Calling Abbe Lowell: The Chinese Make Familiar Claim Over Mysterious Balloon [Updated]

Various intelligence and defense figures including former Defense Secretary Mark Esper have suggested trying to capture the Chinese surveillance balloon to analyze its equipment and any content. China admits that this may be its balloon but denies that it is used for surveillance. It says that it was lost accidentally due to weather. So the balloon may be ours but it was lost. However, the government is likely to oppose anyone collecting or using information from the balloon. That sounded vaguely familiar. Indeed, Abbe Lowell may have a new client (Indeed, a client with past dealings with his current client, Hunter Biden).

Update: After the United States shot down the balloon, China appeared to send out a Lowell-like message that “China will resolutely uphold the relevant company’s legitimate rights and interests, and at the same time reserving the right to take further actions in response.”

China notably invoked a claim of “force majeure,” or an extraordinary event that can negate contractual obligations. In this case, it is saying that the balloon was not intentionally sent into the United States but lost due to no fault of its own. Such a contractual claim indicates that it may still claim property rights to the balloon and that it was not really abandoned or lost legally.

In a letter last week, Hunter Biden’s lawyer Abbe Lowell called for an array of criminal investigations as well as threatening lawsuits against critics and media figures. It also appeared to confirm that the laptop is indeed Hunter’s. However, the next day, Lowell told NBC “These letters do not confirm Mac Isaac’s or others’ versions of a so-called laptop.” It is a curious position but one that may appeal to the Chinese government (Indeed, this may be the type of legal acumen that prompted the Chinese to give millions to Hunter and his associates).

So here is the pitch. The Chinese first issues a flurry of letters threatening anyone who takes or uses information from the balloon with theft, defamation and privacy lawsuits, the loss of tax-exempt status, and undefined “criminal investigations.” Then you issue a statement the next day saying that, even though China may sue, “these letters do not confirm the United States’ or others’ versions of a so-called spy balloon.” So if there are surveillance capabilities found on the equipment, it is not necessarily yours. You then attack both critics and the media for a “dirty political trick” in using (or “manipulating”) any information found on the property lost by the CCP.

I fully expect a finders fee from the law firm if this works out with the CCP. Not to be too forward but the 2.8 carat diamond sent to Hunter as a gift from the Chinese would do nicely.

That is assuming, of course, that my original theory is wrong and that this is not “the Rover” still searching for “Number Six.” (If so, I will have to get my rowing jacket down from the attic):

124 thoughts on “Calling Abbe Lowell: The Chinese Make Familiar Claim Over Mysterious Balloon [Updated]”

  1. Jonathan: Talk about a bizarre column. How could you conflate the Chinese balloon with Abby Lowell’s representation of Hunter Biden? I’m still scratching my head over this one. The latest reporting is the Pentagon just shot down the balloon over the Atlantic. That should answer the critics who said Pres. Biden is a “coward” for not bringing down the balloon sooner. Probably not.

    There was a lot of wild speculation as to the contents of the Chinese balloon and how it got here. GOP House Chair James Comer wildly speculated it was a Chinese spy balloon that contained “bioweapons”: “Did that balloon take off from Wuhan?”, Comer speculated. This is the same guy who believes Biden has “missing documents that are scattered all over the United States”. Comer wanted Biden to shoot down the balloon before it entered the US, as did other GOP politicians. Since the balloon entered from Canada, Comer was demanding the US Air Force shoot it down over friendly country air space. One can only imagine how the Canadians would have reacted. Second guessing is always what the GOP does best. Even Donald Trump Jr. entered the controversy. He had a practical solution. As the balloon passed over Montana Junior tweeted (why isn’t he posting on his dad’s Truth Social?) that the good citizens of that state should take the laws into their own hands and shoot it down. One Twitter user responded: “It’s 11 miles up, you blithering simpleton”.

    Now I have my own theory of what the Chinese balloon contained. It was full of Chinese fortune cookies and other gifts that the Chinese government wanted to drop over Monterey Park–to show their sympathy and solidarity with the Chinese-American victims of the mass shooting. The balloon simply went off course. If Rep. Comer can engage in wild speculation why can’t I?

        1. Turley simply points out the parallel arguments of both Hunter and China.

          Which are “It’s not ours BUT…”

          The claims both Hunter and China make are inconsistent if not impossible with their respective denials.

