US intelligence officials were reportedly raising alarms about a virus spreading through the Chinese city of Wuhan back in November 2019, referring to it as an “out-of-control disease” that “would pose a serious threat to US forces in Asia.”
According to ABC News, concerns about what would become the COVID-19 pandemic were outlined in an intelligence report by the US military’s National Center for Medical Intelligence (NCMI), two unidentified officials familiar with the document recently revealed.The report was based on analyses of wire and computer intercepts and satellite images, ABC News reported, although additional details have not been revealed.
"Analysts concluded it could be a cataclysmic event," one of the sources told ABC News. The Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s Joint Staff and the White House were then “briefed multiple times” on the danger.
The sources also revealed that following the report, there were briefings through December “for policy-makers and decision-makers across the federal government as well as the National Security Council at the White House,” ABC reported.
"The timeline of the intel side of this may be further back than we’re discussing," the source explained. "But this was definitely being briefed beginning at the end of November as something the military needed to take a posture on."
According to former Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Mick Mulroy, government leaders do not ignore reports released by the NCMI."It would be a significant alarm that would have been set off by this. And it would have been something that would be followed up by literally every intelligence-collection agency,” Mulroy explained.
"Medical intelligence takes into account all source information - imagery intelligence, human intelligence, signals intelligence. 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,” Mulroy added.
When questioned about the November report this past Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” US Defense Secretary Mark Esper told anchor George Stephanopoulos: "I can't recall, George. But we have many people who watch this closely. We have the premier infectious disease research institute in America, within the United States Army. So, our people who work these issues directly watch this all the time."
Stephanopoulos then asked, "So, you would have known if this were briefed to the National Security Council in December, wouldn't you?"“Yes. I'm not aware of that,” Esper responded.
According to a report by the South China Morning Post, the first COVID-19 case can be traced back to November 17, according to Chinese government data obtained by the outlet. However, the full-fledged outbreak in Wuhan is believed to have started some time between December 12 and December 29.
US President Donald Trump made his first comments regarding the virus in a CNBC interview on January 22. When asked about if he was worried about a pandemic, Trump 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." However, China reported its first COVID-19-related death on January 11 and had reported dozens of cases by then.
Even as of February 18, Trump was still claiming that the coronavirus was under control."I'm confident that they're [China] trying very hard," Trump said during an interview with local Phoenix, Arizona, outlet Fox 10. "They're working it - they built, they built a hospital in seven days, and now they're building another one. I think it's going to work out fine." Less than a month later, on March 13, Trump declared a national emergency as the number of coronavirus cases in the US began to skyrocket, just two days after the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.
Currently, the numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths in the US have far surpassed those in China. There are more than 418,000 cases of the virus in the US, and more than 14,000 deaths have resulted, according to the latest data from Worldometer. China, on the other hand, has managed to contain the virus, which infected more than 81,000 of its people and killed more than 3,000.