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Provocation: Covid-19 as a False Flag “Bio-Reichstag Fire” (Updated on 4/22/2020)

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The Reich­stag Fire

COMMENT: In FTR #1126, we exam­ined the Trump admin­is­tra­tion and GOP’s exploita­tion of the Covid-19 out­break as a cam­paign tac­tic and right-wing hints that the virus escaped from a Chi­nese bio­log­i­cal war­fare lab­o­ra­to­ry.

Now, Ger­many, France and Britain are join­ing with the Trump admin­is­tra­tion and the GOP in hint­ing that the coro­n­avirus escaped from a Chi­nese bio­log­i­cal war­fare lab­o­ra­to­ry.

Amer­i­can media voic­es from (pre­dictably) Fox News to (also pre­dictably) The New York Times are orgias­ti­cal­ly dis­sem­i­nat­ing the Fresh Fer­til­iz­er, act­ing in con­junc­tion with intel­li­gence offi­cers. 

Note that the linked sto­ry about Fox News describes state­ments by right-wing jour­nal­ists, act­ing in con­cert with ele­ments of the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty, inti­mat­ing that offi­cials of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty are in bed with Chi­nese intel­li­gence.

This reeks of McCarthy­ism and may well hand Trump vic­to­ry in the fall and, even­tu­al­ly, lead to war.

In fact, there is a high-secu­ri­ty bio­log­i­cal research facil­i­ty in Wuhan at which Chi­nese sci­en­tists, along with Amer­i­can peers, have been study­ing coronaviruses–a source of inter­mit­tent dis­ease trans­mis­sion in Chi­na. This facil­i­ty involves joint research fund­ed, in part, by the Pen­ta­gon.

As the Ger­man For­eign Pol­i­cy arti­cle notes, the tone of both Amer­i­can and Ger­man rhetoric con­cern­ing Covid-19 is rem­i­nis­cent of the delib­er­ate dis­in­for­ma­tion that led to the Amer­i­can inva­sion of Iraq in 2002.

” . . . . Last week­end, US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump warned the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic that it should face con­se­quences if it was ‘know­ing­ly respon­si­ble’ for the spread of the pan­dem­ic. Wash­ing­ton is simul­ta­ne­ous­ly spread­ing delib­er­ate rumors that the virus could have orig­i­nat­ed in a Chi­nese lab­o­ra­to­ry. Where­as, sci­en­tists vehe­ment­ly refute the alle­ga­tions, Ger­man For­eign Min­is­ter Heiko Maas declared, he ‘does not want to exclude’ that the WHO will have to deal with these issues. On Mon­day, Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel called on Bei­jing to show ‘trans­paren­cy’ on the issue. . . .”

” . . . . At the same time delib­er­ate rumors are being spread in the Unit­ed States that the Covid-19 virus could have orig­i­nat­ed in a Chi­nese lab­o­ra­to­ry — pos­si­bly in bioweapons lab. The US gov­ern­ment indi­cat­ed that it does not rule out this pos­si­bil­i­ty; US intel­li­gence ser­vices are cur­rent­ly inves­ti­gat­ing the issue. Par­tic­u­lar­ly giv­en the lie about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruc­tion, such an alle­ga­tion must be per­ceived as a threat to lend legit­i­ma­cy to new aggres­sions. . . .”

” . . . . Already last week, Ger­man media organs have increas­ing­ly been call­ing Chi­na the ‘cul­prit’ behind the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic out­break. Under the head­line ‘what Chi­na already owes us,’ Ger­many’s Springer press even called for ‘repa­ra­tions.’ (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[5]) Lead­ing British and French politi­cians have expressed sim­i­lar views. British For­eign Min­is­ter Dominic Raab has repeat­ed­ly declared that Chi­na will be held respon­si­ble for the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic. French Pres­i­dent Emmanuel Macron has now joined the cam­paign. Regard­ing the pan­demic’s alleged ori­gin, he declared, ‘there are clear­ly things that have hap­pened’ in Chi­na ‘that we don’t know about.’[6] It is not clear how Macron can know some­thing exists that he does not know about. It is how­ev­er clear that he seeks to impli­cate Bei­jing. . . .”

Sug­ges­tions that the virus could have orig­i­nat­ed in a Chi­nese bioweapons lab are curi­ous­ly blind to events in the Unit­ed States. In ear­ly August of 2019, short­ly before the record­ed start of the out­break in Wuhan, Chi­na, the U.S. Army Med­ical Research Insti­tute of Infec­tious Dis­eases at that facil­i­ty was closed down by the CDC due to mul­ti­ple safe­ty vio­la­tions. “All research at a Fort Det­rick lab­o­ra­to­ry that han­dles high-lev­el dis­ease-caus­ing mate­r­i­al, such as Ebo­la, is on hold indef­i­nite­ly after the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion found the orga­ni­za­tion failed to meet biosafe­ty stan­dards. . . . The CDC sent a cease and desist order in July. After USAMRIID received the order from the CDC, its reg­is­tra­tion with the Fed­er­al Select Agent Pro­gram, which over­sees dis­ease-caus­ing mate­r­i­al use and pos­ses­sion, was sus­pend­ed. That sus­pen­sion effec­tive­ly halt­ed all bio­log­i­cal select agents and tox­in research at USAMRIID . . . .”

1. “Bats, Gene Edit­ing and Bioweapons: Rec­cent DARPA Exper­i­ments Raise Con­cerns Amid Coro­n­avirus Out­break” by Whit­ney Webb; The Last Amer­i­can Vagabond; 1/30/2020.

  1. ” . . . . the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), began spend­ing mil­lions on such research in 2018 and some of those Pen­ta­gon-fund­ed stud­ies were con­duct­ed at known U.S. mil­i­tary bioweapons labs bor­der­ing Chi­na and result­ed in the dis­cov­ery of dozens of new coro­n­avirus strains as recent­ly as last April. Fur­ther­more, the ties of the Pentagon’s main biode­fense lab to a virol­o­gy insti­tute in Wuhan, Chi­na — where the cur­rent out­break is believed to have begun — have been unre­port­ed in Eng­lish lan­guage media thus far. . . . For instance, DARPA spent $10 mil­lion on one project in 2018 ‘to unrav­el the com­plex caus­es of bat-borne virus­es that have recent­ly made the jump to humans, caus­ing con­cern among glob­al health offi­cials.’ Anoth­er research project backed by both DARPA and NIH saw researchers at Col­orado State Uni­ver­si­ty exam­ine the coro­n­avirus that caus­es Mid­dle East Res­pi­ra­to­ry Syn­drome (MERS) in bats and camels ‘to under­stand the role of these hosts in trans­mit­ting dis­ease to humans.’  . . . For instance, one study con­duct­ed in South­ern Chi­na in 2018 result­ed in the dis­cov­ery of 89 new ‘nov­el bat coro­n­avirus’ strains that use the same recep­tor as the coro­n­avirus known as Mid­dle East Res­pi­ra­to­ry Syn­drome (MERS). That study was joint­ly fund­ed by the Chi­nese government’s Min­istry of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy, USAID — an orga­ni­za­tion long alleged to be a front for U.S. intel­li­gence, and the U.S. Nation­al Insti­tute of Health — which has col­lab­o­rat­ed with both the CIA and the Pen­ta­gonon infec­tious dis­ease and bioweapons research.. . . .”
  2. DARPA is doing this work, in part, at bio­log­i­cal research facil­i­ties ring­ing both Chi­na and Rus­sia. ” . . . .  One of those stud­ies focused on ‘Bat-Borne Zoonot­ic Dis­ease Emer­gence in West­ern Asia’ and involved the Lugar Cen­ter in Geor­gia, iden­ti­fied by for­mer Geor­gian gov­ern­ment offi­cialsthe Russ­ian gov­ern­mentand inde­pen­dent, inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist Dilyana Gay­tandzhie­va as a covert U.S. bioweapons lab. . . . Anoth­er U.S. gov­ern­ment-fund­ed study that dis­cov­ered still more new strains of ‘nov­el bat coro­n­avirus’ was pub­lished just last year. Titled ‘Dis­cov­ery and Char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of Nov­el Bat Coro­n­avirus Lin­eages from Kaza­khstan,’ focused on ‘the bat fau­na of cen­tral Asia, which link Chi­na to east­ern Europe’ and the nov­el bat coro­n­avirus lin­eages dis­cov­ered dur­ing the study were found to be ‘close­ly relat­ed to bat coro­n­avirus­es from Chi­na, France, Spain, and South Africa, sug­gest­ing that co-cir­cu­la­tion of coro­n­avirus­es is com­mon in mul­ti­ple bat species with over­lap­ping geo­graph­i­cal dis­tri­b­u­tions.’ In oth­er words, the coro­n­avirus­es dis­cov­ered in this study were iden­ti­fied in bat pop­u­la­tions that migrate between Chi­na and Kaza­khstan, among oth­er coun­tries, and is close­ly relat­ed to bat coro­n­avirus­es in sev­er­al coun­tries, includ­ing Chi­na. . . .”

