Unreleased global threat assessment: US unprepared for pandemic

Maybe Team Trump has a problem with the Worldwide Threat Assessment because it says what the White House doesn't want to hear about pandemic preparations.
A man crosses the Central Intelligence A
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) logo in the lobby of CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia.SAUL LOEB / AFP/Getty Images
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By Steve Benen

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) is responsible for producing an annual report on global security threats, which is soon followed by a congressional hearing in which top security officials brief lawmakers on the report's findings. In theory, it need not be especially political or partisan.

But as regular readers know, in the Trump era, it's a bit more complicated. A year ago, then-Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats was joined by FBI Director Chris Wray and CIA Director Gina Haspel for a Senate hearing in which they completely contradicted the president's position on a wide range of key issues, suggesting Trump and his national security team had very little in common when it came to addressing a variety of global threats.

A year later, the newest Worldwide Threat Assessment hasn't been released, and Time reports on a possible explanation for its delay.

An annual intelligence report that has been postponed without explanation by President Donald Trump's administration warns that the U.S. remains unprepared for a global pandemic, two senior government officials who have reviewed a draft of the report tell TIME.

The original schedule was for the Director of National Intelligence's office to deliver the threat assessment to Congress at a Feb. 12 hearing, which would be consistent with what we've seen in recent years. That hearing was delayed, by all accounts because administration officials were afraid that Donald Trump would throw another tantrum if he didn't like their testimony.

But Time's reporting adds another wrinkle to the story: what if Team Trump has a problem with the Worldwide Threat Assessment because it says what the White House doesn't want to hear about pandemic preparations?

The magazine spoke to two officials who've read the still-classified document, and they said it contains warnings similar to those in the last installment, which warned, "The United States 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."

And it was against this backdrop that Trump's White House disbanded its global health security unit and released an official budget that recommended significant cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Health and Human Services, among other relevant priorities.

The article added, "Democratic staffers say they do not expect the report to be released any time soon." That seems like a safe bet.