Ever since the initial reports in 2020 about Hunter Biden's abandoned laptop began to emerge, there have been some Biden defenders who have argued or insinuated that the laptop, if it even actually existed, didn't belong to Biden and that the damning and sordid contents of the hard drive were fake and manipulated and the product of Russian disinformation, among other excuses and denials.

Now, however, in what appears to be for the first time ever, attorneys for the president's son have seemingly acknowledged that both the laptop and its data are real and authentic and belonged to Biden, the Daily Caller reported.

Even still, though, the attorneys continued to perpetuate the insinuation that all least some of the purported contents of the laptop's hard drive that have been released to the public may have been manipulated, tampered with, or fake.

Demands for federal and state investigations

The apparent admission came in a letter sent Wednesday to Matthew Olsen, the assistant attorney general for national security, from Hunter Biden's attorney Abbe Lowell, that called for a federal investigation of John Paul Mac Isaac, the owner of the Delaware computer repair shop where the laptop was abandoned in 2019, among others.

"Mr. Mac Isaac has admitted to gaining access to our client’s personal computer data without Mr. Biden’s consent. Mr. Mac Isaac has admitted to copying that data without Mr. Biden’s consent, and Mr. Mac Isaac has admitted to distributing copies of that data to the political enemies of Mr. Biden’s father, without Mr. Biden’s consent," Lowell wrote. "These unlawful actions caused the widespread publication, manipulation, and exploitation of Mr. Biden’s most personal information."

According to New York Times reporter Kenneth Vogel, a similar letter was sent at the same time to Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings that called for a state-level investigation of Mac Isaac and others for alleged crimes committed.

NEW: In a letter demanding probes of the dissemination of Hunter Biden's files, his lawyer appears to admit the underlying data is real, but also casts doubt on the origin story, noting it "supposedly originated from a computer left at [John Paul Mac Isaac's] repair shop in Del." pic.twitter.com/umLjrWpAok

— Kenneth P. Vogel (@kenvogel) February 1, 2023

Per the letter to Olsen, the purported federal crimes allegedly violated by Mac Isaac and others include the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the Stored Communications Act, the National Stolen Property Act, and a statute against Making Public Restricted Personal Information.

Lowell backtracks, now says letters don't "confirm" authenticity of laptop

The Daily Caller noted that over the two-plus years since Hunter Biden's laptop scandal has been a publicly known thing, numerous media outlets have confirmed, in some cases rather belatedly, that the laptop and the data therein were authentic and real.

This letter from Biden's attorney also seems to validate the authenticity of the laptop and at least some of its data, but the outlet further noted that Lowell was quick to try and reverse course and walk back that obvious interpretation of his letters to authorities demanding investigations.

"These letters do not confirm Mac Isaac’s or others’ versions of a so-called laptop," Lowell said in a statement to Fox News. "They address their conduct of seeking, manipulating, and disseminating what they allege to be Mr. Biden’s personal data, wherever they claim to have gotten it."

"I’ve kind of gotten used to" threats and intimidation

Fox News reported separately that Mac Isaac, despite the clear threat of federal investigation demanded by Biden's attorney, seemed a bit unconcerned by the potential risk such action posed toward himself.

"You've got to remember, I’ve been dealing with intimidation from all fronts over the last couple of years, so I’ve kind of gotten used to it," Mac Isaac told network host Tucker Carlson in response to the letters. "This isn't as bad as being accused of being a traitor and working with Russia to affect an election, but it’s pretty close."

It remains to be seen if these letters from Biden's attorney will actually prompt federal or state action against Mac Isaac and the other named individuals, but regardless, at the very least it appears we now finally have an admission from Biden's inner circle that all of the laptop talk in recent years has been real.

In 2021, after the then-Democratic House majority voted along party lines to boot two Republican members from all of their committee assignments, the House GOP vowed to return the favor whenever they held majority control of the chamber again.