2. “The Sus­pi­cion Cam­paign;” Ger­man For­eign Pol­i­cy; 4/21/2020.

The Ger­man gov­ern­ment is join­ing the US cam­paign of alle­ga­tions against Chi­na regard­ing the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic out­break. Last week­end, US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump warned the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic that it should face con­se­quences if it was “know­ing­ly respon­si­ble” for the spread of the pan­dem­ic. Wash­ing­ton is simul­ta­ne­ous­ly spread­ing delib­er­ate rumors that the virus could have orig­i­nat­ed in a Chi­nese lab­o­ra­to­ry. Where­as, sci­en­tists vehe­ment­ly refute the alle­ga­tions, Ger­man For­eign Min­is­ter Heiko Maas declared, he “does not want to exclude” that the WHO will have to deal with these issues. On Mon­day, Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel called on Bei­jing to show “trans­paren­cy” on the issue. Senior Ger­man mil­i­tary offi­cials have recent­ly been demand­ing that the EU adopt “a joint polit­i­cal-strate­gic response” to Chi­na’s grow­ing strength, because in the Coro­na cri­sis, Bei­jing is gain­ing con­sid­er­able influ­ence. Accord­ing to a recent poll, more than half of the Ital­ian pop­u­la­tion sees Chi­na as a “friend,” while near­ly half see Ger­many as an “ene­my.”

Delib­er­ate Rumors

The Ger­man gov­ern­ment is join­ing the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s new cam­paign against Chi­na, albeit atten­u­at­ed. On the week­end, Pres­i­dent Trump claimed that the virus “could have been stopped in Chi­na” and warned that the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic “should face con­se­quences” if it was “know­ing­ly respon­si­ble” for the spread.[1] At the same time delib­er­ate rumors are being spread in the Unit­ed States that the Covid-19 virus could have orig­i­nat­ed in a Chi­nese lab­o­ra­to­ry — pos­si­bly in bioweapons lab. The US gov­ern­ment indi­cat­ed that it does not rule out this pos­si­bil­i­ty; US intel­li­gence ser­vices are cur­rent­ly inves­ti­gat­ing the issue. Par­tic­u­lar­ly giv­en the lie about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruc­tion, such an alle­ga­tion must be per­ceived as a threat to lend legit­i­ma­cy to new aggres­sions. There is no proof that the virus orig­i­nat­ed in a lab­o­ra­to­ry. Sci­en­tif­ic stud­ies clear­ly con­clude that it was trans­mit­ted from wild ani­mals to humans.[2]

Open to Sus­pi­cion

Berlin is open to entire­ly unfound­ed sus­pi­cions. For­eign Min­is­ter Heiko Maas is quot­ed say­ing he “does­n’t want to exclude” that “the WHO will have to deal with these issues.”[3] The Min­is­ter of Devel­op­ment Gerd Müller declared that the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic must dis­play “com­plete open­ness” — “par­tic­u­lar­ly regard­ing the ori­gin of the virus.”[4] Already last week, Ger­man media organs have increas­ing­ly been call­ing Chi­na the “cul­prit” behind the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic out­break. Under the head­line “what Chi­na already owes us,” Ger­many’s Springer press even called for “repa­ra­tions.” (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[5]) Lead­ing British and French politi­cians have expressed sim­i­lar views. British For­eign Min­is­ter Dominic Raab has repeat­ed­ly declared that Chi­na will be held respon­si­ble for the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic. French Pres­i­dent Emmanuel Macron has now joined the cam­paign. Regard­ing the pan­demic’s alleged ori­gin, he declared, “there are clear­ly things that have hap­pened” in Chi­na “that we don’t know about.”[6] It is not clear how Macron can know some­thing exists that he does not know about. It is how­ev­er clear that he seeks to impli­cate Bei­jing.

“A Dev­as­tat­ing Impres­sion”

Insight into the Ger­man-Euro­pean involve­ment in the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s new cam­paign against Chi­na is pro­vid­ed by Ger­man mil­i­tary offi­cials’ recent state­ments. A new work­ing paper by the Fed­er­al Acad­e­my for Secu­ri­ty Pol­i­cy (BAKS), for exam­ple, exam­ines the Covid-19 pan­demic’s poten­tial glob­al polit­i­cal ram­i­fi­ca­tions. The author, Ret. Brig.Gen. Armin Staigis, BAKS Vice-Pres­i­dent (2013 — 2015) today’s Chair of BAKS “Asso­ci­a­tion of Friends” points out that the USA, “up to now the EU’s most impor­tant part­ner” is “erod­ing in the glob­al con­text.” Chi­na, on the oth­er hand, is emerg­ing more and more “on the world stage.” “With its eco­nom­ic pow­er, it is reach­ing the Euro­pean con­ti­nent and is thus ... also becom­ing a polit­i­cal rival.”[7] The EU should “not become a pawn” in the hands of states like Rus­sia (“revan­chists”), the USA (“off course ego­centrics”) or Chi­na (“hun­gry up-starts”). The EU “still has to for­mu­late a joint polit­i­cal strate­gic answer” par­tic­u­lar­ly to the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic’s grow­ing strength. This is all the more impor­tant in light of the polit­i­cal devel­op­ment in the Coro­na cri­sis: “There is a pub­lic per­cep­tion that Chi­na is pro­vid­ing faster and more help­ful sup­port in Europe than the EU and its mem­ber states among them­selves.” This, how­ev­er, is a “dev­as­tat­ing impres­sion.”

Race between the Global Economic Powers

Late last week, Gen­er­al Staff Offi­cer Col. Matthias Rogg, a mem­ber of the board of the Ger­man Insti­tute for Defense and Strate­gic Stud­ies (GIDS), a Bun­deswehr think tank (found­ed in 2018) made a sim­i­lar obser­va­tion. Rogg assumes that in the course of the Coro­na cri­sis, Chi­na will sig­nif­i­cant­ly enhance its inter­na­tion­al influ­ence. “That per­tains to the eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment in coun­tries, for exam­ple in the Mid­dle East or even in Africa, which are not vis­i­bly affect­ed by the epi­dem­ic, but will sure­ly also be seri­ous­ly affect­ed by Coro­na, either direct­ly or indirectly.”[8] There, the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Chi­na will be able to secure new influ­ence “through finan­cial, and mate­r­i­al assis­tance.” It should “not be for­got­ten” that it is com­plete­ly uncer­tain “how the USA will eco­nom­i­cal­ly evolve from this cri­sis.” “That means that in the race between the glob­al eco­nom­ic pow­ers, one can assume that Chi­na ... will have a head start and wind up among the win­ners of the cri­sis.” That is grave — after all, with Chi­na, which, for exam­ple, has “offered imme­di­ate assis­tance” to Italy, we are “de fac­to deal­ing with a coun­try from a rival sys­tem.”

