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White House urges calm over Russian space weapon threat

White House officials on Thursday downplayed reports from Republican lawmakers about a “serious national security threat” being discussed in classified meetings, saying the matter does not pose any immediate danger to the American public.

On Wednesday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner, R-Ohio, released a statement announcing that “the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has made available to all members of Congress information concerning a serious national security threat.”

He also urged President Joe Biden to declassify details of the threat as soon as possible.

The news spurred alarm and confusion among members of Congress. Overnight, the Associated Press reported the issue centered on highly sensitive intelligence concerning Russian anti-satellite weapons currently under development.

House Intelligence Committee chair warns of national security threat

White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby partially confirmed those reports on Thursday, but declined to give specifics on the weapon. Kirby said the weapon would be based in space, but was not currently in orbit.

“This is not an active capability that has been deployed,” he told reporters at a White House briefing. “And though Russia’s pursuit of this particular capability is troubling, there is no immediate threat to anyone’s safety. You’re not talking about a weapon that can be used to attack human beings or cause physical destruction here on Earth.”

Several members of Congress were scheduled to receive a briefing on the issue later on Thursday. Kirby said that any anti-satellite capability “should be of general concern because there are a number of private and public satellites circling the Earth every day,” but there is not a need for immediate international response.

“I would not speak publicly about our strategic deterrent capabilities one way or the other,” he said. “But we’re taking this potential threat very, very seriously.”

Kirby declined to say whether White House officials were upset with Turner for making news of the threat public, deferring questions to the congressional committee.

Turner issued a statement Thursday saying that his panel “worked in consultation with the Biden Administration to notify Congress of this national security threat” and that administration officials were informed of his announcement before it was released.

Kirby said U.S. officials are in contact with Russian representatives about their concerns. Relations between the two countries have been strained by American support for Ukrainian forces in their fight against Russia.

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