Suspected Chinese spy ballon shot down by US military: Live updates

A senior administration official and a senior Pentagon official told CNN that the suspected Chinese spy balloon became a cause for more concern when it became clear on Tuesday that it would cross in the contiguous United States. 

The officials said that it was not out of the ordinary for such a balloon to come near or inside Alaskan territory, adding that such encroachments weren’t necessarily a cause for alarm. However, when the balloon took a direct path down to the lower 48 states, US officials began to realize they were dealing with a much different scenario that needed to be elevated to President Joe Biden. The Pentagon official said the fact that the balloon was loitering also drew attention.

That realization occurred Tuesday and triggered a presidential briefing with Biden on Wednesday in which military options were presented. 

The explanation of the timeline comes as Republicans have been fiercely critical of the Biden administration for not acting sooner to stop the balloon. 

The senior Pentagon official told CNN that if the balloon had followed a normal trajectory, “we would have collected on it and we would have monitored it and communicated across Canada and all stations” but added that “this thing became different when it started to loiter over Canada, then it dipped down into Idaho.” 

“One that comes down south, loiters, is controlled, is directional — that’s different,” the official said.

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