Enemy Number One

A cur­rent sur­vey made in Italy shows the prob­lems Ger­man pow­er strate­gists are con­fronting. The Ital­ian sur­vey sug­gests that the sus­pi­cion cam­paign against Chi­na is also aimed at affect­ing Europe. In mid-March it had indi­cat­ed that around two-thirds of the Ital­ians felt EU mem­ber­ship was dis­ad­van­ta­geous to their coun­try. Only four per­cent felt that the Union was pro­vid­ing suf­fi­cient sup­port to Italy dur­ing the Coro­na crisis.[9] Now, since Chi­na’s most recent Covid-19 assis­tance deliv­ery, 52 per­cent of the Ital­ian pop­u­la­tion see Chi­na as a “friend” of Italy; 32 per­cent con­sid­er Rus­sia, who is also pro­vid­ing assis­tance, a “friend,” and only 17 per­cent place the Unit­ed States in this cat­e­go­ry. Among the coun­tries in the sur­vey con­sid­ered an “ene­my” of Italy, first place, with an impres­sive 45 per­cent, went to Germany.[10]

 [1] Trump dro­ht Chi­na mit “Kon­se­quen­zen”. tagesschau.de 19.04.2020.

[2] Vgl. etwa: Kris­t­ian G. Ander­sen, Andrew Ram­baut, W. Ian Lip­kin, Edward C. Holmes, Robert F. Gar­ry: The prox­i­mal ori­gin of SARS-CoV­‑2. Nature Med­i­cine 26 (2020). S. 450–452.

[3] Nils Met­zger: Neue Argu­mente für Labor-The­o­rie? zdf.de 17.04.2020.

[4] Darum nimmt die Kri­tik an Pekings Umgang mit der Coro­n­avirus-Krise zu. tagesspiegel.de 20.04.2020.

[5] See also Bat­tle of Nar­ra­tives.

[6] Vic­tor Mal­let, Roula Kha­laf: FT Inter­view: Emmanuel Macron says it is time to think the unthink­able. ft.com 16.04.2020.

[7] Armin Staigis: Ern­st­fall Europa — Jet­zt! Bun­de­sakademie für Sicher­heit­spoli­tik: Arbeitspa­pi­er 2/20. Berlin, April 2020.

[8] “Chi­na dürfte am Ende zu den Krisen­gewin­nern gehören”. cicero.de 17.04.2020.

[9] See also Ger­many First (II).

[10] Mas­si­m­il­iano Lenzi: Lib­ertà super­flua per 2 ital­iani su 3. iltempo.it 18.04.2020.

 

Discussion

5 comments for “Provocation: Covid-19 as a False Flag “Bio-Reichstag Fire” (Updated on 4/22/2020)”

  1. Cheers at Ari­zona Capi­tol coro­n­avirus protest for threats to shoot Democ­rats?

    Opin­ion: A TV crew’s micro­phone picked up some of the speak­ers at the state Capi­tol protest, includ­ing one that includ­ed some not-so-sub­tle lan­guage.

    EJ MONTINI | ARIZONA REPUBLIC
    Updat­ed 7:12 p.m. PDT Apr. 20, 2020

    https://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/op-ed/ej-montini/2020/04/20/cheers-state-capitol-protest-threats-shoot-democrats/5169678002/

    Posted by Roberto Maldonado | April 21, 2020, 8:06 pm
  2. CHEERS AT ARIZONA CAPITOL CORONAVIRUS PROTEST FOR THREATS TO SHOOT DEMOCRATS?

    “I fought in Viet­nam against the social­ist com­mu­nists. I’m sor­ry we didn’t kill them all.

    “We’re under attack by Chi­na. And the Democ­rats are on the Chi­nese side, and the media is on the Democ­rats side.

    “My guys didn’t die in vain. You and your chil­dren and your grand­chil­dren are worth dying for. And their free­dom and their lib­er­ty must be paid for.

    “And all I’m ask­ing you is to vote them out, because I don’t want to have to shoot ‘em again.

    https://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/op-ed/ej-montini/2020/04/20/cheers-state-capitol-protest-threats-shoot-democrats/5169678002/

    Posted by Roberto Maldonado | April 22, 2020, 10:27 am
  3. Trump Offi­cials Are Said to Press Spies to Link Virus and Wuhan Labs

    Some ana­lysts are wor­ried that the pres­sure from senior offi­cials could dis­tort assess­ments about the coro­n­avirus and be used as a weapon in an esca­lat­ing bat­tle with Chi­na.

    WASHINGTON — Senior Trump admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials have pushed Amer­i­can spy agen­cies to hunt for evi­dence to sup­port an unsub­stan­ti­at­ed the­o­ry that a gov­ern­ment lab­o­ra­to­ry in Wuhan, Chi­na, was the ori­gin of the coro­n­avirus out­break, accord­ing to cur­rent and for­mer Amer­i­can offi­cials. The effort comes as Pres­i­dent Trump esca­lates a pub­lic cam­paign to blame Chi­na for the pan­dem­ic.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/30/us/politics/trump-administration-intelligence-coronavirus-china.html?referringSource=articleShare

    Posted by Roberto Maldonado | April 30, 2020, 9:58 am
  4. @Roberto Mal­don­a­do: In addi­tion to that NY Times report about the Trump admin­is­tra­tion pres­sur­ing intel­li­gence agen­cies to come up with some sort of evi­dence that the virus emerged from that lab in Wuhan, we also have a push by Aus­tralia to cre­ate an inde­pen­dent inter­na­tion­al inves­ti­ga­tion along the lines of the 2002 inter­na­tion­al WMD inspec­tors in the lead up to the inva­sion of Iraq. Also, Trump is open­ly say­ing now that Bei­jing “will do any­thing they can” to make Trump lose re-elec­tion. So it’s look­ing like one of planned re-elec­tion themes for the Trump team is going to be that Chi­na released the virus to make him lose so not vot­ing for Trump is let­ting Chi­na ‘win’ and that re-elect­ing Trump will ensure Chi­na ‘pays’ for their crimes against Trump:

    The Guardian

    Trump claims Chi­na will ‘do any­thing’ to stop his re-elec­tion as coro­n­avirus row esca­lates

    Pres­i­dent again rais­es pos­si­ble retal­i­a­tion against Bei­jing over coro­n­avirus as Chi­nese media crit­i­cis­es lack of lead­er­ship in the US

    Ali­son Rourke and Lily Kuo in Bei­jing

    Wed 29 Apr 2020 23.59 EDT
    Last mod­i­fied on Thu 30 Apr 2020 10.15 EDT

    Don­ald Trump has claimed that China’s han­dling of the coro­n­avirus is proof that Bei­jing “will do any­thing they can” to make him lose his re-elec­tion bid in Novem­ber.

    In an inter­view with Reuters, the US pres­i­dent said he was look­ing at dif­fer­ent options in terms of con­se­quences for Bei­jing over the virus. “I can do a lot,” he said, with­out going into detail.

    Trump has increas­ing­ly blamed Chi­na for the pan­dem­ic and on Wednes­day again said Bei­jing should have let the world know about the coro­n­avirus much soon­er. He also spec­u­lat­ed about retal­i­a­tion: “There are many things I can do,” he said. “We’re look­ing for what hap­pened.”

    For the first time, Trump linked Bei­jing to his re-elec­tion chances in Novem­ber. “Chi­na will do any­thing they can to have me lose this race,” he said, adding that he believed Chi­na wants his Demo­c­ra­t­ic oppo­nent, Joe Biden, to win the race to ease the pres­sure on US-Chi­na trade rela­tions.

    “They’re con­stant­ly using pub­lic rela­tions to try to make it like they’re inno­cent par­ties,” he said of Chi­nese offi­cials.

    Trump said the trade deal that he con­clud­ed with Chi­nese pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping aimed at reduc­ing chron­ic US trade deficits with Chi­na had been “upset very bad­ly” by the eco­nom­ic fall­out from the virus.

