Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said Sunday that he has “real concerns” about the Biden administration’s transparency on the unidentified objects that have been shot down in recent days.
In an interview on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” Sunday, Himes, who is part of the “Gang of Eight,” the top leaders of congressional intelligence committees, said those lawmakers received a “very extensive briefing” on the Chinese spy balloon that was shot down over water last week.
Himes expressed concern that the administration has been less forthcoming about the unidentified objects shot down over Alaskan and Canadian airspaces on Friday and Saturday, respectively, though he acknowledged that information may be scarce.
“Part of the problem is that the second and the third objects were shot down in very remote areas. So my guess is that there’s just not a lot of information out there yet to share,” he said.
“The one thing I see troubling … is massive speculation about alien invasions and additional Chinese or Russian action,” Himes said, adding that the “absence of information” will make people anxious.
“So I do hope the administration has a lot more information for all of us on what’s going on,” Himes said.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Sunday that the U.S. believes the unidentified objects shot down over Alaskan and Canadian airspaces were balloons smaller than the size of the Chinese spy balloon shot down Feb. 4.
Schumer said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week” that he was briefed Saturday night by National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan hours after the unidentified object in Canadian airspace was downed. Asked if the two objects that were shot down in recent days were balloons, Schumer said, “They believe they were, yes, but much smaller than the first one.”
On “Meet the Press,” Himes said he hasn’t been briefed on the matter yet when pressed on whether he thinks the administration is not being forthcoming or if it’s a situation where they don’t have enough information.
“I really can’t answer that question because I haven’t been briefed,” Himes said. “I got a very detailed briefing on the first Chinese balloon, and I think the decision making process there was very good. We now own something that we’re going to exploit for intelligence. I think the decision making was good.”
Himes noted that people hadn’t heard about the Chinese spy balloon until it was spotted flying over Montana earlier this month. NBC News first broke the news that the U.S. was monitoring the high-altitude surveillance device as it hovered on the U.S. for days.
“There may be reasons for it, in the absence of information, people will fill that gap with anxiety and other stuff,” Himes said. “So I wish the administration was a little quicker to tell us everything they do know.”
The lawmakers’ remarks come a day after officials confirmed that a U.S. fighter jet had shot down an unidentified object in the skies over Canada on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s orders. The decision was made in consultation with President Joe Biden, White House and Pentagon officials confirmed Saturday.
The shootdown of the object was the third over Northern America this month.
On Friday, the U.S. military shot down a “high-altitude object” flying over Alaskan airspace and Arctic waters. During a White House briefing that day, National Security Council official John Kirby said the U.S. does not know who owns the object, and declined to call it a balloon, such as the one allegedly owned by the Chinese government that was shot down over the Carolina coast by the U.S. military earlier this month.