Wed Jun 9th, 2021 at 05:44:02 PM EST
Why politicians should be wary of publicly pursuing the Wuhan lab-leak investigation | The Conversation - June 7, 2021 |
The theory that SARS-CoV-2 originally leaked out of a laboratory in Wuhan, China, is making a comeback - so much so that President Joe Biden has publicly ordered the US intelligence community to "redouble" its investigations into this hypothesis. Politicians, however, should be wary of publicly advocating the Wuhan lab-leak hypothesis. In doing so, they risk fuelling groundless and dangerous conspiracy theories.
Living and working in Maryland near the USAMRIID Bioweapons Laboratory, an excellent article by arms control expert Milton Leitenberg on the Wuhan lab escape theory caught my attention. How did the narrative of conspiracies and bioweapons gain universal attention. Part of propaganda and America's incentive to Cold War II.
Did the SARS-CoV-2 virus arise from a bat coronavirus research program in a Chinese laboratory? Very possibly.
By Milton Leitenberg | June 4, 2020
The circumstantial evidence for a lab escape. By way of introduction, there are two virology institutes in Wuhan to consider, not one: The Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention (WHCDC) and the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). Both have conducted large projects on novel bat viruses and maintained large research collections of novel bat viruses, and at least the WIV possessed the virus that is the most closely related known virus in the world to the outbreak virus, bat virus RaTG13. This virus was isolated in 2013 and had its genome published on January 23, 2020. Seven more years of bat coronavirus collection followed the 2013 RaTG13 isolation.
Milton Leitenberg expertise is arms control Soviet Union and China
In 2012, Leitenberg and Raymond A. Zilinskas co-authored The Soviet Biological Weapons Program: A History. A review in the journal Microbe described the book as "a significant source document for microbiologists, policy makers, historians, and students interested in this important subject".
Experts debunk fringe theory linking China's coronavirus to weapons research | Jan. 30, 2020 |
By Adam Taylor
Those entering the level 4 lab use airlocks and protective suits. Waste, and even air, is heavily filtered and cleaned before leaving the facility.
Milton Leitenberg, an expert on chemical weapons at the University of Maryland, said that he and other analysts around the world had discussed the possibility that weapons development at the Wuhan lab could have led to the coronavirus outbreak in a private email chain but that no one had found convincing evidence to support the theory.
"Of course, if they are doing bioweaponry, it is covert," Leitenberg said in a phone call, but added that it was unlikely the Chinese government would use such a facility for production or even research and development of bioweapons.
China's False Allegations of the Use of Biological Weapons by the United States during the Korean War
By Milton Leitenberg - 2016
A little remembered aspect of the Korean War is an issue of great importance to those concerned with arms control and allegations of the use of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), namely nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. During and after the war, North Korea, China, and the Soviet Union alleged that the United States used biological weapons (BW) on an enormous scale in areas of both China and North Korea. Despite the public disclosure of Soviet Central Committee documents in 1998--eighteen years ago--which revealed that the allegations were fraudulent, China and, much more noisily, North Korea still maintain the charges.
The purpose of this Working Paper is to describe recent publications in Chinese journals of an unprecedented nature on the subject. A memoir by Wu Zhili, Director of the Chinese People's Volunteer Army Health Division during the Korean War, describes the allegations as a "false alarm" and reveals that there was no use of biological weapons by the Americans in the war.
In the Shadow of Biological Warfare: Conspiracy Theories on the Origins of COVID-19 and Enhancing Global Governance of Biosafety as a Matter of Urgency | NCBI-NIH - Aug. 2020 |
Jing Bao Nie
Two theories on the origins of COVID-19 have been widely circulating in China and the West respectively, one blaming the United States and the other a highest-level biocontainment laboratory in Wuhan, the initial epicentre of the pandemic. Both theories make claims of biological warfare attempts. According to the available scientific evidence, these claims are groundless.