That vow was made good on Thursday, to an extent, when the Republican majority House voted along party lines to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Breitbart reported.

The final vote to remove Omar was 218-211-1, with every single Democrat voting against the resolution and Rep. David Joyce (R-OH), who sits on the Ethics Committee, voting "present."

Omar removed for past comments

To be sure, the stated reasoning for the resolution to remove Rep. Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee was her documented history over the years of making comments deemed by many to be anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.

The Somali-born former refugee turned Minnesota congresswoman has also made comments disparaging of the United States, including comparing military action by the U.S. and Israel to terrorist attacks by Hamas and the Taliban, or downplaying the significance of the 9/11 terror attacks, in which nearly 3,000 Americans were killed, as an incident in which "some people did something" for which all Muslims were paying the price.

In light of those 9/11 remarks, Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) tweeted, "Today, some people will do something to Ilhan Omar’s committee assignment."

Victory for new House GOP leadership team

Breitbart noted that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) had promised last year to remove Rep. Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee if given the opportunity to do so, and others, such as House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN), shared in his commitment to making good on that promise.

"There is no debate that Ilhan Omar, the face of antisemitism in the Democrat Party, has no place representing American interests on the Foreign Affairs Committee," Emmer told the outlet in a statement. "Ms. Omar is an embarrassment to Minnesota and our country."

Interestingly enough, given the slim majority margin, McCarthy and Emmer almost lacked the necessary votes to ensure Omar's removal, according to Politico, but they managed to convince a few holdouts to flip from "No" to "Yes" on the measure after agreeing to amend the resolution to include language about "due process" to appeal a removal vote to the House Ethics Committee.

Progressive "Squad" members furious in defense of Omar

As for the Democratic opposition to the removal resolution for Rep. Omar, it was understandably most fierce from the Minnesota congresswoman's fellow progressive "Squad" members, according to The Hill, most particularly Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Cori Bush (D-MO), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA).

Ocasio-Cortez called the removal effort an example of the GOP's "racism and incitement of violence against women of color in this body" and was more broadly "about targeting women of color in the United States of America."

Bush said that the whole thing was "offensive" and "racist gaslighting" and a "blatantly Islamophobic" action reflective of "white supremacy."

Removal limited to just Foreign Affairs Committee

In the end, unlike what Democrats did to Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ) two years prior by removing them from all committee assignments, this effort against Omar was narrowly focused on her seat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, given her strong and repeated bias against the top U.S. ally in the Middle East, Israel.

"We've watched what she has done," Speaker McCarthy told reporters two days before the vote, according to Politico. "I just think she can serve on other committees. It would be best if the Democrats didn't put her in the position of Foreign Affairs. If they do, she will not serve on Foreign Affairs. They can choose another committee for her."

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

In light of concerns expressed by an executive with Pfizer, which makes an mRNA vaccine for COVID-19, about the impact of the shots on women and their reproductive health, a National Institutes of Health Study is trending online.

As is the term "fertility."

It was Jordon Trishton Walker, a research director for Pfizer, who said in an undercover video, "There is something irregular about the menstrual cycles. So, people will have to investigate that down the line."

He made himself famous just days earlier by claiming that Pfizer was mutating the COVID-19 virus in order to continue selling more vaccines – a move he called a "cash cow." Experts suggested he was simply making up statements at the time.

But now the Daily Clout documents that his comments have triggered a high level of interest in a National Institutes of Health study that found 40.2% of vaccinated women experienced menstrual changes.

The report explained, "That means that over 40 million women in the United States have had their menstrual cycles affected by the C19 jab."

The Hill, only last month, confirmed, "Since early in the pandemic, women have reported experiencing changes in their menstruation after they got COVID-19 or were vaccinated against it.

"Research has backed up those anecdotal reports, showing COVID-19 vaccination having a temporary but noticeable impact on women’s periods and their accompanying symptoms," the report said.

It cited other studies, including one of 4,000 women that found cycle lengths were extended.

