Feb 15, 2023
Kirby Asked if He Can Guarantee Safety of People on Ground as Objects Shot Down Transcript
CNN’s Don Lemon talks with White House National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby about the mysterious high-altitude objects shot down by the US military. Read the transcript here.
Transcribe Your Own Content
Try Rev and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.
Don Lemon (00:00):
So we’re learning some new details about the objects that were shot down by US fighter jets over the weekend. According to a Pentagon memo obtained by CNN, the object shot over Alaska was metallic and the size of a small car. The object shot down over Canada was a small metallic balloon, had crossed near sensitive sites in the US before it was shot down, and the object shot down over Lake Huron on Sunday slowly descended into the water after impact.
Now the objects were flying at altitudes between 20 to 40,000 feet. Military decided to shoot them down because at those altitudes they could pose a threat to civilian aircraft which would be really, really serious. Joining us now, White House National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications, and that’s John Kirby. John Kirby, thank you for joining us this morning. Appreciate it.
John Kirby (00:50):
You bet. Happy to be here.
Don Lemon (00:51):
Since we last officially heard from you, any briefing or any update that we should know?
John Kirby (00:56):
Nothing that I can say operationally, Don. We still have not located the debris from the three objects shot down over the weekend, although there are intensive recovery operations underway to try to find, locate that, and then once it’s been located to try to recover that. But nothing to report now on the spy balloon that was shut down a week or so ago. Divers were able to get into the water over the course of the weekend and we’re able to recover a significant amount of debris, including some of the structure and some of the electronics. So all that’s been shipped off now though with our FBI partners. We’re going to try to analyze that, see what we can learn.
Don Lemon (01:30):
It almost seems like this is something that is novel or new to the United States, and I know it is not. So should it take the US military this long to recover these objects, especially if the US was the one who shot them down, John?
John Kirby (01:41):
You know, when you do something like this, Don, you want to do it over areas where you’re not going to hurt people on the ground, which means it’s going to be over remote areas as best you can. And then just getting to those remote areas can be difficult, Don, particularly if you throw in not only the latitude at which these things are located, at least the first two, but the weather conditions right now. It’s February and up there near the Arctic, the weather conditions are just not real permissive for search and recovery operations.
Don Lemon (02:08):
I know this is fascinating to folks just watching at home. You said that everyone’s wondering, “Well, what’s going on? Why so many” is this new?” You said, “If you’re looking for more,” and I’m paraphrasing here, “You’re likely to find them.” Is that what you believe? Is that what our intelligence folks believe?
John Kirby (02:27):
We think in part, Don, that this could explain why you’ve seen so many incidents in a short period of time just over the last few days. The NORAD staff, adjusted the parameters for the radar systems, the sensitivities to look for things that were slow, high and small, small radar cross-section in the wake of the Chinese spy balloon. And so when you’re doing that, when you adjust your sensitivities on the radar, you’re likely to see more of those kinds of contacts. We think that that’s in part why there have been these most recent incidents.
Don Lemon (03:04):
CNN also has learned that the first missile that was launched by the F16 at that object over Lake Huron did not hit the target. Do you know where that missile is and it does it concern you that missiles are missing targets over American people, over the United States?
John Kirby (03:21):
I can’t confirm the reporting that a missile was fired in midst. I would add a couple of thoughts here. One, again, these were very small radar cross-section targets, and so it’s not inconceivable to me as a former military man, to believe that one might have missed just because of the size of the target and there are safety mechanisms in place that pilots use. I don’t think the American people or the Canadian people need to be worried about the possibility that one of those missed.
Don Lemon (03:52):
But that is our reporting that it did not hit its target and this is happening over American airspace. If the standard operating procedure going forward is to shoot these objects down to keep civilian aircraft safe in the sky, can you guarantee Americans on the ground that Americans on the ground will also stay safe as well, John?
John Kirby (04:09):
Yes, I can, Don.
Don Lemon (04:11):
As simple as that. Even though you said you don’t know where that vessel missile is and you can’t confirm, but that is our reporting.
John Kirby (04:19):
Yeah. Again, I can’t confirm your reporting. There are safety protocols with all these kinds of engagements. The whole purpose of these missions were to keep Americans safe. That’s what was behind the President’s decision from the very, very beginning, make sure that we were keeping the skies safe for civilian air traffic. These three objects were at altitudes that could potentially pose a risk to commercial air traffic and also they pose a potential surveillance risk to sensitive sites on the ground. It’s all about safety and security of the American people. That always comes first with the President. That was behind these decisions, and that won’t change.
Don Lemon (04:53):
John Kirby, we appreciate you joining us from the White House this morning. Thank you very much, sir.
John Kirby (04:57):