    The president’s attack on Chi­na appears to be in line with leaked Repub­li­can par­ty mem­os, pub­lished by Politi­co, which advised can­di­dates to aggres­sive­ly tar­get Bei­jing in their pub­lic remarks on the pan­dem­ic, as part of their re-elec­tion strat­e­gy.

    Trump’s han­dling of the virus has come under strong scruti­ny with just 43% of Amer­i­cans approv­ing of his hand­ing of the pan­dem­ic, accord­ing to a Reuters/Ipsos poll on 27–28 April, days after the president’s dis­cred­it­ed com­ments on inject­ing dis­in­fec­tant.

    ...

    US eco­nom­ic fig­ures won’t have helped Trump’s posi­tion, with news that the econ­o­my shrank at a 4.8% annu­al rate in first quar­ter of the year – a pre­cur­sor to far grim­mer reports expect­ed in lat­er months from the severe reces­sion trig­gered by the pan­dem­ic.

    The US is not the only coun­try to take issue with China’s han­dling of the virus. Aus­tralia has called for an inde­pen­dent inves­ti­ga­tion into its ori­gins, along the lines of weapons inspec­tors who were tasked with inspect­ing Iraq’s arse­nal before the sec­ond Gulf war. Bei­jing has reject­ed the sug­ges­tion, say­ing that if that line was pur­sued, Chi­nese com­pa­nies and stu­dents may not choose to do busi­ness or study in Aus­tralia. Britain’s ambas­sador to the US Karen Pierce said her coun­try backed calls for an inves­ti­ga­tion but said any inquiry should come lat­er.

    In com­ments pub­lished on Thurs­day, Le Yucheng, a vice-for­eign min­is­ter said Chi­na “res­olute­ly oppos­es” any inter­na­tion­al inves­ti­ga­tion into the pan­dem­ic, which he described as an effort to stig­ma­tise the coun­try. Bei­jing has blamed the US for lead­ing inter­na­tion­al crit­i­cism against Chi­na.

    ...

    ————

    “Trump claims Chi­na will ‘do any­thing’ to stop his re-elec­tion as coro­n­avirus row esca­lates” by Ali­son Rourke and Lily Kuo; The Guardian; 04/29/2020

    “For the first time, Trump linked Bei­jing to his re-elec­tion chances in Novem­ber. “Chi­na will do any­thing they can to have me lose this race,” he said, adding that he believed Chi­na wants his Demo­c­ra­t­ic oppo­nent, Joe Biden, to win the race to ease the pres­sure on US-Chi­na trade rela­tions.”

    Chi­na is plot­ting against Trump and loves Joe Biden. That’s the fram­ing we’re see­ing emerg­ing as the 2020 cam­paign sea­son kicks into full dri­ve. A fram­ing that allows the Trump cam­paign to essen­tial­ly run against Chi­na as a proxy for Biden.

    But the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is far from the only gov­ern­ment try­ing to direct as much blame as pos­si­ble on Chi­na. Aus­tralia is call­ing for an inde­pen­dence inter­na­tion­al inspec­tion team:

    ...
    The US is not the only coun­try to take issue with China’s han­dling of the virus. Aus­tralia has called for an inde­pen­dent inves­ti­ga­tion into its ori­gins, along the lines of weapons inspec­tors who were tasked with inspect­ing Iraq’s arse­nal before the sec­ond Gulf war. Bei­jing has reject­ed the sug­ges­tion, say­ing that if that line was pur­sued, Chi­nese com­pa­nies and stu­dents may not choose to do busi­ness or study in Aus­tralia. Britain’s ambas­sador to the US Karen Pierce said her coun­try backed calls for an inves­ti­ga­tion but said any inquiry should come lat­er.
    ...

    Now, tak­ing a clos­er look at that NY Times arti­cle, one of the more inter­est­ing aspects of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s focus on Chi­na is how the admin­is­tra­tion appears to be push­ing the line that the virus came from a lab in Wuhan but NOT that the virus was engi­neered in a lab in Wuhan. All ref­er­ences to the virus emerg­ing for a lab are described as acci­den­tal releas­es. An ‘oops’ that Chi­na cov­ered up. So the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is push­ing the nar­ra­tive that the virus leaked from the lab while con­tin­u­ing to avoid any asser­tion that it was man-made. Is the admin­is­tra­tion first plan­ning on push­ing the idea that it came from a Wuhan lab and only lat­er push­ing the idea that it was man-made? Who knows but it’s an odd it’s a curi­ous rhetor­i­cal line they’re walk­ing. Why would­n’t the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, espe­cial­ly Trump him­self, shy away from sug­gest­ing the virus is man-made at the same time they are heav­i­ly invest­ed in the idea that it came from a Chi­nese lab? It’s not like Trump to dis­miss this kind of idea. So for some rea­son he and the rest of the GOP are sim­ply not touch­es that man-made angle to this story...at the same time they are aggres­sive­ly push­ing the very close­ly relat­ed angle of a pos­si­ble lab ori­gin.

    It’s also worth not­ing how many times the arti­cle asserts that the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty has con­clu­sive­ly deter­mined that the virus could­n’t have pos­si­bly been devel­oped in a lab — a con­clu­sion that is absolute­ly impos­si­ble to arrive at giv­en today’s ‘made-to-order’ viral tech­nol­o­gy — fol­lowed with links to the var­i­ous pub­li­ca­tions by researchers that have made these asser­tions. In par­tic­u­lar, the arti­cle cites that March 17 let­ter to Nature authored by a group of coro­n­avirus researchers that has been heav­i­ly tout­ed in the media (and by the head of the NIH!) as some sort of defin­i­tive con­clu­sion despite being large­ly non­sense pred­i­cat­ed on absurd assump­tions. One of the authors of that let­ter, Kris­t­ian G. Ander­son, is quot­ed in the arti­cle fur­ther express­ing his con­tin­ued skep­ti­cism that the virus could have come from a lab.

    And while the ten­u­ous nature of these ‘rebut­tals’ of the man-made the­o­ries is cur­rent­ly impor­tant for estab­lish­ing how lit­tle evi­dence there real­ly is against the man-made the­o­ry, keep in mind that these shaky rebut­tals could play a more impor­tant role as the 2020 cam­paign plays out and ‘Chi­na made the lab to hurt Trump!’ becomes a key cam­paign slo­gan: if those shaky rebut­tals are actu­al­ly real­is­ti­cal­ly sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly chal­lenged in the media and col­lapse as they should that could poten­tial­ly make it a lot eas­i­er for the Trump admin­is­tra­tion to con­vince the pub­lic of its ‘Chi­na made this to hurt Trump’ slo­ga­neer­ing. It’s a con­se­quence of how the debate over the ori­gin of the virus has been effec­tive­ly framed as either “it is com­plete­ly nat­ur­al” or “it came from a Chi­nese lab (but still def­i­nite­ly was­n’t man-made)”, a garbage con­cep­tu­al fram­ing that com­plete­ly ignores the range of actors capa­ble of cre­at­ing this virus and years of research that would allow.

    The arti­cle men­tions anoth­er form of pun­ish­ment for Chi­na the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is con­sid­er­ing: suing Chi­na $10 mil­lion for each US COVID-19 death. If the US has 100,000 deaths that would trans­late to about $1 tril­lion. Is suing Chi­na for $1 tril­lion going to be a major part of Trump’s cam­paign theme? The worse the eco­nom­ic dam­age ends the more polit­i­cal­ly tempt­ing that’s going to be.