"An even larger study of nearly 20,000 women in the U.K. found a similar effect on overall cycle length, but also noted that it was extended for longer in people who got both doses of a vaccine within the same menstrual cycle. For these individuals, their cycle length increased by an average of 3.7 days," the report said.

And a paper published by the Journal of Infection and Chemotherapy "reinforced that finding with new data," the Hill said.

Yet another study, from Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses, confirmed women had "more frequent back pain, nausea, tiredness, pelvic pain, unprescribed analgesics use and passage of loose stools in connection with their menstruation compared to unvaccinated individuals."

The Daily Clout reported comments from several experts, including Dr. Paul Thomas, who said, "If they get this COVID jab into every child …that might be close to the end of the human race. Because we don't know what it's doing to fertility, but it does not look good."

Dr. Naomi Wolf was quoted, "I've seen the 360-degree harms to human reproduction … There's nothing to do but conclude that it's an attack on the West and America's ability to reproduce itself in the next generation."

Daily Clout listed the comments because, "In light of Project Veritas' latest bombshell, we have compiled an array of respected voices speaking out about menstrual and fertility concerns. Doctors, scientists, thought leaders, and women across the globe have been screaming from the rooftops on this subject for years now."

Those comments included one from Dr. Roger Hodkinson that unborn girls could be rendered infertile, something that "will not fully be known until 20 years' time." And Dr. Ryan Cole said, "Not only could you be sterilizing your daughter, but you could also be ruining her heart, you could be inflaming her liver, you [could] be inflaming her brain, her adrenal glands, her spleen, her bone marrow."

Walker, in fact, warned, "The [COVID] vaccine shouldn’t be interfering with that [menstrual cycles]. So, we don’t really know.

"I hope we don’t find out that somehow this mRNA lingers in the body and like -- because it has to be affecting something hormonal to impact menstrual cycles. I hope we don’t discover something really bad down the line. If something were to happen downstream and it was, like, really bad? I mean, the scale of that scandal would be enormous."

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

Joe Biden has pushed for "racial equity" programs and outreaches across America throughout his term in the White House.

Now his agenda is going "global," and it's at the expense of U.S. taxpayers.

Judicial Watch is reporting the Biden administration recently confirmed it is allocating $1 million to "empower marginalized racial and ethnic communities in Europe."

Details remain uncertain.

"What is clear is that the soon-to-be empowered minority Europeans are to include people of African descent and Roma people, according to the recently published grant announcement," Judicial Watch reported.

"The Biden administration’s costly, governmentwide effort to advance racial equity and support the nation’s underserved population through taxpayer-funded programs is going global."

The report cited the "goals" of mitigating "structural racism, xenophobia, and discrimination."

It purports to "ensure the fair administration of, and access to, justice for marginalized racial and ethnic communities."

Judicial Watch reported, " The grant also aims to counter societal discrimination and violence by advancing equity, social inclusion, and equality for all. The agency doling out the money, a State Department offshoot known as the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL), justifies funding the program by claiming that members of marginalized racial, ethnic, and indigenous communities around the world often are disproportionately discriminated against, forced to endure high levels of violence and excruciating labor conditions in migration, are systematically denied access to justice, and continually bear the brunt of racial discrimination, xenophobia, and violence in society."

The State Department claimed, "DRL has a longstanding commitment to empowering underrepresented and underserved racial and ethnic communities and to upholding the dignity of people who are systematically denied their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

"DRL acknowledges the legacy—and suffering of millions of people as a result—of slavery and colonization, which perpetuates and worsens inequality today. DRL supports the mandate of the Special Representative for Racial Equity and Justice to protect and advance the human rights of people belonging to marginalized racial and ethnic communities and to combat systemic racism, discrimination, and xenophobia around the world."

