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8 Apr, 2020 21:54

What did they know, exactly? US intel warned of ‘cataclysmic’ coronavirus pandemic in NOVEMBER 2019, report claims

What did they know, exactly? US intel warned of ‘cataclysmic’ coronavirus pandemic in NOVEMBER 2019, report claims

US military intelligence tried to raise the alarm about the coronavirus epidemic in China when it was still embryonic in November, inside sources claim – raising questions of what they knew and who ignored, or squashed the report.

Not only had the coronavirus epidemic begun spiraling out of control in Wuhan by November 2019, but military analysts were already warning it “could be a cataclysmic event” for both China and the US, four sources familiar with the briefings told ABC on Wednesday. Analysts at the National Center for Medical Intelligence, a subsidiary of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency, had been trying to alert Pentagon and Donald Trump administration officials of the looming catastrophe for months before the country finally took action, the sources claim. 

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Based on detailed analysis of intercepted communications and satellite imagery, the NCMI reportedly projected that a virulent contagion already getting out of hand in Wuhan would soon be menacing not just China but US troops stationed nearby. Most intriguingly, the sources hint that analysts may have begun looking into the unfolding epidemic even earlier, given the timeline for when the material crossed President Trump’s desk. By the time the agency’s warnings made it into the President’s Daily Brief in early January, they would have had to undergo “weeks of vetting and analysis.”

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“The timeline of the intel side of this may be further back than we’re discussing,” one source told ABC, suggesting “preliminary reports from Wuhan” dated back even earlier than the NCMI report, which was widely released among the intelligence community before Thanksgiving and spawned several intel community bulletins that supposedly outlined Beijing’s own responses to the growing epidemic. China knew the coronavirus had gotten out of control, the sources allege, but tried to keep it under wraps – a claim the Trump administration has echoed repeatedly in the months since then.

The new revelations place the timeline for the virus’ origins much closer to the controversial claims of Chinese foreign policy spokesman Lijian Zhao, who claimed last month (albeit without real evidence) that the US military had brought the virus to Wuhan when they sent a delegation to the Military World Games in mid-October.

The Trump administration has been slammed for dragging its feet in response to the coronavirus epidemic, playing down the potential disruption the disease would cause even as it upended China’s economy and forced millions into quarantine. While the president insisted “no one could have known” the virus would wreak such havoc in the US, there’s no way the Trump administration could not have seen the information in the NCMI report, former deputy assistant defense secretary Mick Mulroy told ABC, claiming “it would be a significant alarm that would have been set off” and “literally every intelligence-collection agency” would have gotten involved in following up and responding to the threat.

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But Defense Secretary Mark Esper told the outlet he was unaware of the issue coming before the National Security Council in November or December. No official response was forthcoming from the administration until Trump closed the border to flights from China in late January – all the while insisting there was nothing to worry about (and, if insider stock sales by multiple senators were any indication, telling Congress something different). Worse, not only had multiple government agencies conducted several pandemic “war games” in the months leading up to the outbreak, but they had performed poorly, making many of the same missteps that they would faithfully repeat in real life.

The administration also had China’s example to learn from, regarding the importance of early testing and the futility of ‘shutting the barn door’ (locking down large segments of the population) after the horse was gone (after the disease had already spread all over the country). As a result, the US economy lies in ruins and millions of Americans are out of work – and the nation still has the highest infection numbers in the world, dwindling medical supply stockpiles, and no hope of getting back to work any time soon.

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