US intel agencies should have spied on Chinese health officials: House panel

US intelligence agencies should have directed their efforts at surveilling Chinese health officials during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, a report by the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee said Thursday.

The declassified report, published in the final days of the outgoing Congress, is largely supportive of the intelligence community's private warnings to former President Donald Trump, which were at odds with his public pronouncements that it was "a very non-threatening" matter.

It said one month after the disease was first brought to global attention "intelligence community warnings were serious and getting more so every day, and its escalating alarms still failed to move the White House or President Trump."

"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," committee Chairman Adam Schiff wrote in a letter accompanying the 60-page report.

Still, Schiff said the intelligence community "did not pivot quickly enough to train its unique assets at this deadly problem set" as the virus emerged in China before spreading worldwide, creating one of the worst public health emergencies in modern history.

"It is important to note that the first warning signs of an emerging novel disease will almost always come from public health authorities and their unclassified reporting. At that point, intelligence can be a necessary and valuable complement, providing additional context about the potential threat once health authorities have detected it," he wrote.

"The unique capabilities of the IC can be trained to focus on gaining specific insights unavailable to the broader public, especially when a host government wishes to conceal the true extent of the danger to its own citizens or the rest of the world. But while the IC is capable of doing so, our committee found that the IC was 'poorly positioned to collect uniquely valuable intelligence in support of a crisis response,'" he wrote, referring to the US intelligence community.

Source: Anadolu Agency