    The arti­cle also describes the pres­sure the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is plac­ing on the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty to come up with evi­dence of a Chi­na lab ori­gin. It sounds like Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo — who was pre­vi­ous­ly Trump’s head of the CIA — is lead­ing the admin­is­tra­tion’s efforts to find the Chi­na-lab evi­dence. As one for­mer intel­li­gence offi­cial described it, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion was engaged in “con­clu­sion shop­ping”, a ref­er­ence to Bush administration’s doc­tored WMD intel­li­gence in 2002. So at the same time we have Aus­tralia call­ing for an inter­na­tion­al inde­pen­dent inves­ti­ga­tion that sounds eeri­ly famil­iar to 2002 Iraq WMD inter­na­tion­al inves­ti­ga­tion we also have the Trump admin­is­tra­tion “con­clu­sion shop­ping”:

    The New York Times

    Trump Offi­cials Are Said to Press Spies to Link Virus and Wuhan Labs

    Some ana­lysts are wor­ried that the pres­sure from senior offi­cials could dis­tort assess­ments about the coro­n­avirus and be used as a weapon in an esca­lat­ing bat­tle with Chi­na.

    By Mark Mazzetti, Julian E. Barnes, Edward Wong and Adam Gold­man

    April 30, 2020
    Updat­ed 9:47 p.m. ET

    WASHINGTON — Senior Trump admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials have pushed Amer­i­can spy agen­cies to hunt for evi­dence to sup­port an unsub­stan­ti­at­ed the­o­ry that a gov­ern­ment lab­o­ra­to­ry in Wuhan, Chi­na, was the ori­gin of the coro­n­avirus out­break, accord­ing to cur­rent and for­mer Amer­i­can offi­cials. The effort comes as Pres­i­dent Trump esca­lates a pub­lic cam­paign to blame Chi­na for the pan­dem­ic.

    Some intel­li­gence ana­lysts are con­cerned that the pres­sure from admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials will dis­tort assess­ments about the virus and that they could be used as a polit­i­cal weapon in an inten­si­fy­ing bat­tle with Chi­na over a dis­ease that has infect­ed more than three mil­lion peo­ple across the globe.

    Most intel­li­gence agen­cies remain skep­ti­cal that con­clu­sive evi­dence of a link to a lab can be found, and sci­en­tists who have stud­ied the genet­ics of the coro­n­avirus say that the over­whelm­ing prob­a­bil­i­ty is that it leapt from ani­mal to human in a non­lab­o­ra­to­ry set­ting, as was the case with H.I.V., Ebo­la and SARS.

    Mr. Trump’s aides and Repub­li­cans in Con­gress have sought to blame Chi­na for the pan­dem­ic in part to deflect crit­i­cism of the administration’s mis­man­age­ment of the cri­sis in the Unit­ed States, which now has more coro­n­avirus cas­es than any coun­try. More than one mil­lion Amer­i­cans have been infect­ed, and more than 60,000 have died.

    Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo, a for­mer C.I.A. direc­tor and the administration’s most vocal hard-lin­er on Chi­na, has tak­en the lead in push­ing Amer­i­can intel­li­gence agen­cies for more infor­ma­tion, accord­ing to cur­rent and for­mer offi­cials.

    Matthew Pot­tinger, the deputy nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er who report­ed on SARS out­breaks as a jour­nal­ist in Chi­na, pressed intel­li­gence agen­cies in Jan­u­ary to gath­er infor­ma­tion that might sup­port any ori­gin the­o­ry linked to a lab.

    And Antho­ny Rug­giero, the head of the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Council’s bureau track­ing weapons of mass destruc­tion, expressed frus­tra­tion dur­ing one video­con­fer­ence in Jan­u­ary that the C.I.A. was unable to get behind any the­o­ry of the outbreak’s ori­gin. C.I.A. ana­lysts respond­ed that they sim­ply did not have the evi­dence to sup­port any one the­o­ry with high con­fi­dence at the time, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with the con­ver­sa­tion.

    The C.I.A.’s judg­ment was based in part on the fact that no signs had emerged that the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment believed the out­break came from a lab. The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment has vig­or­ous­ly denied that the virus leaked from a lab while push­ing dis­in­for­ma­tion on its ori­gins, includ­ing sug­gest­ing that the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary cre­at­ed it.

    Any Amer­i­can intel­li­gence report blam­ing a Chi­nese insti­tu­tion and offi­cials for the out­break could sig­nif­i­cant­ly harm rela­tions with Chi­na for years to come. And Trump admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials could use it to try to prod oth­er nations to pub­licly hold Chi­na account­able for coro­n­avirus deaths even when the pandemic’s exact ori­gins can­not be deter­mined.

    Mr. Trump made clear on Thurs­day evening of his inter­est in intel­li­gence sup­port­ing the the­o­ry the virus emerged acci­den­tal­ly from a Wuhan lab. In response to a ques­tion from a reporter, the pres­i­dent said he had seen intel­li­gence that sup­port­ed the idea but quick­ly back­tracked, adding that he “was not allowed” to share the intel­li­gence and that his admin­is­tra­tion was exam­in­ing mul­ti­ple the­o­ries about the ori­gin of the virus.

    “There’s a lot of the­o­ries,” he said, “but we have peo­ple look­ing at it very, very strong­ly. Sci­en­tif­ic peo­ple, intel­li­gence peo­ple and oth­ers.”

    In a state­ment released ear­li­er on Thurs­day, the Office of the Direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence said that the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty “will con­tin­ue to rig­or­ous­ly exam­ine emerg­ing infor­ma­tion and intel­li­gence to deter­mine whether the out­break began through con­tact with infect­ed ani­mals or if it was the result of an acci­dent at a lab­o­ra­to­ry in Wuhan.”

    Intel­li­gence agen­cies, the state­ment said, con­cur “with the wide sci­en­tif­ic con­sen­sus that the Covid-19 virus was not man-made or genet­i­cal­ly mod­i­fied.”

    ...

    NBC News report­ed ear­li­er that admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials had direct­ed intel­li­gence agen­cies to try to deter­mine whether Chi­na and the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion hid infor­ma­tion ear­ly on about the out­break.

    For months, sci­en­tists, spies and gov­ern­ment offi­cials have wres­tled with vary­ing the­o­ries about how the out­break began, and many agree on the impor­tance of deter­min­ing the gen­e­sis of the pan­dem­ic. In gov­ern­ment and acad­e­mia, experts have ruled out the notion that it was con­coct­ed as a bioweapon. And they agree that the new pathogen began as a bat virus that evolved nat­u­ral­ly, prob­a­bly in anoth­er mam­mal, to become adept at infect­ing and killing humans.

    A few sci­en­tists and nation­al secu­ri­ty experts have point­ed to a his­to­ry of lab acci­dents infect­ing researchers to sug­gest it might have hap­pened in this case, but many sci­en­tists have dis­missed such the­o­ries.

    “We do not believe any type of lab­o­ra­to­ry-based sce­nario is plau­si­ble,” five sci­en­tists wrote in a paper pub­lished in March in Nature Med­i­cine.

    Mr. Trump has spo­ken pub­licly about the administration’s “very seri­ous inves­ti­ga­tions” of the virus’s ori­gin and China’s cul­pa­bil­i­ty. Those inquiries took on new urgency in late March, when intel­li­gence offi­cials pre­sent­ed infor­ma­tion to the White House that prompt­ed some career offi­cials to recon­sid­er the lab the­o­ry. The pre­cise nature of the infor­ma­tion, based in part on inter­cept­ed com­mu­ni­ca­tions among Chi­nese offi­cials, is unclear.

    The cur­rent and for­mer offi­cials did not say whether Mr. Trump him­self, who has shown lit­tle regard for the inde­pen­dent judg­ments of intel­li­gence and law enforce­ment offi­cials, has pres­sured the intel­li­gence agen­cies. But he does want any infor­ma­tion sup­port­ing the lab the­o­ry to set the stage for hold­ing Chi­na respon­si­ble, accord­ing to two peo­ple famil­iar with his think­ing.

