China’s big balloons for Biden gave America an unwelcome Valentine gift

Darrell Todd Maurina
7 min readFeb 14

The Chinese so-called “weather balloon,” for better or for worse, after crossing American airspace from Alaska to the Atlantic, has exposed serious limits on the ability of the United States to intercept or even detect foreign surveillance activities on American soil, or in this case, above it. We’ve now seen at least three smaller balloons, so far of undetermined origins, and it seems likely that many more were coming into American airspace “under the radar” — literally. Who knows how many similar surveillance devices have been entering American airspace undetected for years, or perhaps decades?

Sending President Joe Biden a big balloon two weeks before Valentines Day, and then sending more to follow, may or may not have been the Chinese idea of a joke, but if it wasn’t deliberate, it sure caused a lot of laughter.

It’s not the Americans who are laughing. People are laughing at us.

What’s worse is this isn’t the first balloon. These balloons have been coming for years and the people who should have known didn’t, or at least weren’t briefed. The worst-case scenario would be that nobody may have known at all about some prior incursions. The main reason we detected three new balloons following the cross-country overflight was a top-level decision to adjust our detection capabilities to track much smaller objects.

Near the top of the list of those who should have known about the earlier balloon incursions is former CIA Director and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Pompeo was understandably furious when he learned that similar Chinese balloons had entered American airspace on his watch during the Donald J. Trump administration, and initially disputed that it had happened at all.

Quoting Pompeo: “I certainly never became aware that there was a three-bus-size floating device coming across our country for five days — either as CIA director or Secretary of State… I’ve talked to others who were on my teams, they don’t know anything about it either.”

Why wasn’t Pompeo told? That’s a legitimate question. Current information, which may change, indicates that the previous balloon incursions were brief, in at least some cases weren’t identified as being Chinese surveillance activities, and…