          In no way does Turley blend, fuse or confuse the two situations. He rightly mocks Hunter and the Chinese for denying their cake and eating it too.

    1. The AP also reports “Administration officials said Friday there have been other similar incidents of Chinese spy balloons, with one saying it happened twice during the Trump administration but was never made public.”

      1. Anonymous………Alert the Woke PC Police! AP used the word “the” in their report: “………the Trump administration……….”.
        No soup for you!!!

      2. The actual quote from the AP News was: “U.S. officials said Saturday that similar Chinese balloons transited the continental United States briefly at least three times during the Trump administration and once that they know about earlier in the Biden administration. But none of those incidents lasted this length of time.”

        It sounds like ATS got his quote from a left wing news site who was trying to marginalize any damage that might be done to Biden’s reputation by involving Trump. I can’t tell for sure what is in ATS’s head, but this subtracts from his credibility. It is ATS’s usual type of defense for potential leftist screw-ups.

    2. Dennis McIntyre, the Chinese say that the laptop MAY be theirs and if and if they did loose it no one has the right to look at any equipment or data stored on the balloon. Hunter says the laptop MAY be his and no one has the right to look at the lost laptop and any data on it. The story line of the two occurrences is exactly the same. On a scale of one to ten Dennis you get seven Duhs.

  2. Dear Prof Turley,

    Abbe Lowell is floating a ‘trial balloon’. And that takes a lot of hot air. Bear in mind, any tort ‘finders fee’ is contingent upon 10% to the big guy, right off the top.

    *the CCP, otoh, are saying a ‘hummingbird can flap its wings over a flower in China and cause a hurricane in the Carribean’ and I believe it .. . it’s just not very likely, and it takes such a long time.

  3. Apologies in advance if someone already mentioned this, but I would assume that much “spy” data would already have been communicated back to the motherland in “real time,” (assuming China’s risk assessment considered that the balloon may be destroyed or disabled) ???
    So destroying/disabling the balloon four or five days later, after it’s already completed its journey across the entire USA????? If USA retrieves it, all that does is potentially tell us what China now knows.
    Do we not have the technology to scramble mid-air data transfer, i.e., obstruct/scramble/encrypt the transfer of data to a satellite that is transferring it back to China? Do we know the location of China’s satellites, or can they just use any of them out there? I have no knowledge in this area.
    I know its been reported that USA has shielded what it deemed vulnerable sites/info, but Did Blinken Blink?

    1. Lin, scrambling technology has been around for decades. It creates electromagnetic noise on the same frequency to junk up the signal. It’s used to defeat radio and radar reception.

      The defense against scrambling is typically frequency hopping. The transmitter makes frequent random hops to different frequencies so that the scrambler has a hard time knowing which frequency to attack. The relative strengths of these technologies are closely held secrets and will vary. That’s as much as I know.

      1. So that’s why we had to continually rotate through freqs per Army unit directive on our PRC 25s in Vietnam.

        1. Vietnam was 50 years ago.

          In GWII the company I worked for made essentially military PDA’s that recived data from multiple data streams,
          Even had onboard filtering – kind of like applying an SQL filter to the messages, so that you could sort and prioritize what you cared about.

          An AWACs or myriads of other military data com nets could then send information to the soldier with the PDA and they would have realtime battlefield information of everything relevant to them.

          Every once in a while we saw glimpses of our products on the News.

          And that was 20 years ago.

          It is my understanding that the Ukrainians developed something similar – except using COTS – Comercial Off the Shelf hardware.

          This allowed them to use cell links, radio links, satelite links, and instantly incorporate StarLink when Musk gave them a bunch.

          It allows soldiers to have a pretty accurate picture of their own forces, the enemy, and to target, kill and move rapidly.
          It is a massive force multiplier.

          It is my understanding that NOW, The ukrainians are getting similar information from the US.

          Except now it is US officers using us sattelites that are tracking the russians and then relaying targeting to the Ukranians.
          The Ukrainians have to load the shls and pull the lanyard. But they are NOT on our Military data net.

          This is likely a model for the US for the next couple of Decades.

