US intelligence warned in November that coronavirus spreading in China could be ‘cataclysmic event’: report
U.S. intelligence officials warned in November that the coronavirus spreading in China’s Hubei region could become a “cataclysmic event,” ABC News reported Wednesday.
The military’s National Center for Medical Intelligence (NCMI) documented concerns about the initial stages of the pandemic in an intelligence report, two officials familiar with the document told ABC News, which added that the document highlighted how the virus was disrupting life and business and threatened the population in the area.
Intelligence was reportedly obtained through wire and computer intercepts along with satellite images showing the new disease was not under control in China.
The report highlights that officials had knowledge to begin acting against the coronavirus months before it struck the U.S., ABC News noted.
“Analysts concluded it could be a cataclysmic event,” one of the sources told the network, who added that the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s Joint Staff and the White House were briefed “multiple times.”
After the NCMI report, policymakers, decisionmakers and the National Security Council at the White House were repeatedly briefed on the issue, a source added.
The coronavirus first appeared in the President’s Daily Brief of intelligence matters in early January, according to ABC News.
Those who worked on presidential briefings in Republican and Democratic administrations said the initial concerns would have gone through weeks of vetting and analysis before appearing in the daily brief.
“The timeline of the intel side of this may be further back than we’re discussing,” a source said of preliminary reports from Wuhan, the city considered the initial epicenter of the outbreak in China. “But this was definitely being briefed beginning at the end of November as something the military needed to take a posture on.”
The Trump administration has repeatedly said it could not have prepared for the pandemic, but the president’s critics have said the administration should have done more.
As of Wednesday morning, almost 400,000 Americans have tested positive for the virus, with at least 12,911 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The Pentagon and the White House National Security Council did not immediately return requests for comment on the ABC News report.