Senators who emerged Tuesday from a classified briefing about the U.S. shooting down three unidentified objects in North American airspace renewed their calls for President Biden to address the nation.
Lawmakers said they were told efforts to recover debris from the latest events are ongoing, and that defense intelligence officials were still working to determine the origin and purpose of the three craft that were shot down.
Several senators called on Mr. Biden to calm the public’s fears surrounding the events of the past week as more information becomes clear.
“The American people need and deserve to know more,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “There is a lot of information presented to us this morning that could be told to the American people without any harm to sources or methods or our national security, and the American people need to know more so that they’ll have more confidence in our national security.”
“I think there is a need for greater transparency and more facts to the American people,” he said.
Those facts should come directly from the commander in chief, said Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican who serves on the chamber’s armed services and intelligence panels.
“Americans are worried. They’re concerned,” Mr. Cotton said upon leaving the briefing. “And they have the right to know why President Biden directed the actions that he did over the last week. I urge, once again, President Biden to come today, speak directly on camera to the American people just as past presidents have in similar moments.”
Tuesday’s classified briefing on Capitol Hill was the second in as many weeks following the shoot-down of a Chinese Spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina on Feb. 4 and the subsequent takedowns of objects of unknown origins over last weekend.
The White House on Monday ruled out the possibility that the objects were of extra-terrestrial origin. On Tuesday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby also told reporters that there are no indications that the more recent objects that were shot down were part of a Chinese spy program or an intelligence operation by any other country.
“We haven’t seen any indication or anything that points specifically to the idea that these three objects were part of the [People’s Republic of China’s] spy balloon program or that they were definitively involved in external intelligence collection efforts,” he told reporters.
Mr. Kirby said the “leading explanation” is that the three latest objects to be shot down belonged to a private company or research institutions.
He offered no indication of whether, or when, the president would address the public about the flying objects.
“I have nothing to speak to with respect to the president’s public appearances with respect to this,” Mr. Kirby said.
Mr. Biden issued a public statement on Saturday after the U.S. takedown of an unknown object over Canadian airspace.
The Pentagon briefed reporters in an impromptu press call during the Super Bowl after U.S. fighters took out the latest object over Lake Huron on Sunday.
Mr. Kirby also fielded reporters’ questions about the events during Monday’s press briefing at the White House.
Not all lawmakers were as critical of Mr. Biden for failing to give a public address on the events.
Sen. Christopher Murphy, Connecticut Democrat, said the administration is still working to uncover more details about the latest events, and that it would be best for Mr. Biden to have all information at his disposal before he makes a statement.
“We’re learning more about these objects and our ability to detect them hour by hour,” said Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, following Tuesday’s classified briefing. “What I can say is our defense and intelligence agencies are focused like a laser on first gathering the information, assessing the information and coming up with a comprehensive view of what is going on.”
“The bottom line is, I think the Biden administration is being very careful and very thoughtful,” he said. “I think some of our Republican colleagues are being at the very minimum premature and often just political.”
• Joseph Clark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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