Report Chronicles U.S. Intelligence Shortcomings as Pandemic Emerged

Report Chronicles U.S. Intelligence Shortcomings as Pandemic Emerged

The report by committee Democrats was, unsurprisingly, critical of former President Donald J. Trump, saying the escalating alarms by intelligence analysts had failed to move him.

During the early stages of the pandemic, Mr. Trump said the intelligence briefings he received on the coronavirus were inadequate. But the report found that while intelligence agencies could have performed better, by February they had “amply warned the White House in time for it to act to protect the country.” Mr. Trump’s public statements, the report found, did not reflect the stark warnings that he had received from the intelligence community.

“By juxtaposing the private intelligence warnings with the administration’s public disavowal of the seriousness of the virus, the report makes clear where responsibility for our poor outcomes lie, and where it does not,” Mr. Schiff wrote.

A spokeswoman for Avril D. Haines, the director of national intelligence, declined to comment. But in her public comments, including her confirmation hearings when she assumed the post in 2021, Ms. Haines has said she was putting new resources into better tracking of public health emergencies, to better position intelligence agencies to warn about emerging pandemics and other threats.

Traditionally, public health and pandemics have been the responsibility of fairly small agencies, like the National Center for Medical Intelligence, but the Biden administration has begun looking to expand the expertise to larger intelligence operations. Ms. Haines’s office has, for example, appointed an epidemiologist to be the director of global health security at the National Intelligence Council and named a senior adviser for global health.

The Democrats’ report said that while those steps were a start, they did not “signal a sustained, long-term investment.” The fiscal 2022 budget submitted to Congress cut funding for the National Center for Medical Intelligence, it noted.

The report took issue with material released by the State Department at the end of the Trump administration. That material cited workers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China who had become sick in the fall of 2019. That information, the report said, did not strengthen either the theory that the virus was part of China’s biological weapons research program and spilled over to the human population during a lab-related incident at the Wuhan institute, or the theory that it emerged naturally.

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