“All countries, especially competitors like the United States and China, spy on each other. It’s a fact of international relations, and has been forever,” said Jacob Stokes, an expert at the Center for a New American Security and a former Obama administration official. “And we know [Chinese] intelligence extensively targets America.”
At the same time, U.S. officials have said they do not think the balloon was able to gather information that couldn’t be acquired in other ways, namely by spy satellites. So while the presence of a balloon floating over Montana might appear sensational, the intelligence likely collected and the fact of Chinese spying are mundane.
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