Pentagon issues rare public rebuke against ABC for claim White House was warned of pandemic in November

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The Pentagon issued a rare public rebuke of a report claiming it warned the White House of the coronavirus pandemic back in November.

A branch of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency debunked a claim made in a report by ABC News which alleged that “concerns about what is now known to be the novel coronavirus pandemic were detailed in a November intelligence report.”

The National Center for Medical Intelligence refuted the claim in a statement Wednesday, asserting that the report does not even exist.

The ABC News report, based on four anonymous sources, claimed that the 2019 intelligence 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,” ABC News reported.

Claiming that the Defense Intelligence Agency, Pentagon’s Joint Staff, and the White House were briefed on the findings, the ABC News report noted that analysts concluded the coronavirus outbreak could be “a cataclysmic event.”

But Pentagon officials soon threw cold water on the claims and the alleged report itself which has added to the attacks on President Trump for not acting sooner to combat the global pandemic which originated in Wuhan, China.

“As a matter of practice the National Center for Medical Intelligence does not comment publicly on specific intelligence matters,” Col. R. Shane Day, Director of the NCMI, said in an extraordinary statement.

“However, in the interest of transparency during this current public health crisis, we can confirm that media reporting about the existence/release of a National Center for Medical Intelligence Coronavirus-related product/assessment in November of 2019 is not correct,” Day added.

“No such NCMI product exists,” the statement concluded.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper had indicated that he knew nothing about the alleged intelligence report when he was asked about it on Sunday by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

“Did the Pentagon receive an intelligence assessment on COVID in China last November from the National Center for Medical Intelligence of DIA?” Stephanopoulos asked on “This Week.”

“Oh, I can’t recall, George,” Esper replied. “But we have many people who watch this closely.”

“This assessment was done in November, and it was briefed to the NSC in early December to assess the impact on military readiness, which, of course, would make it important to you, and the possible spread in the United States,” Stephanopoulos said. “So, you would have known if there was briefed to the National Security Council in December, wouldn’t you?”

“Yes,” Esper agreed, but added, “I’m not aware of that.”

CIA and Defense officials backed the NCMI denials of the report as well.

“NCMI and the Defense Intelligence Agency spent considerable time over the last 24 hours examining every possible product that could have been identified as related to this topic and have found no such product,” a defense official told CNN.

The outlet noted that CIA officials also were “not aware of a specific report from November warning about an emerging crisis in China.”

The first identified COVID-19 case became ill on November 17, and many note that Chinese doctors may not have realized they were seeing the start of a new disease until late December. China did not lock down Wuhan and later the entire province until late January, just days before Trump declared a travel ban to and from China.

Twitter users slammed the anti-Trump critics and another anonymously sourced media hit piece, also noting that, if true, Democrats failed to act.

Frieda Powers

Senior Staff Writer
[email protected]

Originally from New York, Powers graduated from New York University and eventually made her way to sunny South Florida where she has been writing for the BizPacReview team since 2015.
Frieda Powers

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