          We talk about all the advanced weapons we are providing. But many of the weapons are nearly useless without targeting.
          And we are sharing data – not technology. We can cut off the data anytime, and if we did that Himars and other weapons do not know what to hit.

          That is part of Russia’s problem – they have more artillery but their targeting information is poorer and slower. So they are destroying things not soldeirs and weapons.

      2. Combine spread spectrum, Frequency hopping., and grey coded data
        and you have a completely un jamable signal that even without encyrption is also probably undecipherable.

        This is what much of US military communications are today.

        To give you an example – transmit on about 1000 distinct frequencies at the same time – out of maybe 5000 total – with some kind of frequency hopping to pick which 1000 out of 5000 at each moment.

        Now take 16 bits of data and using a grey code convert it into 1000 bits – you can probably have more than 3/4 of the frequencies blocked and the signal still gets through.

        So you have robust reliable communications that can not be blocked – thought they are likely line of sight only – but at 40,000 ft line of sight is pretty far.

        Anyone listening hears noise. There is pretty much no way to isolate the data unless you know the exact frequencies being used, the frequency hopping sequence and the exact grey coding.

        And that is without encryption – Grey coding is not encryption it is more like ECC in memory.

        Another thing that The Military is using is laser communications – an aircraft points a laser at another aircraft and th communications is point to point and can not be easily intercepted. That can go fairly large distances at very high data rates.

        1. Thank you, John. Read your post carefully and more than once. Learned something today. Very interesting.

          1. My information on US military communications is dated – approx. 2006
            Though that includes cutting age technologies that were not even deployed yet.

            One of the major projects I worked on from 2003 through early 2006 was sort of router/protocol translator/programable filter for military communications systems. At that time we supported almost 100 different military communications protcols and hardware.

            I did not develop the product, but I was personally and solely responsible for porting it From Windows to Linux and for interfacing it with Miltiary Unix systems.

            I beleive the company I worked for was ahead of everyone else. But that does not mean we were alone.

            I am making educated guesses at what Ukraine developed on their own – but there has been some media reporting, and it apears that starting in 2014, that Ukaine developed something roughly equivalent to what we were doing (in 2005) – except using readily available commercial communications equipment.

            But the things that we are seeing Ukraine do in the past 3 months require US satelite information.
            And there is no possibility on earth the US is giving Ukraine direct access to US satellites.
            And no possibility that Ukraine can act quickly enough if US targeting information is passed through channels.
            It is near certain that the US is now providing a significant portion of Command and Control.

            Though this is a very weird war.
            We have not had a conflict since WWI war air superiority was not fundimental.
            Yet this is fundimentally a ground war.

            1. “It is near certain that the US is now providing a significant portion of Command and Control.”

              That would be an alarming development 🙁

              1. Why ?

                The russians with certainty know it.

                Futher this is obvious. Himars as an example has the ability to lob a projectile possibly 400km.
                But the equipment we are providing Ukraine does not have the ability to identify targets at any consequential range on its own.

                Oddly in the modern era there is almost no air war in Ukraine. That means Ukraines OWN ability to target behind the lines is limited to surveailance drones and reconaisaince groups. While the Ukrainians are good at those – they are not good enough to do the damage they have done.

                And the US can turn off the data at a moments notice.

                This is likely the US war model for the next couple of decades.
                Provide the side we support with weapons that require out C&C to be useful.

      3. Diogenes, we cannot be sure of what technologies governments have that we don’t understand or know. What better way to find out than to fly a balloon over enemy territory?

  4. Top ten reasons Joe won’t shoot it down:
    (1) The balloon is a dead drop for the Big Guy’s cash.
    (2) They’re just returning Hunter’s classified documents.
    (3) It’s a climate-change balloon: the HMS Thunberg.
    (4) The balloon has refugee status.
    (5) Fauci is on board. He’s actually piloting.
    (6) Trump isn’t on board.
    (7) It’s armed with covid 23.
    (8) The debris might hit a Democrat.
    (9) We might have to surrender the balloon to the Taliban.
    (10) Gen. Milley has to call Beijing first and warn them of a rogue attack.

  5. Again, I am at a loss. Why take it out now? For what purpose? It’s gathered intel from Montana to the Carolina’s. Now after it heads out to sea, you puff up your chest and make an empty gesture?

