Acting DNI Richard Grenell Shoots Down Reports of Early Intelligence Community Warnings on Coronavirus

BERLIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 08: U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell waits for the arrival of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for talks with German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer at the Federal Defense Ministry on November 08, 2019 in Berlin, Germany. Pompeo is on a two-day visit to Germany …
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Acting head of the nation’s intelligence community Richard Grenell this week publicly shot down more media reports claiming the intelligence community gave President Trump an early warning about the coronavirus.

“This isn’t true. And we told you this before you wrote. And you put the DNI denial of your premise in paragraph 9,” Grenell tweeted to a Washington Post reporter Monday evening.

The Post reported that intelligence agencies issued warnings about the coronavirus in more than a dozen classified presidential daily briefs (PDB) prepared for the president in January and February, citing “current and former U.S. officials.”

The DNI — which is in charge of putting together the PDB — issued a statement to the Post, in response to questions about the “repeated mentions” of coronavirus: “The detail of this is not true.”

Grenell also corrected another report from Vanity Fair based on the Post‘s report.

“Vanity Fair is now repeating the false Washington Post narrative. As we have said multiple times, this story is not true,” Grenell said.

On-the-record statements from intelligence officials on the accuracy of reporting are rare.

But Grenell’s statement was not the first on such reporting.

The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) just weeks ago shot down similar reporting that there were early intelligence reports warning the administration about the coronavirus.

ABC News reported on April 8 that U.S. intelligence officials from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) warned as far back as late November of a “contagion” sweeping through China’s Wuhan region, according to “four sources briefed on the secret reporting.”

ABC News’s story claimed that the concerns were detailed in a November intelligence report by the DIA’s National Center for Medical Intelligence (NCMI), according to “two officials familiar with the document’s contents.”

The report was the “result of analysis of wire and computer intercepts, coupled with satellite images,” and was “briefed multiple times” to the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, and the White House.

The head of DIA’s NCMI, Col. (Dr.) R. Shane Day, issued a statement on-the-record that categorically denied any such NCMI report existed:

As a matter of practice the National Center for Medical Intelligence does not comment publicly on the specific intelligence matters. 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 of Medical Intelligence Coronavirus-related product/assessment in November of 2019 is not correct. No such NCMI product exists.

In addition, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. John Hyten told reporters that he did not see intelligence reports on the coronavirus until January.

“We went back and looked at everything in November and December,” he said at a press briefing. “The first indication we have were the reports out of China in late December that were in the public forum. And the first intel reports I saw were in January.”
ABC News later updated their story with the NCMI’s statement.

 

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