U.S. intelligence agencies have been warning against the likelihood of a global pandemic -- just as coronavirus seems poised to become -- but have recently backed down for fear of angering President Donald Trump.
Intelligence analysts assessed in 2017 and 2018 that a pandemic could strain resources and harm the global economy, but they agreed not to release a public warning so far this year because they're reluctant to discuss intelligence that might displease the president, officials told NBC News.
"We assess 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," said the most recent worldwide threat assessment, issued in January 2019 by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
But so far this year the leaders of intelligence agencies have agreed not to release their threat assessments publicly, which has prevented Congress from getting public testimony about the implications of the outbreak's impact on the economy and national security.
The intelligence analysis found that outbreaks are being spread from animals to humans, just as COVID-19 is believed to have originated -- and analysts even mentioned a close cousin to the coronavirus strain in one report.