A small, specialized unit within the Canadian military’s intelligence branch began producing detailed warnings and analysis about the emergence of the deadly novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China in early January, CBC News has learned. The medical intelligence (MEDINT) cell within Canadian Forces Intelligence Command is tucked away on the edges of the country’s security and defence establishment.
It has a mandate to track global health trends and contagion outbreaks to predict how they’ll affect military operations, but its assessments are heavily influenced by reports from the Five Eyes Intelligence partners, including the U.S. military’s National Center for Medical Intelligence (NCMI).
For at least one of the country’s leading intelligence experts, the fact that the unit was tracking the COVID-19 outbreak and reporting on it raises serious questions about information-sharing within the federal government — and its possible failure to heed early warning signs. The MEDINT cell monitored the early progress of the outbreak in China and assessed how it could affect ongoing missions.
Distant early warnings
“We can confirm that CFINTCOM started to report on COVID-19 starting January 2020,” Lt. Hrayr Karageozia, a spokesperson for the military intelligence branch, said in an email. The military unit, which is made up of specialists in public health, microbiology, biochemistry, emergency management and clinical medicine, uses open-source data — including World Health Organization statistics and analyses — along with classified intelligence from allies.
Its use of classified information could be significant in light of reports coming out of Washington this week that the U.S. military’s medical intelligence agency was following and reporting on the novel coronavirus as early as last November.
ABC News reported on Wednesday that detailed NCMI briefings, which raised the alarm about the COVID-19 outbreak, were circulated multiple times among decision-makers and policy experts in the Trump administration throughout December. They eventually ended up in President Donald Trump’s daily intelligence briefing package in early January. CONTINUE READING HERE