    He has expressed inter­est in an idea pushed by Michael Pills­bury, an infor­mal Chi­na advis­er to the White House, that Bei­jing could be sued for dam­ages, with the Unit­ed States seek­ing $10 mil­lion for every death. At a news con­fer­ence this week, Mr. Trump said the admin­is­tra­tion was dis­cussing a “very sub­stan­tial” repa­ra­tions claim against Chi­na — an idea that Bei­jing has already denounced.

    “Pres­i­dent Trump is demand­ing to know the ori­gins of the virus and what Xi Jin­ping knew when about the cov­er-up,” Mr. Pills­bury said.

    Look­ing at the Labs

    Major gaps remain in what is known about the new pathogen, includ­ing which kind of ani­mal infect­ed humans with the coro­n­avirus and where the first trans­mis­sion took place.

    Richard Grenell, the act­ing direc­tor of nation­al intel­li­gence, has told his agen­cies to make a pri­or­i­ty of deter­min­ing the virus’s ori­gin. His office con­vened a review of intel­li­gence offi­cials on April 7 to see whether the agen­cies could reach a con­sen­sus. The offi­cials deter­mined that at least so far, they could not.

    Intel­li­gence offi­cials have repeat­ed­ly point­ed out to the White House that deter­min­ing the ori­gins of the out­break is fun­da­men­tal­ly a sci­en­tif­ic ques­tion that can­not be solved eas­i­ly by spy­craft.

    A for­mer intel­li­gence offi­cial described senior aides’ repeat­ed empha­sis of the lab the­o­ry as “con­clu­sion shop­ping,” a dis­parag­ing term among ana­lysts that has echoes of the Bush administration’s 2002 push for assess­ments say­ing that Iraq had weapons of mass of destruc­tion and links to Al Qae­da, per­haps the most noto­ri­ous exam­ple of the politi­ciza­tion of intel­li­gence.

    The C.I.A. has yet to unearth any data beyond cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence to bol­ster the lab the­o­ry, accord­ing to cur­rent and for­mer gov­ern­ment offi­cials, and the agency has told pol­i­cy­mak­ers it lacks enough infor­ma­tion to either affirm or refute it. Only get­ting access to the lab itself and the virus sam­ples it con­tains could pro­vide defin­i­tive proof, if it exists, the offi­cials said.

    The Defense Intel­li­gence Agency recent­ly changed its ana­lyt­ic posi­tion to for­mal­ly leave open the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a the­o­ry of lab ori­gin, offi­cials said. Senior agency offi­cials have asked ana­lysts to take a clos­er look at the labs.

    The rea­son for the change is unclear, but some offi­cials attrib­uted it to the intel­li­gence ana­lyzed in recent weeks. Oth­ers took a more jaun­diced view: that the agency is try­ing to cur­ry favor with White House offi­cials. A spokesman for the agency, James M. Kud­la, dis­put­ed that char­ac­ter­i­za­tion. “It’s not D.I.A.’s role to make pol­i­cy deci­sions or val­ue judg­ments — and we do not,” he said.

    Some Amer­i­can offi­cials have become con­vinced that Bei­jing is not shar­ing all it knows.

    Among Mr. Trump’s top aides, Mr. Pom­peo in par­tic­u­lar has tried to ham­mer Chi­na over the lab. On Wednes­day, he said that the Unit­ed States still had not “gained access” to the main cam­pus of the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy, one of two sites that Amer­i­can offi­cials who favor the lab acci­dent the­o­ry have focused on, along with the Wuhan Cen­ter for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

    Labs in Wuhan research bat virus­es and are known to Amer­i­can offi­cials; they are part of a coor­di­nat­ed glob­al effort to mon­i­tor virus­es. The virol­o­gy insti­tute has received fund­ing and train­ing from Amer­i­can agen­cies and sci­en­tists.

    Mr. Pom­peo seemed to refer to inter­nal infor­ma­tion about the out­break dur­ing an inter­view on April 17 with Hugh Hewitt, a con­ser­v­a­tive radio host.

    “We know that the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty, when it began to eval­u­ate what to do inside of Wuhan, con­sid­ered whether the W.I.V. was, in fact, the place where this came from,” said Mr. Pom­peo, refer­ring to the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy.

    The State Depart­ment declined to indi­cate what was behind his asser­tion.

    Sci­en­tists Weigh In

    Sci­en­tists who study the coro­n­avirus have main­tained that the ini­tial spillover from ani­mal to per­son could have occurred in any num­ber of ways: at a farm where wild ani­mals are raised, through acci­den­tal con­tact with a bat or anoth­er ani­mal that car­ried the virus, or in hunt­ing or trans­port­ing ani­mals.

    The sci­en­tists have also scru­ti­nized the new pathogen’s genes, find­ing that they show great sim­i­lar­i­ty to bat coro­n­avirus­es and bear no hints of human tam­per­ing or cura­tion.

    The odds were astro­nom­i­cal against a lab release as opposed to an event in nature, said Kris­t­ian G. Ander­sen, the lead author of the paper pub­lished in Nature Med­i­cine and a spe­cial­ist in infec­tious dis­ease at the Scripps Research Trans­la­tion­al Insti­tute in Cal­i­for­nia.

    He acknowl­edged that it was the­o­ret­i­cal­ly pos­si­ble that a researcher had found the new virus, ful­ly evolved, in a bat or oth­er ani­mal and tak­en it into the lab. But, he said, based on the evi­dence his team gath­ered and the numer­ous oppor­tu­ni­ties for infec­tion in the inter­ac­tions that many farm­ers, hunters and oth­ers have with wild ani­mals, “there just isn’t a rea­son to con­sid­er the lab as a poten­tial expla­na­tion.”

    No evi­dence sup­ports the the­o­ry that the coro­n­avirus orig­i­nat­ed “in a lab­o­ra­to­ry either inten­tion­al­ly or by acci­dent,” Daniel R. Lucey, an expert on pan­demics at George­town Uni­ver­si­ty who has close­ly tracked what is known about the ori­gins, wrote this week.

    He has called on Chi­na to share infor­ma­tion about ani­mals sold at a mar­ket in Wuhan that was linked to some of the ear­li­est known cas­es of peo­ple infect­ed with the virus, though not the first one. Dr. Lucey has raised ques­tions about whether the mar­ket was, in fact, where the virus spilled over from ani­mals to peo­ple. The lim­it­ed infor­ma­tion released about envi­ron­men­tal sam­ples tak­en from the mar­ket that were pos­i­tive for the coro­n­avirus do not resolve whether the source was ani­mals sold there or peo­ple work­ing or vis­it­ing the mar­ket, or both, he wrote.

    But Richard Ebright, a micro­bi­ol­o­gist and biosafe­ty expert at Rut­gers Uni­ver­si­ty, has argued that the prob­a­bil­i­ty of a lab acci­dent was “sub­stan­tial,” point­ing to a his­to­ry of such occur­rences that have infect­ed researchers. The Wuhan labs and oth­er cen­ters world­wide that exam­ine nat­u­ral­ly occur­ring virus­es have ques­tion­able safe­ty rules, he said, adding, “The stan­dards are lax and need to be tight­ened.”

    Amer­i­can offi­cials said they close­ly watched China’s gov­ern­ment this win­ter for signs of a lab acci­dent but found noth­ing con­clu­sive. In Feb­ru­ary, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping stressed the need for a plan to ensure the “biosafe­ty and biose­cu­ri­ty of the coun­try.” And the Min­istry of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy announced new guide­lines for lab­o­ra­to­ries, espe­cial­ly ones han­dling virus­es.

    Glob­al Times, a pop­u­lar state-run news­pa­per, then pub­lished an arti­cle on “chron­ic inad­e­quate man­age­ment issues” at lab­o­ra­to­ries, includ­ing prob­lems with bio­log­i­cal dis­pos­al.