Judicial Watch noted, "Uncle Sam’s new million-dollar European endeavor will focus on three objectives, according to the State Department. They include support for civil society groups working with marginalized racial and ethnic communities, raising awareness of the challenges and opportunities for members of the discriminated communities by combating structural racism, discrimination, and xenophobia as well as advancing the objectives of a United Nations initiative that focuses on people of African descent. The words structural racism, xenophobia, and intolerance appear repeatedly throughout the government’s 25-page grant document."

In the U.S., under Biden, multiple federal agencies have launched "racial equity plans," and the Department of Labor is giving $260 million to promote "equitable access" to government unemployment benefits by addressing disparities in the administration and delivery of money by race ethnicity and language proficiency, the report said.

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

Joe Biden on Friday added to the evidence that he's not really in touch with reality a lot of times.

He was asked whether he takes any responsibility for America's inflation, which under his policies reached a peak of 9.1% last summer, although it has dropped back somewhat since then.

"Do I take any blame for inflation? NO!" he said. "Because it was already there when I got here, man."

Fox Business said he continued, "Remember what the economy was like when I got here? Jobs were hemorrhaging, inflation was rising. We weren't manufacturing a damn thing here. We were in real economic difficulty. That's why I don't."

However, the reality is that when Biden took office in January 2021, the Consumer Price Index was 1.4%.

In December 2022, it was 6.5%.

But six months earlier, in the summer of 2022, it reached 9.1% and reached a peak that saw families across America spending thousands of dollars a year more just to buy the same products and services they did when President Trump was in office.

Gasoline prices exploded to more than $5 and $6 a gallon, and in one state, those prices have gone up more than a dollar a gallon in just the last month, under Biden's economic and energy policies.

He attacked America's energy industry as soon as he soon office, shutting down coal, oil, and gas projects and demanding that America would go "green," and rely on electricity, even though much of that power actually comes from gas and coal power plants.

Fox reported, "Experts at the Heritage Foundation analyzed consumer prices and interest rates and found in their latest report released Thursday that the average American household has lost the equivalent of $7,400 in annual income since Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021.

"The income loss represents an increase of $200 from September when the think tank's research found a $7,200 decline in annual income for the average American household dating back to the start of Biden's term," the report said.

Over the last year, Federal Reserve officials also have raised interest rates seven straight times, which also costs American consumers more any time they charge on a credit card or finance a home.

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

What are the Terms of the New Marriage Covenant in Messiah's blood? One verse that defines the terms is John 14:21. Jesus was quoting from the Torah, teaching that the covenant terms that we are to keep are the same: the obedience of faith. Of course, the covenant is very different in other ways; for instance, God puts his Torah in our hearts along with dwelling within all the saints, empowering us to live in the Spirit and truth.

Click here to go to the study and memorize John 14:21:

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

Pro-LGBT activists have worked with pro-LGBT lawmakers in multiple locations across the United States to create a legal ban on certain talk counseling.

Their scheme allows counselors to encourage the LGBT lifestyle but bans any therapy that seeks to support people who want to leave the LGBT lifestyle.

Those who leave the lifestyle, of course, undermine the entire movement which is based on the ideology that people are "born that way."

Now, however, a federal appeals court has blown up that argument.

A report from Liberty Counsel reveals that the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals "has ruled that the Tampa ordinance that prohibited licensed counselors from providing voluntary talk therapy to minors seeking help to reduce or eliminate their unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or identity, is unconstitutional under the First Amendment."

The case is Vazzo v. the City of Tampa, in which family therapist Robert Vazzo was represented by Liberty Counsel.

The ruling follows an earlier decision in the same court in Otto v. City of Boca Raton "in which the Eleventh Circuit previously ruled that similar bans preventing counselors from helping their clients in Palm Beach County and the city of Boca Raton were also unconstitutional viewpoint restrictions on speech under the First Amendment."

