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FTR#1189 The Oswald Institute of Virology, Part 8: Covid-19 and The American Deep State, Part 2 (The Cover-Up Obviates the Conspiracy)

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FTR #1189 This pro­gram was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment. [4]

Intro­duc­tion: This pro­gram con­tin­ues our series ana­lyz­ing the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy as hav­ing been set up to take the fall for the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic, which–in our con­sid­ered opinion–is a covert oper­a­tion by the U.S. as part of the full-court press against Chi­na.

Under­scor­ing a point of analy­sis from pre­vi­ous broad­casts, we note that, of para­mount impor­tance in this con­text, is the fact that ANY virus can be made in a lab­o­ra­to­ry, from scratch as is being done for the SARS-CoV­‑2 (Covid-19) virus.

Ralph Baric–who did the gain-of-func­tion mod­i­fi­ca­tion on the Horse­shoe Bat coro­n­avirus, has been select­ed to engi­neer the Covid-19. [5]

Note what might be termed a “viro­log­ic Juras­sic Park” man­i­fes­ta­tion: ” . . . . The tech­nol­o­gy imme­di­ate­ly cre­at­ed bio-weapon wor­ries. . . . Researchers at the US Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC) drove that point home in 2005 when they res­ur­rect­ed the influen­za virus [6] that killed tens of mil­lions in 1918–1919. . . .

Cen­tral to the inquiry [7] about a lab­o­ra­to­ry gen­e­sis for the virus is Ralph Bar­ic. We note that:

  1. Bar­ic’s mod­i­fi­ca­tion of a horse­shoe bat virus to make it more infec­tious (in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Shi Zhengli and in an Eco­Health Alliance affil­i­at­ed project) took place in North Car­oli­na, not Wuhan. “. . . . Crit­ics have jumped on this paper as evi­dence that Shi was con­duct­ing “gain of func­tion” exper­i­ments that could have cre­at­ed a super­bug, but Shi denies it. The research cit­ed in the paper was con­duct­ed in North Car­oli­na.
  2. Bar­ic has been using relat­ed tech­niques to text remde­sivir [8] (in 2017) and the Mod­er­na [9] vac­cine. This places him in a milieu [10] inex­tri­ca­bly linked [11] to the mil­i­tary [12] and pre-dat­ing the pan­dem­ic. ” . . . . Using a sim­i­lar tech­nique, in 2017, Baric’s lab showed that remde­sivir — cur­rent­ly the only licensed drug for treat­ing covid — could be use­ful in fight­ing coro­n­avirus infec­tions. Bar­ic also helped test [13] the Mod­er­na covid vac­cine and a lead­ing new drug can­di­date [14] against covid. . . .”

Next, we present analy­sis of a very impor­tant, albeit slant­ed Van­i­ty Fair arti­cle:

  1. Pom­peo State Depart­ment offi­cials pur­su­ing the lab-leak hypoth­e­sis [15] were told to cov­er it up lest it shed light on U.S. gov­ern­ment fund­ing of research at the “Oswald Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy!”: ” . . . . In one State Depart­ment meet­ing, offi­cials seek­ing to demand trans­paren­cy from the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment say they were explic­it­ly told by col­leagues not to explore the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virology’s gain-of-func­tion research, because it would bring unwel­come atten­tion to U.S. gov­ern­ment fund­ing of it. . . . . In an inter­nal memo obtained by Van­i­ty Fair, Thomas DiNan­no, for­mer act­ing assis­tant sec­re­tary of the State Department’s Bureau of Arms Con­trol, Ver­i­fi­ca­tion, and Com­pli­ance, wrote that. . .  staff from two bureaus . . . “warned” lead­ers with­in his bureau ‘not to pur­sue an inves­ti­ga­tion into the ori­gin of COVID-19’ because it would ‘open a can of worms’ if it con­tin­ued.’ . . . . As the group probed the lab-leak sce­nario, among oth­er pos­si­bil­i­ties, its mem­bers were repeat­ed­ly advised not to open a ‘Pandora’s box,’ said four for­mer State Depart­ment offi­cials inter­viewed by Van­i­ty Fair. . . .”
  2. Set­ting the ortho­doxy in ear­ly 2020 with a Lancet arti­cle rul­ing out a lab­o­ra­to­ry ori­gin for the virus was Peter Daszak, with approval from Ralph Bar­ic: ” . . . . It soon emerged, based on emails obtained by a Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion group called U.S. Right to Know, that Daszak had not only signed but orga­nized the influ­en­tial Lancet state­ment, with the inten­tion of con­ceal­ing his role and cre­at­ing the impres­sion of sci­en­tif­ic una­nim­i­ty. . . .”
  3. ” . . . . In late March, for­mer Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol direc­tor Robert Red­field received death threats from fel­low sci­en­tists after telling CNN that he believed COVID-19 had orig­i­nat­ed in a lab. . . . ”
  4. Matthew Pot­tinger [16], a Chi­na hawk in the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, head­ed up a team to inves­ti­gate the Wuhan lab leak hypoth­e­sis. Note that the gain-of-func­tion milieu in the U.S. nation­al secu­ri­ty estab­lish­ment was a retard­ing fac­tor in the inquiry: ” . . . . By then, Matthew Pot­tinger had approved a COVID-19 ori­gins team, run by the NSC direc­torate that over­saw issues relat­ed to weapons of mass destruc­tion. A long­time Asia expert and for­mer jour­nal­ist, Pot­tinger pur­pose­ful­ly kept the team small . . . . In addi­tion, many lead­ing experts had either received or approved fund­ing for gain-of-func­tion research. Their ‘con­flict­ed’ sta­tus, said Pot­tinger, ‘played a pro­found role in mud­dy­ing the waters and con­t­a­m­i­nat­ing the shot at hav­ing an impar­tial inquiry.’  . . . .” 
  5. Note that Lawrence Liv­er­more sci­en­tists were involved with the gen­e­sis of the “Chi­na did it” hypoth­e­sis, after alleged­ly being alert­ed by a for­eign source to look into their own files. ” . . . . An intel­li­gence ana­lyst work­ing with David Ash­er sift­ed through clas­si­fied chan­nels and turned up a report that out­lined why the lab-leak hypoth­e­sis was plau­si­ble. It had been writ­ten in May [17] by researchers at the Lawrence Liv­er­more Nation­al Lab­o­ra­to­ry, which per­forms nation­al secu­ri­ty research for the Depart­ment of Ener­gy. But it appeared to have been buried with­in the clas­si­fied col­lec­tions sys­tem. . . .”
  6. Note, also, that Chris Ford, a Chi­na hawk, was work­ing to sup­press the Wuhan lab leak hypoth­e­sis: ” . . . . Their frus­tra­tion crest­ed in Decem­ber, when they final­ly briefed Chris Ford, act­ing under­sec­re­tary for Arms Con­trol and Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty. He seemed so hos­tile to their probe that they viewed him as a blink­ered func­tionary bent on white­wash­ing China’s malfea­sance. But Ford, who had years of expe­ri­ence in nuclear non­pro­lif­er­a­tion, had long been a Chi­na hawk. . . .”
  7. The “Chi­na did it/Wuhan lab leak” hypoth­e­sis sur­vived from the Trump admin­is­tra­tion and Mike Pom­peo’s State Depart­ment to the Biden admin­is­tra­tion: ” . . . . The state­ment with­stood ‘aggres­sive sus­pi­cion,’ as one for­mer State Depart­ment offi­cial said, and the Biden admin­is­tra­tion has not walked it back. ‘I was very pleased to see Pompeo’s state­ment come through,’ said Chris Ford, who per­son­al­ly signed off on a draft of the fact sheet before leav­ing the State Depart­ment. ‘I was so relieved that they were using real report­ing that had been vet­ted and cleared.’ . . . .”
  8. Avril Haines, whom we have cit­ed [18] in this series as a key par­tic­i­pant in the Deep State shep­herd­ing of the “Lab-Leak Hypoth­e­sis,” looms large in the inquiry into the per­pet­u­a­tion of this pro­pa­gan­da meme: ” . . . . Inside the U.S. gov­ern­ment, mean­while, the lab-leak hypoth­e­sis had sur­vived the tran­si­tion from Trump to Biden. On April 15, Direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence Avril Haines told the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee that two ‘plau­si­ble the­o­ries’ were being weighed: a lab acci­dent or nat­ur­al emer­gence. . . .”
  9. The arti­cle con­cludes with the inter­est­ing use of the term “cut-out” to describe the Eco­Health Alliance. The term gen­er­al­ly refers to an intel­li­gence-com­mu­ni­ty front orga­ni­za­tion. Is the author hint­ing at more? Did her edi­tor take infor­ma­tion out? ” . . . . The Unit­ed States deserves a healthy share of blame as well. Thanks to their unprece­dent­ed track record of men­dac­i­ty and race-bait­ing, Trump and his allies had less than zero cred­i­bil­i­ty. And the prac­tice of fund­ing risky research via cutouts like Eco­Health Alliance enmeshed lead­ing virol­o­gists in con­flicts of inter­est at the exact moment their exper­tise was most des­per­ate­ly need­ed. . . .”

We con­clude with two impor­tant points from an arti­cle used ear­li­er in the pro­gram.

  1. Shi Zhengli has not­ed that open­ing up the WIV’s records is unac­cept­able: ” . . . . That demand is ‘def­i­nite­ly not accept­able [19],’ respond­ed Shi Zhengli, who directs the Cen­ter for Emerg­ing Infec­tious Dis­eases at the Wuhan Insti­tute. ‘Who can pro­vide evi­dence that does not exist?’ she told MIT Tech­nol­o­gy Review. Shi has said that thou­sands of attempts to hack its com­put­er sys­tems forced the insti­tute to close its data­base. . . .”
  2. The U.S. would not be accept­able to such a propo­si­tion, if the Chi­nese demand­ed access to Ft. Det­rick (part of which was shut down [11] by the CDC in ear­ly August of 2019 [20] on the eve of the pan­dem­ic). A com­menter also not­ed the Rocky Moun­tain lab [21] in his analy­sis, which we not­ed was one of the areas where Willy Burgdor­fer appears to have worked on the devel­op­ment of Lyme Dis­ease.) ” . . . . If a dis­ease had emerged from the U.S. and the Chi­nese blamed the Pen­ta­gon and demand­ed access to the data, ‘what would we say?’ [Dr. Ger­ald] Keusch asked. ‘Would we throw out the red car­pet, ‘Come on over to Fort Det­rick and the Rocky Moun­tain Lab?’ We’d have done exact­ly what the Chi­nese did, which is say, ‘Screw you!’’ . . . .”

1a. Under­scor­ing a point of analy­sis from pre­vi­ous broad­casts, we note that, of para­mount impor­tance in this con­text, is the fact that ANY virus can be made in a lab­o­ra­to­ry, from scratch as is being done for the SARS-CoV­‑2 (Covid-19) virus.