    1. Assuming that it gathered intel (which you don’t know), what intel did it gather that China does not already gather with its satellites?

      1. Anon: “what intel did it gather that China does not already gather with its satellites?”
        Good point, or what they have gathered having spies drive senile senators around or getting into bed with farting congressmen, or by paying Biden, father and son.

      2. what intel did it gather that China does not already gather with its satellites?
        Why not take it out over the Aleutian Islands? As all your expert experience tells you. China doesn’t need any more intel. Why take it out today? Why would the USA destroy China’s innocent weather satellite?

  6. If only Americans cared as much about the illegal surveillance of U.S. citizens by law enforcement and ‘intelligence’ agencies.

  7. JT: Despite proclamations by the DoD, this is a weather ballon, not a ‘spy’ balloon. It surely was supposed to descend, to the ground, upon command and failed to do so.

      1. It is an abbreviation to call it a ‘weather’ balloon. It surely is intended to measure properties of the upper atmosphere. For example, a factory in China was illegally manufacturing CFC-13, an ozone destroyer. This Chinese balloon instrument might be measuring the remaining CFC-13 level.
        More unusually, it appears that the balloon has a powered helium pump so that it can change altitude. This failed when commanded to bring the instrument to the ground. Important for China to save the helium as they probably have trouble obtaining it.

        1. David,

          Might explain one errant balloon but it is a little thin as an explanation for the several other balloons accidentally drifting over other countries.

        2. Most CFC measurement is done in the southern hemisphere – which is also where the “hole” in the Ozone layer is.
          That is because of the earth’s tilt.

          Chinese factories “illegaly” produce CGC’s all the time. With the blessing of the Chinese government.

          If you really believe this malthusian nonsense.
          And it requires countries like China and India to do as they commit to – then we are SOL and the world will come to an end.

          The good news is that the malthusian nonsense is … nonsense.

  8. My theory is that the balloon became so costly to Biden that he had to ASK the CCP if he could take it down so as to bolster his political standings and therefore have more leverage going forward to assist them in their endeavors. If you notice, Biden’s first impulse was to not tell the public about the balloon, ignore it and let it slither away, but when it became to hot to handle he was forced to face the political reality of the need to take it down. Of course just in time for the SOTU.


    The Pentagon is shaking in its “Woke” Puss in Boots; the U.S. un-military is woefully unprepared to provide for the “common defense.”

    “Woke” Comrades Lloyd Austin and Mark A. Milley must have been ripped out of office for cowardice, and gross negligence and dereliction of duty.

    10 U.S. Code § 899 – Art. 99. Misbehavior before the enemy

    Any member of the armed forces who before or in the presence of the enemy—

    (1) runs away;
    (2) shamefully abandons, surrenders, or delivers up any command, unit, place, or military property which it is his duty to defend;
    (3) through disobedience, neglect, or intentional misconduct endangers the safety of any such command, unit, place, or military property;
    (4) casts away his arms or ammunition;
    (5) is guilty of cowardly conduct;
    (6) quits his place of duty to plunder or pillage;
    (7) causes false alarms in any command, unit, or place under control of the armed forces;
    (8) willfully fails to do his utmost to encounter, engage, capture, or destroy any enemy troops, combatants, vessels, aircraft, or any other thing, which it is his duty so to encounter, engage, capture, or destroy; or
    (9) does not afford all practicable relief and assistance to any troops, combatants, vessels, or aircraft of the armed forces belonging to the United States or their allies when engaged in battle;

    shall be punished by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct.
    (Aug. 10, 1956, ch. 1041, 70A Stat. 69.)

    1. China is adversarial but I was not aware there had been a declaration of war or our armed forces were shooting at each other.

      1. Commencement.

        Can you say “act of war”?

        Are you aware of the declaration of war by the Japanese on December 7, 1941?

        It was in all the news and prominently displayed; they heard the announcement in Pearl Harbor.

        Oops. I got the date wrong. The Japanese issued their declaration of war on December 8, 1941.

        My bad.

