A second report has claimed that the US collected intelligence pointing to a public health crisis in Wuhan as far back as November, after officials dismissed allegations earlier this week.
On Wednesday, ABC News said that the National Center for Medical Intelligence had known of a spreading contagion in the Chinese city in November and later presented the White House and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) with its findings on “multiple” occasions.
Repeated warnings were made throughout December, ABC News claims, before a detailed explanation of the issue appeared in Donald Trump’s daily intelligence briefing in January.
The National Center for Medical Intelligence denied the report in a rare and unrequested public statement, dismissing it as “not correct”.
“As a matter of practice the National Center for Medical Intelligence does not comment publicly on specific intelligence matters,” said Dr R Shane Day, the centre’s director said.
“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. No such NCMI product exists.”
NBC News has since reiterated claims that US officials had amassed raw intelligence on a growing health crisis in Wuhan last year.
According to its report, officials had acquired communications intercepts and overhead images that showed increased activity at health facilities in the city.
A “situation report” was produced and distributed to federal public healths in late November, NBC News adds, but at that point no formal assessment was made and nor was there any indication of a mounting global pandemic.
Further material that caught the attention of health analysts allegedly surfaced in December, before finding its way into Mr Trump’s briefing book in January – though it is unknown whether he read the information.
Mark Esper, the US Department of Defense secretary, said this week he is “not aware” whether the Pentagon received intelligence on Covid-19 in December, months before community spread of the virus was identified in the US and in military ranks.
Mr Esper told ABC’s This Week that he does not “recall” if the department had received the assessment from the National Center for Medical Intelligence.
Before the World Health Organisation declaration two weeks later, the agency predicted a global pandemic of Covid-19 at the end of February in a briefing to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Mr Esper said: “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.”
Air Force general John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters on Thursday that he did not see intelligence reports on the coronavirus until January.
“We went back and looked at everything in November and December,” he said. “The first indication we have were the reports out of China in late December that were in the public forum. And the first intel reports I saw were in January.”
Experts believe the coronavirus outbreak first emerged in the middle of November in a seafood market in Wuhan.
The South China Morning Post, citing Chinese government data, reported that the first documented case of Covid-19 was recorded on 17 November.
سایت تابناک از انتشار نظرات حاوی توهین و افترا و نوشته شده با حروف لاتین (فینگیلیش) معذور است.