The new ruling said, "We held this case in abeyance pending the issuance of the mandate in Otto v. the City of Boca Raton. In Otto, we held that city and county ordinances banning sexual orientation change efforts ('SOCE') were unconstitutional under the First Amendment. The city of Tampa’s SOCE ordinance here is substantively the same as the ordinances at issue in Otto. Accordingly, we are bound by our prior-panel precedent rule to affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the Plaintiffs-Appellees."

It was in late 2019 that U.S. District Judge William F. Jung gave Liberty Counsel a summary judgment in its case seeking to invalidate the Tampa ordinance.

The city adopted its scheme there to prohibit "licensed counselors from providing voluntary talk therapy to minors seeking help to reduce or eliminate their unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or identity." It appealed the judge's ruling.

The new ruling "permanently strikes down the ordinance under the First Amendment," Liberty Counsel said.

Jung had demolished the pro-LGBT talking point that it is "conversion therapy" involved.

That's a term that activists and the media frequently use.

He said, however, the ordinance "bars therapy within the city by medical doctors and mental health professionals that seeks to assist a minor patient in a goal to change gender expression or to change sexual orientation/attraction. These two subjects are separate and distinct, but related. The cases have generically referred to these two subjects as 'SOCE' or sexual orientation change efforts. The ordinance uses the term 'conversion therapy.' Neither term is entirely accurate."

Liberty Counsel's chairman, Mat Staver said, "This is a great victory for counselors and their clients. Counselors and clients have the freedom to choose the counsel of their choice and be free of political censorship from government-mandated speech."

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

A commentary at the Washington Examiner is warning that a Chinese spy balloon being watched as it crosses the United States could be a "dry run" for an EMP attack.

An electromagnetic pulse attack would be triggered by a nuclear explosion at altitude. It would disrupt electronics in a massive region, and earlier warnings have said that it could take down America's grid, destroy basic functions like banking and deliveries, and ultimately kill millions.

The latest warning is contained in Paul Bedard's Washington Secrets column.

"High-altitude balloons, such as the one China has floated over mountain state military bases this week, are considered a key 'delivery platform' for secret nuclear strikes on America’s electric grid, according to intelligence officials," he reported.

"Spy balloons, used by Japan to drop bombs during World War II, are now far more sophisticated, can fly at up to 200,000 feet, evade detection, and can carry a small nuclear bomb that, if exploded in the atmosphere, would shut down the grid and wipe out electronics in a many-state-wide area."

WND has reported on the threat from EMP for years, as the nation has no effective barrier to such attacks. And even small rogue nations or terror groups that could capture a nuke could launch such an attack.

A congressional EMP commission and the military have delivered such warnings over the years, too.

Bedard said a 2015 report for the American Leadership & Policy Foundation included advice from Air Force Maj. David Stuckenberg, a leading EMP expert, about the situation, and the threat to national security from EMPs.

"Using a balloon as a WMD/WME platform could provide adversaries with a pallet of altitudes and payload options with which to maximize offensive effects against the U.S.," he said at the time. "A high-altitude balloon could be designed, created, and launched in a matter of months. There is nothing to prevent several hundred pounds of weapons material from being delivered to altitude."

Today, in light of the Chinese balloon's presence, Bedard reported, he said, "China’s recent balloon flyover of the United States is a provocative and aggressive act. It was most likely a type of dry run meant to send a strategic message to the USA. We must not take this for granted."

He noted during World War II Japan had an effort that targeted North America with balloon bombs.

The report said, "Stuckenberg cited the research of the late Peter Pry, who headed a congressional commission on EMP and reported on the potential of a balloon-launched attack."

Pry found, "Imagine the consequences of a balloon EMP attack that damages and destroys electronic systems at the speed of light within an EMP field with a radius of hundreds of kilometers. The Eastern Grid generates 75% of U.S. electricity and supports most of the population. Virtually any nuke detonated anywhere over the Eastern Grid will collapse the entire Eastern Grid, not just the area within the EMP field, because of cascading failures that will ripple outward."

China has claimed its balloon is a weather balloon and is not a threat, and the Pentagon has so far rebuffed demands to shoot it down.