    ———–

    “Trump Offi­cials Are Said to Press Spies to Link Virus and Wuhan Labs” by Mark Mazzetti, Julian E. Barnes, Edward Wong and Adam Gold­man; The New York Times; 04/30/2020

    “Any Amer­i­can intel­li­gence report blam­ing a Chi­nese insti­tu­tion and offi­cials for the out­break could sig­nif­i­cant­ly harm rela­tions with Chi­na for years to come. And Trump admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials could use it to try to prod oth­er nations to pub­licly hold Chi­na account­able for coro­n­avirus deaths even when the pandemic’s exact ori­gins can­not be deter­mined.

    That’s right: find­ing actu­al evi­dence about the ori­gins of the virus isn’t actu­al­ly required to ral­ly the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty in a cam­paign to pun­ish and iso­late Chi­na. All that’s required is a US intel­li­gence report. Any US intel­li­gence report. That’s how pro­pa­gan­da works. And that’s why so many peo­ple are rais­ing the alarm about the Trump admin­is­tra­tion essen­tial­ly engag­ing in the same kind of “con­clu­sion shop­ping” with the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty that we saw in the lead up to the Iraq war:

    ...
    Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo, a for­mer C.I.A. direc­tor and the administration’s most vocal hard-lin­er on Chi­na, has tak­en the lead in push­ing Amer­i­can intel­li­gence agen­cies for more infor­ma­tion, accord­ing to cur­rent and for­mer offi­cials.

    Matthew Pot­tinger, the deputy nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er who report­ed on SARS out­breaks as a jour­nal­ist in Chi­na, pressed intel­li­gence agen­cies in Jan­u­ary to gath­er infor­ma­tion that might sup­port any ori­gin the­o­ry linked to a lab.

    And Antho­ny Rug­giero, the head of the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Council’s bureau track­ing weapons of mass destruc­tion, expressed frus­tra­tion dur­ing one video­con­fer­ence in Jan­u­ary that the C.I.A. was unable to get behind any the­o­ry of the outbreak’s ori­gin. C.I.A. ana­lysts respond­ed that they sim­ply did not have the evi­dence to sup­port any one the­o­ry with high con­fi­dence at the time, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with the con­ver­sa­tion.

    The C.I.A.’s judg­ment was based in part on the fact that no signs had emerged that the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment believed the out­break came from a lab. The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment has vig­or­ous­ly denied that the virus leaked from a lab while push­ing dis­in­for­ma­tion on its ori­gins, includ­ing sug­gest­ing that the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary cre­at­ed it.

    ...

    Among Mr. Trump’s top aides, Mr. Pom­peo in par­tic­u­lar has tried to ham­mer Chi­na over the lab. On Wednes­day, he said that the Unit­ed States still had not “gained access” to the main cam­pus of the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy, one of two sites that Amer­i­can offi­cials who favor the lab acci­dent the­o­ry have focused on, along with the Wuhan Cen­ter for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

    ...

    Richard Grenell, the act­ing direc­tor of nation­al intel­li­gence, has told his agen­cies to make a pri­or­i­ty of deter­min­ing the virus’s ori­gin. His office con­vened a review of intel­li­gence offi­cials on April 7 to see whether the agen­cies could reach a con­sen­sus. The offi­cials deter­mined that at least so far, they could not.

    Intel­li­gence offi­cials have repeat­ed­ly point­ed out to the White House that deter­min­ing the ori­gins of the out­break is fun­da­men­tal­ly a sci­en­tif­ic ques­tion that can­not be solved eas­i­ly by spy­craft.

    A for­mer intel­li­gence offi­cial described senior aides’ repeat­ed empha­sis of the lab the­o­ry as “con­clu­sion shop­ping,” a dis­parag­ing term among ana­lysts that has echoes of the Bush administration’s 2002 push for assess­ments say­ing that Iraq had weapons of mass of destruc­tion and links to Al Qae­da, per­haps the most noto­ri­ous exam­ple of the politi­ciza­tion of intel­li­gence.

    ...

    The C.I.A. has yet to unearth any data beyond cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence to bol­ster the lab the­o­ry, accord­ing to cur­rent and for­mer gov­ern­ment offi­cials, and the agency has told pol­i­cy­mak­ers it lacks enough infor­ma­tion to either affirm or refute it. Only get­ting access to the lab itself and the virus sam­ples it con­tains could pro­vide defin­i­tive proof, if it exists, the offi­cials said.

    The Defense Intel­li­gence Agency recent­ly changed its ana­lyt­ic posi­tion to for­mal­ly leave open the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a the­o­ry of lab ori­gin, offi­cials said. Senior agency offi­cials have asked ana­lysts to take a clos­er look at the labs.

    The rea­son for the change is unclear, but some offi­cials attrib­uted it to the intel­li­gence ana­lyzed in recent weeks. Oth­ers took a more jaun­diced view: that the agency is try­ing to cur­ry favor with White House offi­cials. A spokesman for the agency, James M. Kud­la, dis­put­ed that char­ac­ter­i­za­tion. “It’s not D.I.A.’s role to make pol­i­cy deci­sions or val­ue judg­ments — and we do not,” he said.
    ...

    Beyond that, Trump him­self just claimed on Thurs­day this week dur­ing a press con­fer­ence that, yes, he has seen evi­dence sup­port­ing the idea that the virus came from a lab in Wuhan. He’s also been talk­ing about a “very sub­stan­tial” repa­ra­tions claim against Chi­na this week and he’s report­ed­ly inter­est­ing in the pro­pos­al to sue Chi­na $10 mil­lion for each US COVID death. So it’s real­ly look­ing like mas­sive­ly suing Chi­na is going to be one of Trump’s planned 2020 re-elec­tion themes. A theme he can’t use with­out an intel­li­gence report back­ing up that claim:

    ...
    Mr. Trump made clear on Thurs­day evening of his inter­est in intel­li­gence sup­port­ing the the­o­ry the virus emerged acci­den­tal­ly from a Wuhan lab. In response to a ques­tion from a reporter, the pres­i­dent said he had seen intel­li­gence that sup­port­ed the idea but quick­ly back­tracked, adding that he “was not allowed” to share the intel­li­gence and that his admin­is­tra­tion was exam­in­ing mul­ti­ple the­o­ries about the ori­gin of the virus.

    “There’s a lot of the­o­ries,” he said, “but we have peo­ple look­ing at it very, very strong­ly. Sci­en­tif­ic peo­ple, intel­li­gence peo­ple and oth­ers.”

    ...

    He has expressed inter­est in an idea pushed by Michael Pills­bury, an infor­mal Chi­na advis­er to the White House, that Bei­jing could be sued for dam­ages, with the Unit­ed States seek­ing $10 mil­lion for every death. At a news con­fer­ence this week, Mr. Trump said the admin­is­tra­tion was dis­cussing a “very sub­stan­tial” repa­ra­tions claim against Chi­na — an idea that Bei­jing has already denounced.

    “Pres­i­dent Trump is demand­ing to know the ori­gins of the virus and what Xi Jin­ping knew when about the cov­er-up,” Mr. Pills­bury said.
    ...

    And then the arti­cle cites the same March 17 let­ter Nature where five coro­n­avirus experts appear to con­clu­sive­ly deter­mine that there’s no way the virus could have been built in a lab. As we’ve seen, their argu­ments were pred­i­cat­ed on absurd assump­tions but that paper has nonethe­less become treat­ed as some sort of defin­i­tive answer on the ques­tion of whether or not the virus could have been man-made. There’s also a ref­er­ence to sim­i­lar con­clu­sions arrived at by Georgtown researcher Daniel R. Lucey. The arti­cle cites a piece Lucey recent­ly wrote where he made those asser­tions that there was no evi­dence that virus could have come from a lab. If you read the piece there’s basi­cal­ly no argu­ment for that point giv­en oth­er than the gener­ic “We have not found evi­dence to sup­port any the­o­ry that the ori­gins of SARS-CoV­‑2 among humans occurred in a lab­o­ra­to­ry either inten­tion­al­ly or by acci­dent”. It’s the kind of absurd argue used by the team that wrote the Nature paper that assumes there would be such evi­dence just sit­ting there in the viral genome which is utter­ly pre­pos­ter­ous. When it comes to this virus, the absence of unam­bigu­ous direct evi­dence in the viral genome is the evi­dence of absence apparently...and despite the abun­dance of cir­cum­ans­tial evi­dence:

    ...
    NBC News report­ed ear­li­er that admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials had direct­ed intel­li­gence agen­cies to try to deter­mine whether Chi­na and the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion hid infor­ma­tion ear­ly on about the out­break.