Ralph Baric–who did the gain-of-func­tion mod­i­fi­ca­tion on the Horse­shoe Bat coro­n­avirus, has been select­ed to engi­neer the Covid-19.

Note what might be termed a “viro­log­ic Juras­sic Park” man­i­fes­ta­tion: ” . . . . The tech­nol­o­gy imme­di­ate­ly cre­at­ed bio-weapon wor­ries. . . . Researchers at the US Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC) drove that point home in 2005 when they res­ur­rect­ed the influen­za virus [6] that killed tens of mil­lions in 1918–1919. . . .

“Biol­o­gists rush to re-cre­ate the Chi­na coro­n­avirus from its DNA code” by Anto­nio Regal­a­do; MIT Tech­nol­o­gy Review; 02/15/2020 [5]

The world is watch­ing with alarm as Chi­na strug­gles to con­tain a dan­ger­ous new virus, now being called SARS-CoV­‑2. It has quar­an­tined entire cities, and the US has put a blan­ket ban on trav­ellers who’ve been there. Health offi­cials are scram­bling to under­stand how the virus is trans­mit­ted and how to treat patients.

But in one Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na lab, there’s a dif­fer­ent race. Researchers are try­ing to cre­ate a copy of the virus. From scratch.

Led by Ralph Bar­ic [22], an expert in coronaviruses—which get their name from the crown-shaped spike they use to enter human cells—the North Car­oli­na team expects to recre­ate the virus start­ing only from com­put­er read­outs of its genet­ic sequence post­ed online by Chi­nese labs last month.

The remark­able abil­i­ty to “boot up” virus­es from genet­ic instruc­tions is made pos­si­ble by com­pa­nies that man­u­fac­ture cus­tom DNA mol­e­cules, such as Inte­grat­ed DNA Tech­nol­o­gy, Twist Bio­science, and Atum. By order­ing the right genes, which cost a few thou­sand dol­lars, and then stitch­ing them togeth­er to cre­ate a copy of the coro­n­avirus genome, it’s pos­si­ble to inject the genet­ic mate­r­i­al into cells and jump-start the virus to life.

The abil­i­ty to make a lethal virus from mail-order DNA was first demon­strat­ed 20 years ago. It’s enough of a bioter­ror­ism con­cern that com­pa­nies care­ful­ly mon­i­tor who is order­ing which genes. . . . The tech­nol­o­gy imme­di­ate­ly cre­at­ed bio-weapon wor­ries. . . . Researchers at the US Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC) drove that point home in 2005 when they res­ur­rect­ed the influen­za virus [6] that killed tens of mil­lions in 1918–1919. . . .

1b. Cen­tral to the inquiry about a lab­o­ra­to­ry gen­e­sis for the virus is Ralph Bar­ic. We note that:

  1. Bar­ic’s mod­i­fi­ca­tion of a horse­shoe bat virus to make it more infec­tious (in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Shi Zhengli and in an Eco­Health Alliance affil­i­at­ed project) took place in North Car­oli­na, not Wuhan. “. . . . Crit­ics have jumped on this paper as evi­dence that Shi was con­duct­ing “gain of func­tion” exper­i­ments that could have cre­at­ed a super­bug, but Shi denies it. The research cit­ed in the paper was con­duct­ed in North Car­oli­na. . . .”
  2. Bar­ic has been using relat­ed tech­niques to text remde­sivir [8] (in 2017) and the Mod­er­na [9] vac­cine. This places him in a milieu [10] inex­tri­ca­bly linked [11] to the mil­i­tary [12] and pre-dat­ing the pan­dem­ic. ” . . . . Using a sim­i­lar tech­nique, in 2017, Baric’s lab showed that remde­sivir — cur­rent­ly the only licensed drug for treat­ing covid — could be use­ful in fight­ing coro­n­avirus infec­tions. Bar­ic also helped test [13] the Mod­er­na covid vac­cine and a lead­ing new drug can­di­date [14] against covid. . . .”

“To the Bat Cave: In Search of Covid’s Ori­gins, Sci­en­tists Reignite Polar­iz­ing Debate on Wuhan ‘Lab        Leak’” by Arthur Allen; KHN; 05/19/2021 [7]

. . . . Crit­ics have jumped on this paper as evi­dence that Shi was con­duct­ing “gain of func­tion” exper­i­ments that could have cre­at­ed a super­bug, but Shi denies it. The research cit­ed in the paper was con­duct­ed in North Car­oli­na.

Using a sim­i­lar tech­nique, in 2017, Baric’s lab showed that remde­sivir — cur­rent­ly the only licensed drug for treat­ing covid — could be use­ful in fight­ing coro­n­avirus infec­tions. Bar­ic also helped test [13] the Mod­er­na covid vac­cine and a lead­ing new drug can­di­date [14] against covid.

Research into covid-like virus­es is vital, Bar­ic said. “A ter­ri­ble truth,” he said, “is that mil­lions of coro­n­avirus­es exist in ani­mal reser­voirs, like bats, and unfor­tu­nate­ly many appear poised for rapid trans­mis­sion between species.”

Bar­ic told KHN he does not believe covid result­ed from gain-of-func­tion research. But he signed the Sci­ence let­ter call­ing for a more thor­ough inves­ti­ga­tion of his Chi­nese col­leagues’ lab­o­ra­to­ry, he said in an email, because while he “per­son­al­ly believe[s] in the nat­ur­al ori­gin hypoth­e­sis,” WHO should arrange for a rig­or­ous, open inves­ti­ga­tion. . . .

