This isn’t fake news. It’s news that never existed.
ABC News breathlessly reported yesterday on what they claim was an intelligence report last November about a severe outbreak of an unknown virus in China that could become a crisis in the U.S.
As far back as late November, U.S. intelligence officials were warning that a contagion was sweeping through China’s Wuhan region, changing the patterns of life and business and posing a threat to the population, according to four sources briefed on the secret reporting.
Concerns about what is now known to be the novel coronavirus pandemic 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.
Of course, Trump reads every scrap of paper from every single U.S. intelligence agency — even extraordinary obscure ones like the NCMI — and should have known that the U.S. was going to be in crisis four months later.
Except that scrap of paper doesn’t exist.
Col. R. Shane Day, the director of the NCMI, a component of the Defense Intelligence Agency, refuted the ABC News report in a statement.
“As a matter of practice the National Center for Medical Intelligence does not comment publicly on specific intelligence matters,” he 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.”
ABC went even further, claiming Trump had been briefed on the intel report.
“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.
The network downplayed the denial by claiming “the Pentagon” said the product didn’t exist. In fact, it was the director of the intelligence agency that supposedly generated the report in the first place who denied the document existed. And unlike the ABC sources, he was identified.
The first known case of the coronavirus was in Hubei Province of China on November 17 of last year. The idea that there were signs of pandemic as early as November is silly. The first patients didn’t even show symptoms of the disease until early December, when the first patient was hospitalized.
What we have here is some major league butt-covering by intelligence officials. One report generated by an obscure intelligence agency is blown up into “alarm bells went off” and dire warning of catastrophe. How many similar reports are generated every year? We don’t hear about the reports that were wrong.
This story folds in nicely with the rest of the media narrative about Trump’s response — or lack of response — that is now taken as gospel. Separating the truth from fiction is made all the harder by reporting on documents that don’t even exist.