, how to exploit the technology, how to thwart the technology, we would be in a different place today. And I think, you know, the same is true for the other balloons that you’re seeing.

CHUCK TODD: All right, I’m going to – we’re running out of time – but before I let you go, you and others in the Gang of Eight have asked for a briefing on all of the classified documents that have been discovered from President Trump, President Biden, and Vice President Pence. Where are we on that?

REP. MIKE TURNER: You know, what’s striking about this, Chuck, is that the Biden administration told the American public that they raided Donald Trump’s home because it was a national security risk. But what we found in the intelligence community and in the intelligence committee is that the Biden administration had not engaged at all anyone who was in national security on the issue of threats from these documents. It took Congress to step in and say, “We want a security threat.” And then they tried to deny giving the briefing to us from that threat. What’s interesting is that the moment this balloon became public, I got a notice not from the administration that I’m going to get a briefing on this balloon, but they have to rush to Congress now to talk to us about Donald Trump’s documents. You can see they want to change the news.

CHUCK TODD: So you’re going to get a briefing on Trump’s documents, but –

REP. MIKE TURNER: There’s nothing scheduled on the balloon, but they’re scheduling Donald Trump.

CHUCK TODD: Anything on Biden or Pence?

REP. MIKE TURNER: It’s included, yes.

CHUCK TODD: That will all be included. When is that, this week?

REP. MIKE TURNER: Yes, it’s supposed to be this week. We’ll see whether or not the balloon happens first. It certainly should. Again, urgency. This administration needs to understand we do have national security urgent matters.

CHUCK TODD: Mike Turner, Chair of the House Intel Committee, Republican from Ohio.


CHUCK TODD: Thanks for coming in, sharing your perspective with us —

REP. MIKE TURNER: Thank you.

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