. . . . The more than $50 mil­lion Eco­Health Alliance had received in U.S. fund­ing [23] since 2007 includes con­tracts and grants from two NIH insti­tutes, the Nation­al Sci­ence Foun­da­tion and the U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment, as well as Pen­ta­gon funds to look for organ­isms that could be fash­ioned into bioter­ror weapons. . . .

. . . . Scal­ing the Wall of Secre­cy

U.S.-China ten­sions will make it very dif­fi­cult to con­clude any such study, sci­en­tists on both sides of the issue sug­gest. With their anti-Chi­na rhetoric, Trump and his aides “could not have made it more dif­fi­cult to get coop­er­a­tion,” said Dr. Ger­ald Keusch, asso­ciate direc­tor of the Nation­al Emerg­ing Infec­tious Dis­eases Lab­o­ra­to­ry Insti­tute at Boston Uni­ver­si­ty. If a dis­ease had emerged from the U.S. and the Chi­nese blamed the Pen­ta­gon and demand­ed access to the data, “what would we say?” Keusch asked. “Would we throw out the red car­pet, ‘Come on over to Fort Det­rick and the Rocky Moun­tain Lab?’ We’d have done exact­ly what the Chi­nese did, which is say, ‘Screw you!’”

3. Next, we present analy­sis of a very impor­tant, albeit slant­ed Van­i­ty Fair arti­cle:

  1. Pom­peo State Depart­ment offi­cials pur­su­ing the lab-leak hypoth­e­sis [15] were told to cov­er it up lest it shed light on U.S. gov­ern­ment fund­ing of research at the “Oswald Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy!”: ” . . . . In one State Depart­ment meet­ing, offi­cials seek­ing to demand trans­paren­cy from the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment say they were explic­it­ly told by col­leagues not to explore the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virology’s gain-of-func­tion research, because it would bring unwel­come atten­tion to U.S. gov­ern­ment fund­ing of it. . . . . In an inter­nal memo obtained by Van­i­ty Fair, Thomas DiNan­no, for­mer act­ing assis­tant sec­re­tary of the State Department’s Bureau of Arms Con­trol, Ver­i­fi­ca­tion, and Com­pli­ance, wrote that. . .  staff from two bureaus . . . “warned” lead­ers with­in his bureau ‘not to pur­sue an inves­ti­ga­tion into the ori­gin of COVID-19’ because it would ‘open a can of worms’ if it con­tin­ued.’ . . . . As the group probed the lab-leak sce­nario, among oth­er pos­si­bil­i­ties, its mem­bers were repeat­ed­ly advised not to open a ‘Pandora’s box,’ said four for­mer State Depart­ment offi­cials inter­viewed by Van­i­ty Fair. . . .”
  2. Set­ting the ortho­doxy in ear­ly 2020 with a Lancet arti­cle rul­ing out a lab­o­ra­to­ry ori­gin for the virus was Peter Daszak, with approval from Ralph Bar­ic: ” . . . . It soon emerged, based on emails obtained by a Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion group called U.S. Right to Know, that Daszak had not only signed but orga­nized the influ­en­tial Lancet state­ment, with the inten­tion of con­ceal­ing his role and cre­at­ing the impres­sion of sci­en­tif­ic una­nim­i­ty. . . .”
  3. ” . . . . In late March, for­mer Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol direc­tor Robert Red­field received death threats from fel­low sci­en­tists after telling CNN that he believed COVID-19 had orig­i­nat­ed in a lab. . . . ”
  4. Matthew Pot­tinger [16], a Chi­na hawk in the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, head­ed up a team to inves­ti­gate the Wuhan lab leak hypoth­e­sis. Note that the gain-of-func­tion milieu in the U.S. nation­al secu­ri­ty estab­lish­ment was a retard­ing fac­tor in the inquiry: ” . . . . By then, Matthew Pot­tinger had approved a COVID-19 ori­gins team, run by the NSC direc­torate that over­saw issues relat­ed to weapons of mass destruc­tion. A long­time Asia expert and for­mer jour­nal­ist, Pot­tinger pur­pose­ful­ly kept the team small . . . . In addi­tion, many lead­ing experts had either received or approved fund­ing for gain-of-func­tion research. Their ‘con­flict­ed’ sta­tus, said Pot­tinger, ‘played a pro­found role in mud­dy­ing the waters and con­t­a­m­i­nat­ing the shot at hav­ing an impar­tial inquiry.’  . . . .” 
  5. Note that Lawrence Liv­er­more sci­en­tists were involved with the gen­e­sis of the “Chi­na did it” hypoth­e­sis, after alleged­ly being alert­ed by a for­eign source to look into their own files. ” . . . . An intel­li­gence ana­lyst work­ing with David Ash­er sift­ed through clas­si­fied chan­nels and turned up a report that out­lined why the lab-leak hypoth­e­sis was plau­si­ble. It had been writ­ten in May [17] by researchers at the Lawrence Liv­er­more Nation­al Lab­o­ra­to­ry, which per­forms nation­al secu­ri­ty research for the Depart­ment of Ener­gy. But it appeared to have been buried with­in the clas­si­fied col­lec­tions sys­tem. . . .”
  6. Note, also, that Chris Ford, a Chi­na hawk, was work­ing to sup­press the Wuhan lab leak hypoth­e­sis: ” . . . . Their frus­tra­tion crest­ed in Decem­ber, when they final­ly briefed Chris Ford, act­ing under­sec­re­tary for Arms Con­trol and Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty. He seemed so hos­tile to their probe that they viewed him as a blink­ered func­tionary bent on white­wash­ing China’s malfea­sance. But Ford, who had years of expe­ri­ence in nuclear non­pro­lif­er­a­tion, had long been a Chi­na hawk. . . .”
  7. The “Chi­na did it/Wuhan lab leak” hypoth­e­sis sur­vived from the Trump admin­is­tra­tion and Mike Pom­peo’s State Depart­ment to the Biden admin­is­tra­tion: ” . . . .. . . . The state­ment with­stood ‘aggres­sive sus­pi­cion,’ as one for­mer State Depart­ment offi­cial said, and the Biden admin­is­tra­tion has not walked it back. ‘I was very pleased to see Pompeo’s state­ment come through,’ said Chris Ford, who per­son­al­ly signed off on a draft of the fact sheet before leav­ing the State Depart­ment. ‘I was so relieved that they were using real report­ing that had been vet­ted and cleared.’ . . . .”
  8. Avril Haines, whom we have cit­ed [18] in this series as a key par­tic­i­pant in the Deep State shep­herd­ing of the “Lab-Leak Hypoth­e­sis,” looms large in the inquiry into the per­pet­u­a­tion of this pro­pa­gan­da meme: ” . . . . Inside the U.S. gov­ern­ment, mean­while, the lab-leak hypoth­e­sis had sur­vived the tran­si­tion from Trump to Biden. On April 15, Direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence Avril Haines told the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee that two ‘plau­si­ble the­o­ries’ were being weighed: a lab acci­dent or nat­ur­al emer­gence. . . .”
  9. The arti­cle con­cludes with the inter­est­ing use of the term “cut-out” to describe the Eco­Health Alliance. The term gen­er­al­ly refers to an intel­li­gence-com­mu­ni­ty front orga­ni­za­tion. Is the author hint­ing at more? Did her edi­tor take infor­ma­tion out? ” . . . . The Unit­ed States deserves a healthy share of blame as well. Thanks to their unprece­dent­ed track record of men­dac­i­ty and race-bait­ing, Trump and his allies had less than zero cred­i­bil­i­ty. And the prac­tice of fund­ing risky research via cutouts like Eco­Health Alliance enmeshed lead­ing virol­o­gists in con­flicts of inter­est at the exact moment their exper­tise was most des­per­ate­ly need­ed. . . .”

