Updated: Sep 11, 2020
Per a recently-obtained and newly-declassified FBI Report, U.S. authorities prevented a Chinese biologist from smuggling multiple vials of respiratory viruses into America more than a year before the COVID-19 coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan Province, China.
The report, dated November 2019 and authored by the Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate’s Chemical and Biological Intelligence Unit, states that the previous November, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at the Detroit Metro Airport stopped an unnamed Chinese scientist because he was carrying three vials mislabeled “Antibodies” in his luggage.
“Inspection of the writing on the vials and the stated recipient led inspection personnel to believe the materials contained within the vials may be viable Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) materials.”
MERS and SARS are biologically similar to COVID-19, also called the novel coronavirus.
The SARS virus is particularly deadly -- roughly 9% of patients will die, including HALF of those over the age of 60.
MERS is even worse, killing approximately 36% of infected patients.
A Disturbing Pattern of Targeting America
Far more alarming, this incident seems to be part of a terrifying pattern of China trying to target the U.S.. The report cites two other much-too-similar-to-be-coincidence situations, each occurring at that same Detroit Metro Airport and each involving a Chinese citizen.
May 2018: CBP agents detained and questioned a passenger from Beijing, who said he was a “breast cancer researcher in Texas and was not traveling with any biological products”.
Upon closer inspection, however, the "researcher's" checked bag was found to contain a centrifuge tube with e-coli bacteria-derived materials that had been bio-engineered to independently reproduce.
September 2019: A Chinese National who had previously stated they had nothing to declare had eight vials of suspicious liquid in their checked luggage. When held for questioning, they revealed that the vials contained “DNA ...derived from a low pathogenicity of H9N2”, a variety of the “bird flu” virus.
Of serious concern, “WSN” was hand-written on top of some of the vials. These initials refer to H1N1, the virus that is most-responsible for influenza among humans.
The Threat is Real
Retired Air Force Brigadier General Robert Spalding, formerly a member of the National Security Council and a recognized expert on issues involving China, says “there is a threat” posed by these specific incidents, but it is difficult to determine the exact extent. “Some likely could be deliberate, to test our ability to identify and intercept. Others could be opportunistic,” he offers.
There may be multiple issues.
Biosecurity is to the intentional misuse of biological agents and dangerous pathogens for the purpose of causing cause harm to others. Bioterrorism is an example of this.
One theory is that the current COVID-19 pandemic is a direct result of China’s deliberate creation of a virus that could be weaponized. Because of the earlier incidents in Detroit, this theory is rather credible, especially given the "convenient" timing...during the American Presidential campaign, and immediately after tense trade negotiations between the U.S. and China.
This is further supported by the indications that China would rather deal with someone other than President Donald Trump, who has a proven record of being tough on the People's Republic. Even Democrat Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has admitted that "China would prefer Joe Biden."
Biosafety refers to the accidental release or mishandling of hazardous pathogens. This might include a lack of or disregard for safety protocols in hospitals or laboratories, or inadequate precaution during transport.
Elsa Kania, of the Center for a New American Security, explains, “There have been cases in the past where a variant of some kind of flu pandemic had escaped from a laboratory because of mismanagement.”
China has a exceedingly-poor biosafety history:
January 2003: A fishmonger is identified as the first "super-spreader" of SARS by infecting 30 Guangzhou doctors and nurses.
March-April 2004: A Chinese National Institute of Virology researcher falls ill after being exposed to SARS, and then infects her caregivers -- her physician mother and a nurse. Her mother subsequently died, and while the infected nurse did survive, she also spread third-generation SARS infections to five other people.
Alarmingly, that researcher, while known to be ill, was still permitted to take two train trips between Beijing and her home, Anhui province.
Three more NIV were independently infected. Two had never, to their knowledge, worked with or near live SARS cultures. The three infected researchers were ultimately found to have worked in a shared open lab where an improperly-deactivated SARS preparation had been used by other researchers who did not follow biosafety protocols.
So which is the real problem...biosecurity or biosafety?
Dr. Richard Ebright, a Rutgers University Chemical Biology Professor, does not personally believe that the COVID-19 coronavirus is a weapon. He also does not dismiss the very real possibility that the global pandemic’s true origin may be the result of poor biosafety.
“Therefore, it’s also a possibility that this virus entered the human population through accidental infection of a lab worker carrying out field collection, or an accident by a lab worker characterizing the sample in a laboratory.”
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