However, like the episodes of biological warfare during the mid-twentieth century, the spread of these present-day conspiracy theories reflects a series of longstanding and damaging trends in the international scene which include deep mistrust, animosities, the power of ideologies such as nationalism, and the sacrifice of truth in propaganda campaigns.
Also, the threats associated with biological warfare, bioterrorism, and the accidental leakage of deadly viruses from labs are real and growing. Thus, developing a better global governance of biosafety and biosecurity than exists at present is an urgent imperative for the international community in the broader context of a looming Cold War II. For such a governance, an ethical framework is proposed based upon the triple ethical values of transparency, trust, and the common good of humanity.
However, overseas experts were raising questions about the safety and even the necessity of such labs. Their concerns included the possible leakage of pathogens as well as the potential development of biological weapons (Cyranoski 2017). In 2018, U.S. intelligence also warned about the safety risks of the lab (Rogin 2020.
A few days after the lockdown of Wuhan in late January 2020, a U.S. newspaper prone to circulating conspiracy theories linked the origins of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-Cov-2, then called 2019-nCoV) to China's covert biological weapons programme, citing an Israeli biological warfare expert (Gertz 2020).More sensationally, scientists from the Indian Institute of Technology published a preprint scientific paper where they reported their findings on four unique inserts of key structural proteins of HIV-1 in 2019-nCoV, a result which was "unlikely to be fortuitous in nature" (Pradhan et al. 2020). In other words, the novel coronavirus had been genetically engineered. Soon afterwards, the researchers withdrew their paper, citing a need for "re-analysing of the data."
Weaponized: How rumors about COVID-19's origins led to a narrative arms race | Atlantic Council - Feb. 2021 |
As part of a nine-month joint research project by the DFRLab and the Associated Press, this report examines the information environments of four countries - China, the United States, Russia, and Iran - during the first six months of the COVID-19 outbreak and the false narratives that took hold there. The report focuses on how varying, unverified, and outright false narratives that the virus was a bioweapon or the result of a lab accident spread globally on social media and beyond, and the geopolitical consequences of those narratives.
One version of this narrative, for example - that it was a biological weapon released from a lab in China - gained particular popularity in the United States. Speculation about the source of the virus moved from unverified social media accounts and conspiracy theory outlets to government officials, political influencers, and others, often leading to further rounds of speculation across the information ecosystem. Some of these narratives were outright false, while others constituted legitimate, but unverified concerns regarding the possibility of the virus being accidentally released from a Chinese lab. There was also much domestic pushback against these narratives, given the open and democratic nature of the US and its information space.
Meanwhile in America’s most infamous bioweapons lab ...
CDC Shuts Down Army Lab’s Disease Research | Aug. 6, 2019 |
Research on dangerous pathogens has been suspended at an Army lab at Fort Detrick in Maryland after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found biosafety lapses there, the Frederick News-Post reported August 2. A spokesperson for the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) tells the newspaper that no disease-causing materials have been found outside authorized areas at the site.
Army lab fights coronavirus and its own demons | Roll Call |
The Army’s Fort Detrick, home to a leading biological research facility, has gained newfound attention because the Trump administration has tapped the lab to help develop a vaccine, treatments and testing equipment for the novel coronavirus.
But the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, or USAMRIID (pronounced you-SAM-rid), is under a cloud.
Some of its work was shut down last year over safety lapses, and those projects are only slowly restarting. Meanwhile, most of its Pentagon funding has been frozen ...
The problems at USAMRIID have included anthrax escaping in 2001 from secure areas.
Nonetheless, the Fort Detrick lab now has an opportunity to show that those problems are behind it as it takes on the world’s biggest crisis.
The Army’s infectious diseases lab traces its roots back to the 1950s. Its focus has long been on finding countermeasures against biological weapons, from the Soviet Union’s to those Iraq was once feared to possess.
Until 1969, the lab’s mission also included experimenting on offensive biological weapons. And some allege the facility was involved in CIA efforts to find mind-control drugs.