(CNN) — US intelligence officials have found that a Chinese surveillance balloon that hijacked the US in early 2023 used a US internet service provider to periodically transmit navigation and location data to China.
The link was one of the ways the US was able to track its location and gather information about the balloon, the source said.
CNN could not identify the Internet service provider. CNN previously reported Officials said the balloon was able to communicate with Beijing while traveling over the US.
NBC News First reported The balloon used American networks to communicate with Beijing.
According to the official, the network link was not used to send intelligence information to China. The balloon later stored that information, including images and other data, that the US was able to read after shooting it down in February.
The director of the FBI and the Office of National Intelligence declined to comment. CNN has contacted the Chinese embassy in Washington.
China continues to claim it was a weather balloon that deviated from its path.
The US believed at the time that the spy balloon was part of an extensive surveillance program run by the Chinese military. CNN previously reported. According to US officials, the balloon fleet has made at least two dozen missions on at least five continents.
U.S. intelligence services believe Chinese Communist Party leaders did not want the balloon to fly to the United States and have reprimanded the surveillance program's operators for the incident, CNN previously reported.
President Joe Biden noted in June that Chinese President Xi Jinping had caught wind of the balloon's whereabouts, telling guests at a political fundraiser that Xi was “very angry” after the United States shot down the balloon because “I don't know. There.” He then compared Xi to “dictators” who are ashamed of not knowing what's going on.
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