Thursday, April 09, 2020

Intelligence Officials Warned White House "Multiple Times" In November-December 2019 About The Threat Of The Coronavirus

The National Center for Medical Intelligence warned the military and White House about the spread of the virus in China as far back as late November. The White House also received multiple warnings throughout December 2019.

Two months after he received the first warnings, Donald Trump stated: "We have it totally under control." Trump then continued to do nothing for another five weeks. In February, the US sent 18 tons of respirator masks, surgical masks, gowns and other medical supplies to China. ... More than 16,500 Americans have died of the virus since the beginning of last month.

US intelligence officials warned that a threatening contagion was sweeping through China's Wuhan region, according to four sources briefed on the secret reporting. Concerns were detailed in a November intelligence report by the military's National Center for Medical Intelligence (NCMI), according to two officials familiar with the document’s contents.

The report was the result of analysis of wire and computer intercepts, coupled with satellite images. It raised alarms because an out-of-control disease would pose a serious threat to U.S. forces in Asia -- forces that depend on the NCMI's work. And it paints a picture of an American government that could have ramped up mitigation and containment efforts far earlier to prepare for a crisis poised to come home.

"Analysts concluded it could be a cataclysmic event," one of the sources said of the NCMI's report. "It was then briefed multiple times to" the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon's Joint Staff and the White House. Wednesday night, the Pentagon issued a statement denying the "product/assessment" existed.

From that warning in November, the sources described repeated briefings through December for policy-makers and decision-makers across the federal government as well as the National Security Council at the White House. All of that culminated with a detailed explanation of the problem that appeared in the President's Daily Brief of intelligence matters in early January, the sources said. For something to have appeared in the PDB, it would have had to go through weeks of vetting and analysis, according to people who have worked on presidential briefings in both Republican and Democratic administrations. ...

"It would be a significant alarm that would have been set off by this," former Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Mick Mulroy, now an ABC News contributor, said of the NCMI report. "And it would have been something that would be followed up by literally every intelligence-collection agency."

Mulroy, who previously served as a senior official at the CIA, said NCMI does serious work that senior government leaders do not ignore. ...

Asked about the November warning last Sunday on ABC's "This Week," Defense Secretary Mark Esper told Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, "I can't recall." ...

Trump has alternated between taking credit for early action and claiming that the coronavirus was a surprise to him and everyone else. ... As late as Feb. 19, Trump [was saying] "It's going to work out fine."
Eric Boehlert of Press Run writes that the scale of Trump's failure is unprecedented and at times hard to comprehend.
It would be like if President George W. Bush had screwed up the on-the-ground disaster relief in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and allowed Americans to drown in the streets — for four straight weeks.
He remains dumbfounded by Trump's shocking lack of leadership.
As I stressed last week, the media's preferred storyline that suggests Trump is simply incompetent doesn't add up because Trump has made the wrong decision every single time in terms of how crises like this are supposed to be dealt with. ...

It's increasingly not believable for the press to suggest Trump has been distracted or inept during this crisis, in part because of the level of White House uselessness has become so staggering.

Maybe Trump's vengeful. Maybe he wants to wreck the economy to create investment opportunities? He's under the thumb of a foreign entity? He wants to cause panic and cancel the November elections? He's a fatalist? ... [T]here doesn't seem to be any ideological reason why Trump has opted to oversee a monumental government failure. ... It seems Trump just didn't want to save people. ...

[I]t's not just that Trump is refusing to provide national leadership in a time of crisis. He's actively and purposefully making everything worse, starting with spending most of the winter downplaying the risks by making misleading and false proclamations. ("Anybody who wants a test will get a test.") That's a helluva story that can no longer be averted.
Boehlert writes that Trump "has opted to oversee" this colossal debacle as if Trump had a choice. He doesn't. Donald Trump is a profoundly stupid, ignorant, lazy, sociopath. He's not making a choice. This is simply how he is.

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