MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — The first evidence recovered from the suspected Chinese spy balloon was transported to an FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia, on Monday, but much of it still underwater, according to senior FBI officials familiar with the operation.
Once the evidence is at the FBI lab, it will be decontaminated by removing sea and saltwater, rinsing it and washing it so it can be processed, officials said. There are 20 forensic disciplines involved in the operation.
Officials added that the weather over the next couple of days could slow down the recovery operation.
The only evidence collected so far has been anything on the surface, such as the balloon or canopy itself, wiring and small electronics, the officials said. Most of the electronics are believed to be in the payload that has yet to be recovered.
The FBI has not identified any “energetic or offensive” material so far, but an official with the State Department told the Associated Press that the balloon was capable of collecting intelligence signals and was part of a huge, military-linked aerial spy program that targeted more than 40 countries.
The official said the U.S. has confidence that the manufacturer of the balloon shot down on Saturday has “a direct relationship with China’s military and is an approved vendor of the” army. The official cited information from an official PLA procurement portal as evidence for the connection between the company and the military.
The House voted unanimously Thursday to condemn China’s balloon surveillance program as a “brazen violation” of U.S. sovereignty, a rare and swift bipartisan rebuke of Beijing as questions mount about the craft the U.S. says was part of a vast aerial spy program.
The 419-0 action comes as lawmakers clamoring for information about the white balloon that flew over American skies were being briefed by U.S. officials in a classified session.
“This resolution, I believe, sends a clear bipartisan signal to the CCP and our adversaries around the world that this action will not be tolerated,” said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, referring to the Chinese Communist Party.
In a Congress riven by partisan splits, the shared anxiety over China’s stealthy balloon surveillance program and the reach of the Beijing’s global military and economic force provided an unusual opening for bipartisan agreement in the debate.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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Kevin Accettulla is the digital executive producer at News13. Kevin is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He joined the News13 team in March 2020 after nearly two years at a sister station in Pennsylvania. Follow Kevin on Twitter and read more of his work here.