April 1, 2020

There has been some skepticism about China's reporting on the novel COVID-19 coronavirus for some time, especially as smaller countries like Italy surged past the world's most populous nation in both overall cases and deaths. On Wednesday, U.S. intelligence officials told Bloomberg on condition of anonymity that the skepticism is valid.

Per Bloomberg, the U.S. intelligence community reportedly concluded in a classified document that China, where the pandemic originated, has under-reported its totals. The officials didn't reveal any of the reports contents, but said the gist of it is China intentionally left death and cases reports incomplete — two officials reportedly said the numbers out of China are fake.

Officially, China has tallied more than 82,000 cases and 3,300 deaths, whereas the U.S. already has more than 189,000 cases and 4,000 deaths. Beijing somewhat acknowledged their stats were skewed after they changed their methodology to include some asymptomatic cases, but it's unclear how many more asymptomatic infections were discounted overall. Thousands of urns outside funeral homes have reportedly led people to doubt the Chinese government's death total, as well. Read more at Bloomberg. Tim O'Donnell

March 11, 2020

Four Trump administration officials told Reuters the White House, on the advice of the National Security Council, has held classified meetings about the response to the novel COVID-19 coronavirus since January. In the process, the officials said, "some very critical people," including government experts, have been held out of the meetings because they don't have the necessary security clearance.

The meetings, which have been held in a high-security room at the Department of Health & Human Services, reportedly have dealt with topics such as the scope of the infections, quarantines, and travel restrictions.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar and his chief of staff Brian Harrison were allowed in the meetings, the officials said, and they reportedly resisted the classification of the gatherings, but were seemingly overruled.

A fifth source informed Reuters the meetings were classified because of their relationship to China, where the virus originated last year.

An NSC spokesman told Reuters the agency "has insisted on the principle of radical transparency" since the beginning. Read more at Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

December 30, 2015

The Senate Intelligence Committee wants to gain more insight into how U.S. intelligence agencies operate. But despite recent pledges from CIA Director John Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper for increased transparency, the spy chiefs were quick to nix the Senate committee's provision requesting the disclosure of any "significant and credible information to suggest that the individual is unfit or unqualified,” calling it "too invasive." The current draft only requires chiefs to provide "information the Director determines appropriate."

The provision follows a report released last year that found "numerous CIA officers had serious documented personal and professional problems — including histories of violence and records of abusive treatment of others — that should have called into question their suitability to participate in the CIA's detention and interrogation program." One passage even went so far as to suggest that "managers seem to be selecting either problem, underperforming officers, new, totally inexperienced officers or whomever seems to be willing and able to deploy at any given time."

While Clapper and Brennan acknowledged problems, with Brennan saying the agency indeed "fell short when it came to holding individuals accountable for poor performance," the chiefs offered a number of reasons to avoid providing more information. Among those, The Washington Post reports, were the increased "bureaucratic workload," the invasiveness of the language, and the "undermining" of "the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government."

Read the full story at The Washington Post. Becca Stanek

October 18, 2014

After nearly two years in orbit on a top-secret mission, the Air Force's X-37B unmanned space plane landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base, in California, on Friday.

(AP Photo/Vandenberg Air Force Base)

Made by Boeing, the X-37B resembles a miniaturized space shuttle. It has completed two previous missions, but the third was months longer. While Boeing has claimed that the Orbital Test Vehicle was exploring "reusable vehicle technologies in support of long-term space objectives," the Air Force has remained murkier on its purpose, saying only that it had been conducting "on-orbit experiments," The Associated Press reports.

The X-37B is slated to launch again in 2015, from its new home base in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Sarah Eberspacher

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