Flying Objects Could Turn Out to Be Harmless, U.S. Says

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WASHINGTON — A top White House official said on Tuesday that three unidentified flying objects shot down in the past several days might turn out to be harmless commercial or research efforts that posed no real threat to the United States.

John F. Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said investigators had not yet found any evidence that the three objects were connected to China’s program of balloon surveillance similar to the balloon shot down over South Carolina’s coast this month.

But he cautioned that officials had not yet been able to find and collect the debris from the three objects after they were shot down, and that a different conclusion could be reached if the debris was found and analyzed.

Mr. Kirby said that military and intelligence officials had also found nothing to suggest that the three objects were part of an intelligence collection effort by another country.

“We haven’t seen any indication or anything that points specifically to the idea that these three objects were part of the P.R.C.’s spying program, or that they were definitively involved in external intelligence collection efforts,” he told reporters, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

Mr. Kirby’s comments came as Pentagon and other Biden administration officials visited the Capitol on Tuesday to brief the full Senate on the latest developments regarding the series of strange floating objects that the Biden administration has seen fit to shoot down. The briefing is the latest effort from the administration to update lawmakers amid a rising — and increasingly bipartisan — clamor from Capitol Hill for more transparency around the incidents.

The full Senate was most recently briefed about the Chinese spy balloon less than a week ago, in a closed-door session that precipitated pointed questions from Democrats and Republicans alike about why the craft had not been brought down as soon as it was detected hovering over Alaska. Since then, three other aerial phenomena have been shot down over Alaska, Canada and Michigan.

Mr. Kirby said the F.A.A. had determined that the objects were not operated by the U.S. government. One possible explanation for the objects, he said, might be that they were operated by private companies or research institutes.

“They will not dismiss as a possibility that these could be balloons that were simply tied to commercial or research entities and therefore benign,” Mr. Kirby said. “That very well could be, or could emerge, as a leading explanation here.”

But he said that no company or other organization had contacted the government to say they were the owners of the objects that were shot down.

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