“The Lab-Leak The­o­ry: Inside the Fight to Uncov­er Covid-19’s Ori­gins” by Kather­ine Eban; Van­i­ty Fair; 6/3/2021. [15]

. . . . At times, it seemed the only oth­er peo­ple enter­tain­ing the lab-leak the­o­ry were crack­pots or polit­i­cal hacks hop­ing to wield COVID-19 as a cud­gel against Chi­na. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s for­mer polit­i­cal advis­er Steve Ban­non, for instance, joined forces with an exiled Chi­nese bil­lion­aire named Guo Wen­gui to fuel claims that Chi­na had devel­oped the dis­ease as a bioweapon and pur­pose­ful­ly unleashed it on the world. As proof, they parad­ed a Hong Kong sci­en­tist around right-wing media out­lets until her man­i­fest lack of exper­tise doomed the cha­rade. . . .

. . . . On Feb­ru­ary 19, 2020, The Lancet, among the most respect­ed and influ­en­tial med­ical jour­nals in the world, pub­lished a state­ment [24] that round­ly reject­ed the lab-leak hypoth­e­sis, effec­tive­ly cast­ing it as a xeno­pho­bic cousin to cli­mate change denial­ism and anti-vaxxism. Signed by 27 sci­en­tists, the state­ment expressed “sol­i­dar­i­ty with all sci­en­tists and health pro­fes­sion­als in Chi­na” and assert­ed: “We stand togeth­er to strong­ly con­demn con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries sug­gest­ing that COVID-19 does not have a nat­ur­al ori­gin.”

The Lancet state­ment effec­tive­ly end­ed the debate over COVID-19’s ori­gins before it began. To Gilles Dema­neuf, fol­low­ing along from the side­lines, it was as if it had been “nailed to the church doors,” estab­lish­ing the nat­ur­al ori­gin the­o­ry as ortho­doxy. “Every­one had to fol­low it. Every­one was intim­i­dat­ed. That set the tone.” . . . . 

. . . . It soon emerged, based on emails obtained by a Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion group called U.S. Right to Know, that Daszak had not only signed but orga­nized the influ­en­tial Lancet state­ment, with the inten­tion of con­ceal­ing his role and cre­at­ing the impres­sion of sci­en­tif­ic una­nim­i­ty.

Under the sub­ject line, “No need for you to sign the “State­ment” Ralph!!,” he wrote to two sci­en­tists, includ­ing UNC’s Dr. Ralph Bar­ic, who had col­lab­o­rat­ed with Shi Zhengli on the gain-of-func­tion study that cre­at­ed a coro­n­avirus capa­ble of infect­ing human cells: “you, me and him should not sign this state­ment, so it has some dis­tance from us and there­fore doesn’t work in a coun­ter­pro­duc­tive way.” Daszak added, “We’ll then put it out in a way that doesn’t link it back to our col­lab­o­ra­tion so we max­i­mize an inde­pen­dent voice.”

Bar­ic agreed, writ­ing back, “Oth­er­wise it looks self-serv­ing and we lose impact.” . . . .