WND reported only last year there was new evidence the rogue Islamic regime in Iran was preparing for such an attack by hardening its "critical infrastructure" in preparation for a military response from the United States.

In an electromagnetic-pulse or EMP, attack, a small nuclear weapon delivered on a satellite is exploded at high altitudes, resulting in a burst of electromagnetic energy that could cause a nationwide blackout of the electric power grid. The shutdown of critical infrastructure reliant on the grid, which could last as long as a year, would affect communications, transportation, food and water supply, and sanitation.

While nuclear experts believe Iran does not have the capacity to strike the U.S. with a traditional nuclear-tipped missile, its intent to carry out an EMP attack "may be reflected in their efforts to protect at least some of their critical infrastructures," according to a report by Pry, the executive director of the EMP Task Force on National and Homeland Security.

Pry's report then, titled "IRAN: EMP THREAT The Islamic Republic of Iran's Military Doctrine, Plans, and Capabilities for Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack," noted an official Iranian military textbook endorses EMP attacks against the U.S.

'EMP apocalypse'
A year ago, Pry co-authored a column in The Hill warning that the Ukraine war could devolve into an "EMP apocalypse" for America.

Pry and co-author D. Brian Hay, president of the Canadian security think tank Mackenzie Institute, said a missile-delivered EMP "of sufficient size, exploded high above St. Louis, for example, could fry the electricity systems of the United States and those of the main populated parts of Canada and northern Mexico."

"The resulting social catastrophe of such a doomsday scenario would forcibly preoccupy national, state, and local authorities with their internal problems," they wrote.

"Imagine most of the United States with no electricity, no ATMs, few working vehicles, few functioning hospitals, no delivery of prescription medicines, or food or fresh water or sewage treatment," they wrote "Most of the U.S. population could be reduced to a lifestyle like that of the 1800s. EMP Commission estimates project a death toll of 90 percent of the population within one year, were something of this nature to happen. Remaining authorities would be overwhelmed by civil unrest decimating the dwindling population as they fought for their survival."

The threat could come, they warned, from many sources, including North Korea and China as well as Russia and Iran.

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

The Pfizer executive who already is famous for claiming that his company was mutating the COVID-19 virus so that it could continue selling new vaccinations – a "cash cow" – also claimed the mRNA shots were affecting women's reproductive health.

"There is something irregular about the menstrual cycles. So, people will have to investigate that down the line," said Jordon Trishton Walker, Pfizer's director of research and development, strategic operations.

He said, "The [COVID] vaccine shouldn’t be interfering with that [menstrual cycles]. So, we don’t know."

The comments came in another video released by Project Veritas, which does undercover interviews.

He continued, "I hope we don’t find out that somehow this mRNA lingers in the body and like – because it has to be affecting something hormonal to impact menstrual cycles. I hope we don’t discover something really bad down the line."

He noted, "If something were to happen downstream and it was, like, really bad? I mean, the scale of that scandal would be enormous."

Project Veritas reported, "The Pfizer director appears to be worried that over time, more information may become known about the COVID vaccine’s potential side effects."

WND earlier reported on Walker's comments about mutating the virus, and the fact that a medical expert warned if that was happening, it could be considered domestic terrorism.

Walker later denied the comments, and an expert in medicine says it's not likely the company was doing what he claimed.

It was just the News that interviewed Dr. Harvey Risch, professor emeritus at the Yale School of Public Health.

"If they were to do that, the vaccine would only be useful if the virus that they're inventing actually got out into the population," he said on the "Just the News, No Noise" TV show.

"That would be an act of domestic terrorism if that happened. So they're probably not doing that. We hope they're not doing that. But that's the concern."
P>Risch said he doubts Walker's claims.

"My first reaction is that in what he's talking about, he's an amateur and he doesn't have a depth of knowledge about the nature of how these viruses are propagated.

