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Not enough of Chinese balloon recovered yet to conclude intent, FBI says


(WASHINGTON) — The FBI’s evidence response team has retrieved only a small amount of the Chinese spy balloon shot down Saturday — and doesn’t yet have enough evidence to conclude what China’s intent was.

Only an “extremely limited” amount of the Chinese spy balloon was recovered and brought to the FBI’s evidence collection lab at Quantico, Virginia, senior FBI officials familiar with the operation said in a conference call with reporters.

“Much of the evidence remains underwater,” an FBI official said, noting that the evidence brought to the FBI lab was “only present at the surface.”

One official told ABC News’ Luis Martinez on Tuesday that the payload portion of the balloon that was carrying the sensor/photography equipment is not intact and that only a portion of it has been located on the ocean floor.

Only a very small portion of this payload was recovered from the surface water. The official on Tuesday noted that this description of the payload does not include the solar panels.

“We have literally not seen the payload which is where we would expect to see the lion’s share of the electronics,” an FBI official said.

The FBI’s counterintelligence authority looking at threats to the United States is the reason why they are examining the balloon.

Once all of the evidence is recovered, they will decontaminate the balloon for anything it might have on it or in it such as water from the ocean.

One issue hampering dive teams from the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard is the large debris area and the weather — which officials said could impact evidence collection in the coming days.

The FB has hazardous materials specialist looking at the balloon and said of the materials they do have in their possession at this time there is no “energetic” or “offensive material” inside of the balloon.

“It is very early for us to assess what the intent was and how the device was operating,” one official said.

On Feb. 5, officials collected the first bits of the balloon and then on February 6th teams from the FBI lab began to analyze them.

The FBI said a “variety” of personnel are involved in looking at the balloon — such as technicians, electronic engineers, digital media recovery specialists, and specially trained agents.

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