. . . . A months long Van­i­ty Fair inves­ti­ga­tion, inter­views with more than 40 peo­ple, and a review of hun­dreds of pages of U.S. gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments, includ­ing inter­nal mem­os, meet­ing min­utes, and email cor­re­spon­dence, found that con­flicts of inter­est, stem­ming in part from large gov­ern­ment grants sup­port­ing con­tro­ver­sial virol­o­gy research, ham­pered the U.S. inves­ti­ga­tion into COVID-19’s ori­gin at every step.In one State Depart­ment meet­ing, offi­cials seek­ing to demand trans­paren­cy from the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment say they were explic­it­ly told by col­leagues not to explore the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virology’s gain-of-func­tion research, because it would bring unwel­come atten­tion to U.S. gov­ern­ment fund­ing of it.

In an inter­nal memo obtained by Van­i­ty Fair, Thomas DiNan­no, for­mer act­ing assis­tant sec­re­tary of the State Department’s Bureau of Arms Con­trol, Ver­i­fi­ca­tion, and Com­pli­ance, wrote that staff from two bureaus, his own and the Bureau of Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty and Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion, “warned” lead­ers with­in his bureau “not to pur­sue an inves­ti­ga­tion into the ori­gin of COVID-19” because it would “‘open a can of worms’ if it con­tin­ued.” . . . . 

. . . . But for most of the past year, the lab-leak sce­nario was treat­ed not sim­ply as unlike­ly or even inac­cu­rate but as moral­ly out-of-bounds. In late March, for­mer Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol direc­tor Robert Red­field received death threats from fel­low sci­en­tists after telling CNN that he believed COVID-19 had orig­i­nat­ed in a lab. . . . 

. . . . In the words of David Fei­th, for­mer deputy assis­tant sec­re­tary of state in the East Asia bureau, “The sto­ry of why parts of the U.S. gov­ern­ment were not as curi­ous as many of us think they should have been is a huge­ly impor­tant one.” . . . .

. . . . By then, Matthew Pot­tinger had approved a COVID-19 ori­gins team, run by the NSC direc­torate that over­saw issues relat­ed to weapons of mass destruc­tion. A long­time Asia expert and for­mer jour­nal­ist, Pot­tinger pur­pose­ful­ly kept the team small, because there were so many peo­ple with­in the gov­ern­ment “whol­ly dis­count­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a lab leak, who were pre­dis­posed that it was impos­si­ble,” said Pot­tinger. In addi­tion, many lead­ing experts had either received or approved fund­ing for gain-of-func­tion research. Their “con­flict­ed” sta­tus, said Pot­tinger, “played a pro­found role in mud­dy­ing the waters and con­t­a­m­i­nat­ing the shot at hav­ing an impar­tial inquiry.”  . . . . 

. . . . Believ­ing they had uncov­ered impor­tant evi­dence in favor of the lab-leak hypoth­e­sis, the NSC inves­ti­ga­tors began reach­ing out to oth­er agen­cies. That’s when the ham­mer came down. “We were dis­missed,” said Antho­ny Rug­giero, the NSC’s senior direc­tor for coun­ter­pro­lif­er­a­tion and biode­fense. “The response was very neg­a­tive.” . . . .

. . . . By the sum­mer of 2020, Gilles Dema­neuf was spend­ing up to four hours a day research­ing the ori­gins of COVID-19, join­ing Zoom meet­ings before dawn with Euro­pean col­lab­o­ra­tors and not sleep­ing much. He began to receive anony­mous calls and notice strange activ­i­ty on his com­put­er, which he attrib­uted to Chi­nese gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance. “We are being mon­i­tored for sure,” he says. He moved his work to the encrypt­ed plat­forms Sig­nal and Pro­ton­Mail. . . .

. . . . As offi­cials at the meet­ing dis­cussed what they could share with the pub­lic, they were advised by Christo­pher Park, the direc­tor of the State Department’s Bio­log­i­cal Pol­i­cy Staff in the Bureau of Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty and Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion, not to say any­thing that would point to the U.S. government’s own role in gain-of-func­tion research, accord­ing to doc­u­men­ta­tion of the meet­ing obtained by Van­i­ty Fair.

Only two oth­er labs in the world, in Galve­ston, Texas and Chapel Hill, North Car­oli­na, were doing sim­i­lar research. “It’s not a dozen cities,” Dr. Richard Ebright said. “It’s three places.” 

Some of the atten­dees were “absolute­ly floored,” said an offi­cial famil­iar with the pro­ceed­ings. That some­one in the U.S. gov­ern­ment could “make an argu­ment that is so naked­ly against trans­paren­cy, in light of the unfold­ing cat­a­stro­phe, was…shocking and dis­turb­ing.”

Park, who in 2017 had been involved in lift­ing a U.S. gov­ern­ment mora­to­ri­um on fund­ing for gain-of-func­tion research, was not the only offi­cial to warn the State Depart­ment inves­ti­ga­tors against dig­ging in sen­si­tive places. As the group probed the lab-leak sce­nario, among oth­er pos­si­bil­i­ties, its mem­bers were repeat­ed­ly advised not to open a “Pandora’s box,” said four for­mer State Depart­ment offi­cials inter­viewed by Van­i­ty Fair. The admo­ni­tions “smelled like a cov­er-up,” said Thomas DiNan­no, “and I wasn’t going to be part of it.” . . . . 

