As we settle into the New Year, many of us are watching with trepidation the signs that COVID-19 may be surging again. Hospitalizations have been rising since early November. It is common to once again see folks fully masked up in an elevator, movie theater or a Broadway show. We don’t know if we can get this virus under control, and we must be able to foresee and prevent the emergence of another. This is why it is critical to uncover the origins of COVID-19. And that is where US intelligence agencies have failed and even deceived us.
American taxpayers shell out billions each year to our 18 spy agencies — the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) and NSA (National Security Agency) the best-known of them — so they can protect us from foreign threats. And these threats include COVID-19, which originated in China. At minimum, these agencies must use their incredible human spy-power and powerful technology to collect (or even steal) secrets to determine where threats originate so we can neutralize them. Because if we don’t, we will be dealing with these threats again and again.
Our country and the world suffered an unimaginable toll from COVID-19 – more than one million dead in the US and nearly seven million globally. In August, the declassified version of the Intelligence Community’s Assessment on the virus’ origins was released and stated, “The IC was able to reach broad agreement” that “the virus was not developed as a biological weapon.”
And yet, American spy agencies, when pressed by the House intelligence committee on what they knew about the deadly virus, failed to come clean. The agencies concealed from the oversight panels, and therefore the American people, that COVID-19 is consistent with China’s biological warfare doctrine and the long-term programs Beijing has invested in to weaponize viruses. Most curiously, they withheld key intelligence from the oversight committees regarding the extent of China’s much-discussed gain of function research — programs aimed at increasing the transmissibility and virulence of highly dangerous pathogens through genetic manipulation. If they are so sure of their conclusion, why withhold this crucial information.
So why is China developing and manipulating viruses? China’s biological warfare doctrine was developed, at least in part, to target deadly viruses at the United States, which Beijing perceives as its key impediment to its goals of becoming the world’s top economic and military power by 2049 — the centennial of China’s Communist revolution — and taking over Taiwan, either via gradual integration of by military force.
China has a long history of coronavirus research, which is conducted by scientists from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Fifth Institute of the Academy of Military Medical Sciences (AMMS) in Shanghai and scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). These scientists work collaboratively as part of China’s national biological weapons program. Information about these efforts became available thanks to Republicans on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), which on December 14 released a Second Interim Report on the Origins of the COVID-19 Pandemic as part of an oversight investigation led by Congressman Brad Wenstrup (OH-02). The report accused US spy agencies of downplaying the possibility that SARS-CoV- 2 was connected to China’s bioweapons program and of withholding vital information from the public and skewing the public’s understanding of key issues on COVID-19.
Founded in 1951, AMMS is China’s premier military medical research agency. It includes 11 organizations, one of which is the Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology, also known as the Fifth Institute. Although China bills this program as defensive, the State Department in 2005 revealed that China also operates an offensive biological weapons program. In a 2006 declaration of compliance with the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention — a global agreement prohibiting bio-weapons development and deployment — China acknowledged that the Fifth Institute conducts research on SARS coronaviruses. In 2015, the official publishing house of the AMMS released a book titled “The Unnatural Origin of SARS and New Species of Artificial Humanized Viruses as Genetic Weapons.”
The book makes clear that Chinese military medical researchers have concluded that an artificially engineered chimeric coronavirus can serve as a genetic weapon, infecting humans and creating a pandemic, such as COVID-19. Such a bioweapon has an advantage over a traditional kinetic weapon, such as a missile or a nuclear bomb, because it can be employed both in wartime and peacetime — and also, theoretically, via the air or food supply.
Of course, the Chinese never explicitly said they were manipulating coronaviruses to weaponize them. Rather, “the purpose of using modern genetic weapons, argued Chinese military theorists in this book, is not primarily for military motives but rather as an important terror threat [and to meet] political and regional or international strategic requirements.” They highlighted the use of such weapons in the context of “political struggle,” in which these non-conventional but equally deadly means could strain the target nation’ healthcare systems, potentially causing “the enemy’s medical system to collapse.”
This is exactly what we experienced in America during the worst moments of the COVID-19 pandemic. We didn’t have enough sanitizers and masks, let alone ventilators, to help infected patients. Hospitals were barely able in some areas to keep up with the patient load, while treatment of other illnesses was sidelined. Ironically, China is experiencing the very same thing now that Pres. Xi Jinping has ending his nation’s onerous zero-Covid policy
If we don’t get to the bottom of how COVID-19 has erupted into a global weapon of mass devastation, we will continue to be vulnerable to our adversary’s devious doctrines. Which is why the final report by the Government Accountability Office — scheduled to be completed early this year — must not only address the exact origins of the virus, but expose any cover-ups by US spy agencies since the pandemic began.