The spies who predicted COVID-19 but ignored by their President

Kent Harrington, a former senior CIA analyst has a damning piece in Proj Synd:

Despite US President Donald Trump’s claims, a pandemic has long been among the top threats listed by the US intelligence community. But even America’s best analysts could not foresee that America would end up with a president willing to sacrifice so many lives on the altar of his ego.

Directors of National Intelligence (DNI) have warned multiple times of Pandemic risk:

More to the point, the DNI’s annual briefing has repeatedly warned about the risk of a global pandemic. The intelligence community first raised the alert immediately after President Barack Obama took office in January 2009, when then-DNI Dennis Blair testified that, “The most pressing transnational health challenge for the United States is still the potential for emergence of a severe pandemic, with the primary candidate being a highly lethal influenza virus.” Following the 2009 H1NI (swine flu) outbreak, Blair doubled down in 2010, highlighting the potential for a pandemic to disrupt the economy. A “lack of consistent surveillance and diagnostic capability for diseases in animals,” he said, “undermines the United States’ ability to identify, contain, and warn about local outbreaks before they spread.”

Blair’s successor, James Clapper, delivered the same message in March 2013, but also refined the US assessment of the threat with prescient detail. Pointing to the growing danger posed by zoonotic viruses, he warned that “an easily transmissible, novel respiratory pathogen that kills or incapacitates more than one percent of its victims is among the most disruptive events possible. Such an outbreak would result in a global pandemic.”

In foretelling the COVID-19 pandemic exactly, Clapper made clear that, “This is not a hypothetical threat.” Trump received the same message in May 2017, when Coats highlighted a World Bank assessment predicting that a pandemic would cost the world around 5% of GDP. Coats then issued the same warning in 2019, testifying that, “The United States and the world will remain vulnerable to the next flu pandemic or large-scale outbreak of a contagious disease that could lead to massive rates of death and disability, severely affect the world economy, strain international resources, and increase calls on the United States for support.” Is anyone surprised that Coats’s successor isn’t bothering with a briefing this year?

Another agency also spoke of the pandemic risk:

But the DNI’s annual assessments aren’t the only unclassified briefings that show the extent of Trump’s negligence in the face of the pandemic. Every four years, the National Intelligence Council, the US intelligence community’s senior analytical body, produces Global Trends, a forecast of the forces likely to shape the decades ahead. The timing isn’t coincidental: the strategic outlook appears when administrations change, offering presidents a long-term international perspective with which to fashion or refurbish their national-security goals.

Trump has described the COVID-19 pandemic as an “unforeseen problem” that “came out of nowhere.” The authors of the past three Global Trends reports would beg to differ, as would the hundreds of experts whom they consult in constructing their analyses.

Consider the 2008 report, “Global Trends 2025,” which was all but oracular. “The emergence of a novel, highly transmissible, and virulent human respiratory illness for which there are no adequate countermeasures could initiate a global pandemic,” the authors warned. The threat, they added, would likely emerge “in an area marked by high population density and close association between humans and animals, such as many areas of China and Southeast Asia.” Even with limits placed on international travel, “travelers with mild symptoms or who were asymptomatic could carry the disease to other continents.”

From peddling disinformation about the virus to disbanding the National Security Council directorate overseeing pandemic threats, Trump has squandered multiple opportunities to get ahead of the COVID-19 crisis. The health and economic consequences that we are now experiencing have long been predicted. US intelligence analysts were warning about precisely this scenario for at least 12 years. But even they could not foresee that America would end up with a president willing to sacrifice so many lives on the altar of his ego.

Just amazing. It is even more frightening to imagine that the virus has led to stronger chance of Trump being reelected. The virus has dismantled the opposition and gives a perfect recipe for dictators to continue their rule.

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