. . . . In the first year of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, the mora­to­ri­um was lift­ed and replaced with a review sys­tem called the HHS P3CO Frame­work (for Poten­tial Pan­dem­ic Pathogen Care and Over­sight). It put the onus for ensur­ing the safe­ty of any such research on the fed­er­al depart­ment or agency fund­ing it. This left the review process shroud­ed in secre­cy. “The names of review­ers are not released, and the details of the exper­i­ments to be con­sid­ered are large­ly secret,” said the Har­vard epi­demi­ol­o­gist Dr. Marc Lip­sitch, whose advo­ca­cy against gain-of-func­tion research helped prompt the mora­to­ri­um. (An NIH spokesper­son told Van­i­ty Fair that “infor­ma­tion about indi­vid­ual unfund­ed appli­ca­tions is not pub­lic to pre­serve con­fi­den­tial­i­ty and pro­tect sen­si­tive infor­ma­tion, pre­lim­i­nary data, and intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty.”)

Inside the NIH, which fund­ed such research, the P3CO frame­work was large­ly met with shrugs and eye rolls, said a long­time agency offi­cial: “If you ban gain-of-func­tion research, you ban all of virol­o­gy.” He added, “Ever since the mora­to­ri­um, everyone’s gone wink-wink and just done gain-of-func­tion research any­way.” . . . .

. . . . By the sum­mer of 2020, the State Department’s COVID-19 ori­gins inves­ti­ga­tion had gone cold. Offi­cials in the Bureau of Arms Con­trol, Ver­i­fi­ca­tion, and Com­pli­ance went back to their nor­mal work: sur­veilling the world for bio­log­i­cal threats. “We weren’t look­ing for Wuhan,” said Thomas DiNan­no. That fall, the State Depart­ment team got a tip from a for­eign source: Key infor­ma­tion was like­ly sit­ting in the U.S. intel­li­gence community’s own files, unan­a­lyzed. In Novem­ber, that lead turned up clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion that was “absolute­ly arrest­ing and shock­ing,” said a for­mer State Depart­ment offi­cial. Three researchers at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy, all con­nect­ed with gain-of-func­tion research on coro­n­avirus­es, had fall­en ill in Novem­ber 2019 and appeared to have vis­it­ed the hos­pi­tal with symp­toms sim­i­lar to COVID-19, three gov­ern­ment offi­cials told Van­i­ty Fair.

While it is not clear what had sick­ened them, “these were not the jan­i­tors,” said the for­mer State Depart­ment offi­cial. “They were active researchers. The dates were among the absolute most arrest­ing part of the pic­ture, because they are smack where they would be if this was the ori­gin.” The reac­tion inside the State Depart­ment was, “Holy shit,” one for­mer senior offi­cial recalled. “We should prob­a­bly tell our boss­es.” The inves­ti­ga­tion roared back to life.

An intel­li­gence ana­lyst work­ing with David Ash­er sift­ed through clas­si­fied chan­nels and turned up a report that out­lined why the lab-leak hypoth­e­sis was plau­si­ble. It had been writ­ten in May [17] by researchers at the Lawrence Liv­er­more Nation­al Lab­o­ra­to­ry, which per­forms nation­al secu­ri­ty research for the Depart­ment of Ener­gy. But it appeared to have been buried with­in the clas­si­fied col­lec­tions sys­tem.

Now the offi­cials were begin­ning to sus­pect that some­one was actu­al­ly hid­ing mate­ri­als sup­port­ive of a lab-leak expla­na­tion. “Why did my con­trac­tor have to pore through doc­u­ments?” DiNan­no won­dered. Their sus­pi­cion inten­si­fied when Depart­ment of Ener­gy offi­cials over­see­ing the Lawrence Liv­er­more lab unsuc­cess­ful­ly tried to block the State Depart­ment inves­ti­ga­tors from talk­ing to the report’s authors.

Their frus­tra­tion crest­ed in Decem­ber, when they final­ly briefed Chris Ford, act­ing under­sec­re­tary for Arms Con­trol and Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty. He seemed so hos­tile to their probe that they viewed him as a blink­ered func­tionary bent on white­wash­ing China’s malfea­sance. But Ford, who had years of expe­ri­ence in nuclear non­pro­lif­er­a­tion, had long been a Chi­na hawk. Ford told Van­i­ty Fair that he saw his job as pro­tect­ing the integri­ty of any inquiry into COVID-19’s ori­gins that fell under his purview. Going with “stuff that makes us look like the crack­pot brigade” would back­fire, he believed.

There was anoth­er rea­son for his hos­til­i­ty. He’d already heard about the inves­ti­ga­tion from inter­a­gency col­leagues, rather than from the team itself, and the secre­cy left him with a “spidey sense” that the process was a form of “creepy free­lanc­ing.” He won­dered: Had some­one launched an unac­count­able inves­ti­ga­tion with the goal of achiev­ing a desired result?

He was not the only one with con­cerns. As one senior gov­ern­ment offi­cial with knowl­edge of the State Department’s inves­ti­ga­tion said, “They were writ­ing this for cer­tain cus­tomers in the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. We asked for the report­ing behind the state­ments that were made. It took for­ev­er. Then you’d read the report, it would have this ref­er­ence to a tweet and a date. It was not some­thing you could go back and find.”

After lis­ten­ing to the inves­ti­ga­tors’ find­ings, a tech­ni­cal expert in one of the State Department’s bioweapons offices “thought they were bonkers,” Ford recalled.

The State Depart­ment team, for its part, believed that Ford was the one try­ing to impose a pre­con­ceived con­clu­sion: that COVID-19 had a nat­ur­al ori­gin. A week lat­er, one of them attend­ed the meet­ing where Christo­pher Park, who worked under Ford, advised those present not to draw atten­tion to U.S. fund­ing of gain-of-func­tion research. . . .