  10. This spy balloon fiasco has highlighted something we knew before the election but which the Democrats and some Republicans wistfully ignored: Biden is a bully toward those who cannot withstand an attack on them by their government, but an incompetent coward when confronted by nearly any foreign power. Even in this most obvious violation of national sovereignty, when we ask him questions, he silently stares off into the distance as if looking for something– his lost soul? Remember, he was the only member of Obama’s administration to oppose killing Bin Laden whose lethal violation of our national sovereignty killed thousands of us, Not surprisingly, he has surrounded himself with incompetence and cowardice: Jake Sullivan, National Security Adviser (the “Forrest Gump of American decline”), Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Defense (pushing harder for “diversity, equity and inclusion” than anything else), Antony Blinken, Secretary of State (history of repeatedly making bad choices in Libya, Syria and Iran), and then there is Kamala Harris, Biden’s insurance policy against impeachment and the 25th Amendment. I hope we survive two more years.

    1. “BULLY”


      Ms. Reade, 56, told The Times that the assault happened in the spring of 1993. She said she had tracked down Mr. Biden to deliver an athletic bag when he pushed her against a cold wall, started kissing her neck and hair and propositioned her. He slid his hand up her cream-colored blouse, she said, and used his knee to part her bare legs before reaching under her skirt. “It happened at once. He’s talking to me and his hands are everywhere and everything is happening very quickly,” she recalled. “He was kissing me and he said, very low, ‘Do you want to go somewhere else?’” Ms. Reade said she pulled away and Mr. Biden stopped. “He looked at me kind of almost puzzled or shocked,” she said. “He said, ‘Come on, man, I heard you liked me.’” At the time, Ms. Reade said she worried whether she had done something wrong to encourage his advances. “He pointed his finger at me and he just goes: ‘You’re nothing to me. Nothing,’” she said. “Then, he took my shoulders and said, ‘You’re OK, you’re fine.’”

      – New York Times, April 12, 2020

      1. ‘Come on, man, I heard you liked me.’” Pure Biden. As to Kavanagh, the MSM promoted hoaxers, hucksters, and whores. As to Biden, the same people ignore and bury alive (so to speak) this sincere and well-intentioined woman.

    2. It seems to me because of free speech, those who believed the balloon should be shot down were able to strongly express their views publicly and the administration was forced finally to do. Unfortunately, the administration’s fear of doing something was overcome only after the balloon had made its way all the way across the country.

  11. The Chinese government lie. They lie like mofos. I happen to be part of a lineage that has been in New Mexico for over a hundred years, and the kind of crap these people pull boggles the imagination. The Chinese government spies on us like most people watch YouTube or Tik Tok – the incidents at the national labs in my home state on their own involving Chinese espionage could fill a book.

    Chinese society has not been a thing of honesty, justice, compassion, or integrity for the entirety of my life, as I was born post-Mao, though when hong Kong was still ‘free’. That this administration (that would be the Bidens, for those that seem to think Trump is still POTUS and doing anything of consequence whatsoever but shooting his mouth off on his own social network that he created himself – seriously: if the mere existence of another human being rattles you to that point, which now requires serious effort on your part as Truth Social is about as far from mainstream as you can get, seek help. Right effing now) seems to be perfectly fine with that tells me all I need to know about them. This is not America, people. And it won’t be ever again until we fix it.

    Shoot. The. F*****. Down. Pretty simple. And 1000% trivial for our military or DOD to do so. Like snoring at night or scratching your bum. Come on.

  12. Joseph Robinette Biden Jr.
    President and Commander-In-Chief
    United States of America



    With Extreme Prejudice

    1. @George

      I admire your optimism, and i thank you for saying it publicly, but it is never, ever going to happen. period. We fight these people by using their privilege against them. They could give a toss about the rule of law as it is written, though again, thank you for your elucidation.

      1. Jimbo,

        A statement of the obvious is sooooo boring. Don’t you think?

        Wait! I missed that, being so impulsive. “Crazy Abe” began the “society of [NO] laws” when he denied fully constitutional secession, which the very Founders availed themselves of against Great Britain, unconstitutionally invaded a sovereign foreign nation, proceeded to seize power, suspend habeas corpus, confiscate private property, fail to enforce extant immigration law (leaving a foreign, 3-million-man, standing army on U.S. soil) and violently conduct his wholly unconstitutional “Reign of Terror,” ending American freedom after a mere 71 years, and commenced the incremental implementation of the principles of communism as Karl Marx’s “…earnest of the epoch…” leading America toward the “…RECONSTRUCTION of a social world.”

