The Pentagon countered an ABC report claiming that U.S. intelligence knew about the novel Wuhan coronavirus pandemic as early as November, saying a National Center for Medical Intelligence report referenced in the report does not exist.
ABC reported Wednesday that, according to four sources, the NCMI report warned coronavirus was affecting China’s Hubei province and “could be a cataclysmic event.” The document reportedly relied on satellite images and wire and computer intercepts that showed the then-unidentified contagion was threatening the region’s population.
One source said the report “was then briefed multiple times” to the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, and to the White House.
Following ABC’s reporting, Colonel R. Shane Day, a medical doctor and director of the NCMI, issued a rare public statement to deny the existence of the report.
“As a matter of practice, the National Center for Medical Intelligence does not comment publicly on specific intelligence matters,” Day 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.”
Asked earlier this week about the report, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he was “not aware” of any report or briefing from December.
.@Gstephanopoulos: “Did the Pentagon receive an intelligence assessment on COVID in China last November from the National Center for Medical Intelligence?”
— ABC News (@ABC) April 5, 2020
While a former military official confirmed ABC’s reporting to CNN, current CIA and defense officials also denied the existence of the report in comments to CNN.
“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,” one source said.