The US-based ABC News cited four sources briefed on the secret report as saying that US intelligence officials were aware of the looming pandemic and warned that a contagion was sweeping through China’s Wuhan region, changing the patterns of life and business and posing a threat to the population.
“Analysts concluded it could be a cataclysmic event,” one of the sources said of the NCMI report, which included intercepted wire and computer messages, as well as satellite images, and further warned that a viral outbreak could harm American military personnel in Asia.
Officials at the White House, the DIA and Pentagon’s Joint Staff were all briefed “multiple times” on the secret report, ABC News underlined on Thursday, without elaborating on the source of the virus.
The major news network further emphasized that US spy agency officials followed up the November intelligence report with policy briefings “through December for policy-makers and decision-makers across the federal government as well as the National Security Council (NSC) at the White House,” noting that NSC and the director of National Intelligence declined to comment on the report.
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“This was definitely being briefed beginning at the end of November as something the military needed to take a posture on,” a source was quoted as saying.
“It would be a significant alarm that would have been set off by this,” said the network’s contributor and former deputy assistant defense secretary, Mick Mulroy, about the secret report. “And it would have been something that would be followed up by literally every intelligence-collection agency.”
“Medical intelligence takes into account all source information – imagery intelligence, human intelligence, signals intelligence,” added Mulroy, who had also served as a senior CIA official. “Then there’s analysis by people who know those specific areas. So for something like this to have come out, it has been reviewed by experts in the field. They’re taking together what those pieces of information mean and then looking at the potential for an international health crisis.”
This is while the Trump administration has been widely censured for being flat-footed and late in its response to a pandemic that has now killed more than 12,000 across the US, weeks after sweeping through Wuhan and then most of Europe.
US President Donald Trump, meanwhile, has alternated between taking credit for early action and claiming that the Covid-19 outbreak was a surprise to him and everyone else. He has repeatedly touted his January 31 decision to restrict air travel with China, but at the same time, he spent weeks telling the public and top administration officials that there was nothing for Americans to fear.
For instance, Trump on January 22 made his first remarks about the virus when asked in a televised interview, “Are there worries about a pandemic at this point?” He then responded, “No. Not at all. And we have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”
The US is currently struggling with a sprawling medical crisis, facing a shortage of hospital beds, ventilators, and healthcare workers, similar to the shortage forewarned by the Pentagon.
“Competition for, and scarcity of resources will include…non-pharmaceutical MCM [Medical Countermeasures]” like “ventilators, devices, personal protective equipment such as face masks and gloves … medical equipment, and logistical support,” the classified report said.