    For months, sci­en­tists, spies and gov­ern­ment offi­cials have wres­tled with vary­ing the­o­ries about how the out­break began, and many agree on the impor­tance of deter­min­ing the gen­e­sis of the pan­dem­ic. In gov­ern­ment and acad­e­mia, experts have ruled out the notion that it was con­coct­ed as a bioweapon. And they agree that the new pathogen began as a bat virus that evolved nat­u­ral­ly, prob­a­bly in anoth­er mam­mal, to become adept at infect­ing and killing humans.

    A few sci­en­tists and nation­al secu­ri­ty experts have point­ed to a his­to­ry of lab acci­dents infect­ing researchers to sug­gest it might have hap­pened in this case, but many sci­en­tists have dis­missed such the­o­ries.

    “We do not believe any type of lab­o­ra­to­ry-based sce­nario is plau­si­ble,” five sci­en­tists wrote in a paper pub­lished in March in Nature Med­i­cine.

    ...

    Sci­en­tists who study the coro­n­avirus have main­tained that the ini­tial spillover from ani­mal to per­son could have occurred in any num­ber of ways: at a farm where wild ani­mals are raised, through acci­den­tal con­tact with a bat or anoth­er ani­mal that car­ried the virus, or in hunt­ing or trans­port­ing ani­mals.

    The sci­en­tists have also scru­ti­nized the new pathogen’s genes, find­ing that they show great sim­i­lar­i­ty to bat coro­n­avirus­es and bear no hints of human tam­per­ing or cura­tion.

    The odds were astro­nom­i­cal against a lab release as opposed to an event in nature, said Kris­t­ian G. Ander­sen, the lead author of the paper pub­lished in Nature Med­i­cine and a spe­cial­ist in infec­tious dis­ease at the Scripps Research Trans­la­tion­al Insti­tute in Cal­i­for­nia.

    He acknowl­edged that it was the­o­ret­i­cal­ly pos­si­ble that a researcher had found the new virus, ful­ly evolved, in a bat or oth­er ani­mal and tak­en it into the lab. But, he said, based on the evi­dence his team gath­ered and the numer­ous oppor­tu­ni­ties for infec­tion in the inter­ac­tions that many farm­ers, hunters and oth­ers have with wild ani­mals, “there just isn’t a rea­son to con­sid­er the lab as a poten­tial expla­na­tion.”

    No evi­dence sup­ports the the­o­ry that the coro­n­avirus orig­i­nat­ed “in a lab­o­ra­to­ry either inten­tion­al­ly or by acci­dent,” Daniel R. Lucey, an expert on pan­demics at George­town Uni­ver­si­ty who has close­ly tracked what is known about the ori­gins, wrote this week.
    ...

    Final­ly, note that at least some biol­o­gists are open the pos­si­bil­i­ty that the virus emerged from the lab. It’s still described as only a “lab acci­dent”:

    ...
    But Richard Ebright, a micro­bi­ol­o­gist and biosafe­ty expert at Rut­gers Uni­ver­si­ty, has argued that the prob­a­bil­i­ty of a lab acci­dent was “sub­stan­tial,” point­ing to a his­to­ry of such occur­rences that have infect­ed researchers. The Wuhan labs and oth­er cen­ters world­wide that exam­ine nat­u­ral­ly occur­ring virus­es have ques­tion­able safe­ty rules, he said, adding, “The stan­dards are lax and need to be tight­ened.”
    ...

    And that refusal by the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty to even real­is­ti­cal­ly con­sid­er the pos­si­bil­i­ty that the virus was man-made points towards one of the great­est dan­gers fac­ing human­i­ty as we con­tin­u­ing into the age of syn­thet­ic biol­o­gy: the idea that some­one could make and inten­tion­al­ly release a man-made virus is appar­ent­ly utter­ly unthink­able for a large por­tion of the pop­u­lace. That very sim­ple idea of some­one cre­at­ing a virus through some­thing like ani­mal pas­sage gain-of-func­tion exper­i­ments or direct­ly manip­u­lat­ing the virus but not leav­ing tell-tale signs that a human did it is like an idea that just does­n’t occur to peo­ple. It’s kind of amaz­ing because it’s not as if you need to be a glob­al expert in virol­o­gy to engage in this kind of spec­u­la­tion and yet that just does­n’t appear to be hap­pen­ing. When that let­ter to Nature that’s still being hyped was first released it should have been triv­ial for large num­bers of peo­ple to debunk it and yet that vir­tu­al­ly has­n’t hap­pened. There real­ly does appear to be some sort of col­lec­tive cog­ni­tive bias against the very idea of a man-made viruse...despite decades of peo­ple mak­ing man-made virus­es! It’s amaz­ing.

    So, for now, the idea that the virus was man-made remains offi­cial­ly utter­ly unthink­able, even by the Trump admin­is­tra­tion at the same time its engaged in “con­clu­sion shop­ping” to prove that the virus was released from a Wuhan lab. How long this absurd notion holds up remains to be seen. But as the above arti­cles make clear, if that idea is even­tu­al­ly chal­lenged the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is already pre­pared to rapid­ly tran­si­tion from ‘Chi­na acci­den­tal­ly released the virus’ to ‘Chi­na inten­tion­al­ly released the virus...to bring down Trump’.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 1, 2020, 1:45 pm
  5. @Pterrafractyl and Rober­to Mal­don­a­do–

    Note that Matthew Pot­tinger, the Trump point man for the “Chi­na did it” meme, is the son of none oth­er than J. Stan­ley Pot­tinger!

    We dis­cussed Pot­tinger in Mis­cel­la­neous Archive Show M4 (a tran­script can be found here: https://spitfirelist.com/news/transcript-of-miscellaneous-archive-show-m4-gloria-in-excelsis/

    He was: Assis­tant Attor­ney Gen­er­al for Civ­il Rights under Nixon and Ford; report­ed by Don­ald Freed and Fred Lan­dis (in “Death in Wash­ing­ton”) to have foiled inves­ti­ga­tions into the assas­si­na­tions of Mar­tin Luther King and Orlan­do Lete­lier; the attor­ney for the Hashe­mi broth­ers in the Octo­ber Sur­prise inves­ti­ga­tion; a close per­son­al friend of George H.W. Bush (for whom CIA head­quar­ters was named) And, last but cer­tain­ly not least, Glo­ria Steinem’s lover for nine years.

    Despite the fact that Steinem tout­ed her CIA back­ground as good jour­nal­is­tic cre­den­tials in both “The New York Times” and “The Wash­ing­ton Post” (both with long-stand­ing CIA links them­selves), Pot­tinger has defend­ed her against charges that she worked for the CIA!!

    One won­ders if Matthew may have fol­lowed J. Stan­ley into the CIA, if in fact Dad­dio is Agency, as I sus­pect.

    It rais­es ques­tions about the Tara Reade alle­ga­tions: Might Tara Reade be a mind-con­trol job and/or sleep­er agent in Biden’s camp?

    A lat­ter-day Don­na Rice?

    Note that, accord­ing to Freed and Lan­dis, J. Stan­ley Pot­tinger had the blood of Mar­tin Luther King and Orlan­do Lete­lier on his hands.

    And in 9 years, those hands were all over every part of Glo­ria Steinem.

    Matthew Pot­tinger would also have been in the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil at the same time as Steve Ban­non.

    Lots of fun!

    Keep up the great work, both of you!

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | May 1, 2020, 2:05 pm

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