. . . . The state­ment with­stood “aggres­sive sus­pi­cion,” as one for­mer State Depart­ment offi­cial said, and the Biden admin­is­tra­tion has not walked it back. “I was very pleased to see Pompeo’s state­ment come through,” said Chris Ford, who per­son­al­ly signed off on a draft of the fact sheet before leav­ing the State Depart­ment. “I was so relieved that they were using real report­ing that had been vet­ted and cleared.” . . . .

Inside the U.S. gov­ern­ment, mean­while, the lab-leak hypoth­e­sis had sur­vived the tran­si­tion from Trump to Biden. On April 15, Direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence Avril Haines told the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee that two “plau­si­ble the­o­ries” were being weighed: a lab acci­dent or nat­ur­al emer­gence. . . .

. . . . Chi­na obvi­ous­ly bears respon­si­bil­i­ty for stonewalling inves­ti­ga­tors. Whether it did so out of sheer author­i­tar­i­an habit or because it had a lab leak to hide is, and may always be, unknown.

The Unit­ed States deserves a healthy share of blame as well. Thanks to their unprece­dent­ed track record of men­dac­i­ty and race-bait­ing, Trump and his allies had less than zero cred­i­bil­i­ty. And the prac­tice of fund­ing risky research via cutouts like Eco­Health Alliance enmeshed lead­ing virol­o­gists in con­flicts of inter­est at the exact moment their exper­tise was most des­per­ate­ly need­ed.

4. We con­clude with two impor­tant points from an arti­cle used ear­li­er in the pro­gram.

  1. Shi Zhengli has not­ed that open­ing up the WIV’s records is unac­cept­able: ” . . . . That demand is ‘def­i­nite­ly not accept­able [19],’ respond­ed Shi Zhengli, who directs the Cen­ter for Emerg­ing Infec­tious Dis­eases at the Wuhan Insti­tute. ‘Who can pro­vide evi­dence that does not exist?’ she told MIT Tech­nol­o­gy Review. Shi has said that thou­sands of attempts to hack its com­put­er sys­tems forced the insti­tute to close its data­base. . . .”
  2. The U.S. would not be accept­able to such a propo­si­tion, if the Chi­nese demand­ed access to Ft. Det­rick (part of which was shut down [11] by the CDC in ear­ly August of 2019 [20] on the eve of the pan­dem­ic). A com­menter also not­ed the Rocky Moun­tain lab [21] in his analy­sis, which we not­ed was one of the areas where Willy Burgdor­fer appears to have worked on the devel­op­ment of Lyme Dis­ease. ” . . . . If a dis­ease had emerged from the U.S. and the Chi­nese blamed the Pen­ta­gon and demand­ed access to the data, ‘what would we say?’ [Dr. Ger­ald] Keusch asked. ‘Would we throw out the red car­pet, ‘Come on over to Fort Det­rick and the Rocky Moun­tain Lab?’ We’d have done exact­ly what the Chi­nese did, which is say, ‘Screw you!’’ . . . .”

“To the Bat Cave: In Search of Covid’s Ori­gins, Sci­en­tists Reignite Polar­iz­ing Debate on Wuhan ‘Lab        Leak’” by Arthur Allen; KHN; 05/19/2021 [7]

. . . . The more than $50 mil­lion Eco­Health Alliance had received in U.S. fund­ing [23] since 2007 includes con­tracts and grants from two NIH insti­tutes, the Nation­al Sci­ence Foun­da­tion and the U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment, as well as Pen­ta­gon funds to look for organ­isms that could be fash­ioned into bioter­ror weapons. . . .

On Fri­day, 18 virus and immunol­o­gy experts pub­lished a let­ter in the jour­nal Sci­ence [25] demand­ing a deep­er dive. “The­o­ries of acci­den­tal release from a lab and zoonot­ic spillover both remain viable,” they said, adding that the Wuhan Insti­tute should open its records. One of the sig­na­to­ries was a North Car­oli­na virol­o­gist who has worked direct­ly with the Wuhan Institute’s top sci­en­tists.

. . . . That demand is “def­i­nite­ly not accept­able [19],” respond­ed Shi Zhengli, who directs the Cen­ter for Emerg­ing Infec­tious Dis­eases at the Wuhan Insti­tute. “Who can pro­vide evi­dence that does not exist?” she told MIT Tech­nol­o­gy Review. Shi has said that thou­sands of attempts to hack its com­put­er sys­tems forced the insti­tute to close its data­base. . . .

. . . . Scal­ing the Wall of Secre­cy

U.S.-China ten­sions will make it very dif­fi­cult to con­clude any such study, sci­en­tists on both sides of the issue sug­gest. With their anti-Chi­na rhetoric, Trump and his aides “could not have made it more dif­fi­cult to get coop­er­a­tion,” said Dr. Ger­ald Keusch, asso­ciate direc­tor of the Nation­al Emerg­ing Infec­tious Dis­eases Lab­o­ra­to­ry Insti­tute at Boston Uni­ver­si­ty. If a dis­ease had emerged from the U.S. and the Chi­nese blamed the Pen­ta­gon and demand­ed access to the data, “what would we say?” Keusch asked. “Would we throw out the red car­pet, ‘Come on over to Fort Det­rick and the Rocky Moun­tain Lab?’ We’d have done exact­ly what the Chi­nese did, which is say, ‘Screw you!’”