The US is susceptible to a pandemic with massive death rates. So it was in 2019 in the report of the secret service coordinator. He was fired. A guest post.
Intelligence agencies are used to making the headlines when they don’t do their jobs properly. But after US President Donald Trump disregarded their warnings about Covid-19 for months and his government ignored their evidence of the threat of a pandemic in general, it is time to give the services the recognition they deserve.
It should come as no surprise that Trump disregarded services information about the coronavirus threat throughout January and February. Trump made it clear a long time ago that he is not interested in opinions that contradict his point of view.
This year, the bill for Trump’s war on intelligence is due. The price is overworked health systems and loss of life. The US intelligence agency had given early warnings and even delivered the enemy’s battle plan: they had described exactly how a new kind of corona pandemic would go. Nevertheless, the wannabe war president remained inactive.
Most Americans will never see the raw data and detailed analysis the President receives every day. This is why the public reports of the chiefs of government are so important, especially when they reveal the presidential ignorance itself.
Of course, public reports cannot fully reveal the problems that intelligence agencies are dealing with. But as someone who has worked on dozens of CIA public reports, I know that professional analysts do their utmost to accurately reflect classified information despite measures to protect its sources and methods.
Note the National Intelligence Coordinator’s annual threat report to Congress, which has been postponed indefinitely this year. In the 2019 report that angered Trump so much, then-intelligence coordinator Dan Coats reaffirmed intelligence agencies’ assessment that Russia had intervened in favor of Trump in the 2016 election, and warned that Trump’s “male friendship” with North Korean dictator Kim Jong- un have not reduced the country’s nuclear ambitions. Most importantly, the intelligence coordinator’s annual threat report repeatedly warned of a global pandemic.
A pandemic had been in the threat report since 2009
The intelligence services rang the alarm bells for the first time immediately after President Barack Obama took office in January 2009. At the time, then intelligence coordinator Dennis Blair said, “The most pressing transnational health challenge for the United States is still the potential for a major pandemic, with the lead candidate being a highly lethal influenza virus.” After the swine flu outbreak (H1NI) in 2009, Blair intensified his warnings and highlighted the potential of a pandemic to destabilize the economy.
Blair’s successor James Clapper delivered the same message in March 2013. Clapper made it clear: “This is not a hypothetical threat.”
Trump received the same message in May 2017 when Coats pointed to a World Bank assessment that a pandemic would cost the world around five percent of GDP. Coats reiterated his warning in 2019: “The US and the world remain vulnerable to the next flu pandemic or widespread outbreak of an infectious disease that can lead to massive death and disability rates, severely affect the global economy, strain international resources, and call for help could strengthen the United States. ”
Is anyone surprised that Coats’ successor is not bothering to report this year?
However, the National Security Coordinator’s annual assessments are not the only publicly available reports that show the extent of Trump’s negligence in the face of the pandemic. Every four years, the National Intelligence Council, the leading analytical body of the US intelligence services, publishes, under the title Global Trends, a forecast of the factors that are expected to have a say in the coming decades.
The timing is no coincidence: the strategic outlook appears at the time of the change of government and offers the presidents a long-term international perspective on the basis of which they can formulate or revise their national security goals.
Trump has described the Covid 19 pandemic as an “unforeseen problem” that “emerged from nowhere”. The authors of the last three Global trends would deny that, and the same goes for the hundreds of experts they use to help them make their analyzes.
“Travelers could transmit the virus symptom-free”
For example, consider the almost prophetic Global Trends 2025 report of 2008, which warns: “The appearance of a novel, highly contagious and virulent human respiratory disease for which there are no adequate countermeasures could lead to a global pandemic.”
According to the authors, the threat would probably “occur in an area characterized by high population density and close human-animal contact, as is the case in many areas in China and Southeast Asia”. Even if you limit international travel, “travelers with mild symptoms or who are symptom-free can spread the disease to other continents”.
Trump has missed numerous opportunities to effectively address the Covid 19 crisis. The health and economic consequences that we are now experiencing have long been predicted. However, US intelligence analysts could not foresee that America would be struck with a president who is willing to sacrifice so many lives on the altar of his ego.
– Kent Harrington was a senior analyst with the CIA and served as the National Intelligence Officer for East Asia, head of the Asian station and director of public affairs for the CIA.
– From the English by Jan Doolan. Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2020. www.project-syndicate.org