        Not to put too fine a point on it.

  13. The last report has it at 60,000 feet over Charlotte, NC. Once it gets below 30,000 feet, the Navy might have a frigate that can launch a helicopter to try and snag it midair over the Atlantic. It would be a great show of bravado on the part of the Navy to retrieve the equipment intact. They still brag about the Soviet sub they raised off the Pacific floor.

    There is a risk, however, that the balloon might self-destruct if tampered with, so a blast of microwaves to disable the electronics might be a good precaution.

    Shooting it down with a missile could be more expensive than the balloon is worth. Sending a high-altitude fighter to machine gun the balloon over the ocean might be a safer and more economical alternative.

    Finally, if they retrieve the balloon and we hear nothing more about it, it probably was just a weather balloon. The CIA and Pentagon would never pass up the budget bonanza of capturing a real spy balloon.

    Just my unschooled opinions. Your mileage may vary 😉

    1. “There is a risk, however, that the balloon might self-destruct if tampered with, so a blast of microwaves to disable the electronics might be a good precaution.”

      I was thinking of putting holes into the balloon so that it loses altitude, but then I realized that self-destruction might occur below a certain altitude. Your idea is much better, but just in case call in the bomb squad to figure this one out.

      1. Yes, you make a good point, Alan. A bomb squad should handle any preliminary examination. I hadn’t thought of that. I might have blown myself up 🙁

  14. Once again, JT shows his unwillingness to distinguish between hardware and electronic data.

    It doesn’t serve his readers, and it’s a model of sloppiness for his law students. Most professors would be embarrassed to repeatedly make this mistake, but perhaps some of JT’s income depends on it.

    1. You are making things up again.and are being very sloppy. Does it embarrass you to be wrong on almost everything you have said?

        1. I have it on fairly good authority that some of these trolls are in reality Turley hirelings to keep things lively. I’m not asserting that as truth, since I don’t know it for fact, but it’s something to consider.

          1. That is a fantastic idea. No one should read or respond to anonymous posts, even my own. It would clean up the list and probably decrease some of the friction seen.

    2. Anonymous knows what electronic data is but she just can’t process it with the limited capability of her hardware. She’s an expert in everything else so why not data? A true legend in her own mind. We are so very blessed that she shares her wisdom with us by criticizing Professor Turley even when he says a puppy is cute. Her obsessive addiction is fulfilled for the day.

  15. Wow! The gloves finally come off. Eventually you get tired of the gaslighting. They take us all for chumps. And have to sit and take it.

  16. I worked on Chinese projects in the late 1990s before most people could pinpoint China on a map. China’s development has been paid for by western civilization’s manufacturing outsourcing. China steals Intellectual Property because it lacks the intellect to create anything of value on its on, otherwise they wouldn’t have 350,000 students in America. Why come here if you’re that smart? People give China a lot more credit than it deserves. The balloon is just another Chinese screw up.

    1. Alexandre: indeed. Universities love those Chinese students because they pay full tuition. However, we are educating our competitor. Also, they cannot study in the US without government permission. They are not sending their dissidents to study here, but those loyal to the regime. Not all of them will end up being involved in that, of course, but these students are potential spies for the Chinese government. Moreover, the smartest ones study biotech, chemistry, medicine, aviation technology, engineering, etc. Often, US companies offer them jobs after graduation and that is how new technology ends up in China.

      1. DoubleDutch: Another thing that our elected officials, Republican and Democrat gifted the US and the entire West with: teaching our adversaries how to make the weapons with which to destroy us. We never should have done this. The person’s picture that comes to mind is Mitt Romney. Super nice, squishy and so willing to sell out America. Bill Clinton as well. Just two people who come to mind on this subject. This whole balloon debacle points out who is weak and who is strong. The CCP would never have let this contraption fly over their country.

        1. Here is another problem – Chinese men do not cut off their testicles and wear dresses. Chinese women do not cut off their breasts and take steroids. With all the problems the Chinese governement has, it can count on a populace that it still moored to reality.

  17. Dear Mr. Turley, thanks so much for all you do! I am a faithful reader. I just loved your allusion to “The Prisoner.” Somewhere, hopefully heavenward, Patrick McGoohan is smiling that wonderful wintry smile of his!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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