"There's a very, very deep extensive field of neurology, and he's talking about his superficial concepts of how he thinks the overall picture is organized for working with these viruses. But it is much more involved than that. There's a lot of other techniques that go into propagating these viruses."

WND reported not only on the video but on the decision by Big Tech to suppress information about it.

A new whistleblower leak to PV showed exactly how YouTube, owned by Google, restricted the ability of people to see the undercover videos — using the claim of "COVID vaccine misinformation."

Project Veritas had exposed Walker, who revealed in a secretly taped video conversation that his corporation was exploring intentionally creating mutations of the COVID virus to "preemptively develop new vaccines."

All eyes have turned toward the skies above the northern United States in search of a suspected Chinese spy balloon that has been loitering in U.S. airspace for several days.

Now comes word that President Joe Biden gave an order for the intruding aircraft to not be shot down but instead to simply be monitored by the U.S. military, Breitbart reported.

The reason given for the decision to not shoot down the suspected Chinese spy balloon is a concern about the possibility that falling debris could cause damage to private property and injury or death to any civilians unlucky enough to be within the debris field.

Biden given option to shoot down balloon

According to NBC News, the suspected Chinese spy balloon was first spotted several days ago as it traveled high above the Aleutian Islands of Alaska and has been tracked as it continued across part of Canada before being spotted above Montana on Wednesday.

It was on Wednesday that senior military leaders held a high-level meeting about the balloon to determine the level of threat it posed and to devise possible options for a response and recommendations for action, including shooting it down, that was then presented to President Biden for a final decision.

Given that it was determined by the military that the suspected Chinese craft posed a minimal threat, and in conjunction with the stated concern about damage caused by falling debris, there was a "strong recommendation" that the balloon simply be monitored and tracked instead of shot down, which the president reportedly accepted over the other possible options.

Military briefs media on "high-altitude surveillance balloon"

During a Defense Department briefing on Thursday, Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pay Ryder told reporters in a statement, "The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now. The U.S. government, to include NORAD, continues to track and monitor it closely."

"The balloon is currently traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic, and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground," he added. "Instances of this kind of balloon activity have been observed previously over the past several years. Once the balloon was detected, the U.S. government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information."

The remainder of the briefing was then on background, with the information provided attributable only to an unnamed "senior Defense official," who expressed confidence that the "high-altitude surveillance balloon" belonged to China and confirmed that President Biden had been presented with a variety of options and recommendations on how best to address the situation, which has happened before in previous years.

"Currently we assess that this balloon has limited additive value from an intelligence collection perspective. But we are taking steps, nevertheless, to protect against foreign intelligence collection of sensitive information," the official said. "We are also tracking what abilities it could have in gaining insights, and continue to monitor the balloon as it is over the continental United States."

China claims suspected spy balloon is just a weather balloon

For what it is worth, NBC News noted that the Chinese government released an initial statement urging calm that insisted that China is "a responsible country that always abides by international law and has no intention of infringing on any country’s territory and airspace." Beijing further claimed the craft was not a spy balloon but merely a "civilian airship" used to research weather that had accidentally "deviated far from its planned course" through no fault of their own.

Few are buying that excuse, though, as the senior Defense official told reporters "clearly the intent of this balloon is for surveillance" and that its "current flight path does carry it over several sensitive sites." That said, it was assessed that "whatever the surveillance payload is on this balloon, it does not create significant value added over and above" what China already obtains through its network of orbiting satellites.

It is also worth noting that, per the unnamed official, there was a window of opportunity while the balloon was over sparsely populated rural Montana during which serious consideration had been given to shooting it down with fighter jets scrambled for exactly that purpose, but it was ultimately decided that the slight risk of potential debris damage on the ground outweighed the minimal threat posed by the craft remaining airborne.

NBC News also noted that top congressional leaders received a classified briefing on Thursday about the suspected Chinese spy balloon, and other members will likely be briefed at some point next week.

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