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Five Questions Only the U.S. Can Answer: A Response to the Unclassified Summary of the Intelligence Community Assessment on COVID-19 Origins

On August 27, 2021, the Intelligence Community (IC) released an unclassified summary of a 90-day Biden administration investigation into the origin of COVID-19.

On whether SARS-CoV-2 was genetically engineered or if it was the result of a laboratory-associated incident, the report was inconclusive, but stated:

One IC element assesses with moderate confidence that the first human infection with SARS-CoV-2 most likely was the result of a laboratory-associated incident, probably involving experimentation, animal handling, or sampling by the Wuhan Institute of Virology. These analysts give weight to the inherently risky nature of work on coronaviruses.

The summary portrayed the U.S. government as unable “to reach a conclusive assessment of the origins of COVID-19” without China’s cooperation, stating that the Intelligence Community “judges they will be unable to provide a more definitive explanation for the origin of COVID-19” without “information on the earliest cases that identified a location of interest or occupational exposure.”

This is an entirely unsatisfactory and disingenuous statement that fails to acknowledge fact-finding that can and must be completed by the U.S. government.

A full investigation into U.S.-funded virus hunting, gain-of-function experiments on potential pandemic pathogens, and biological weapons research, is urgently needed.

The U.S. government must engage in a public fact-finding process to gather and declassify information that it alone possesses regarding the origin of COVID-19.

Here are five questions that only the U.S. can answer.

1. Did Ralph Baric hide the relationship between SARS-CoV-2 and his infamous lab-created virus SHC014-MA15?

Since the genetic code of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was first published on January 10, 2020, scientists have scoured the coronavirus’s genome for clues to the outbreak’s origins.

The first thing that everyone wanted to know was how similar the new virus was to known viruses.

What would have been truly damning, destroying any possibility of the pandemic having a natural origin, is if SARS-CoV-2 had been most similar to SHC014-MA15, the SARS-like coronavirus engineered by Ralph Baric in his infamous gain-of-function experiments published in the 2015 paper, “A SARS-like cluster of circulating bat coronaviruses shows potential for human emergence.” 

SHC014-MA15 was “a chimeric virus expressing the spike of bat coronavirus SHC014 in a mouse-adapted SARS-CoV backbone.” The House Foreign Affairs Committee Minority Staff, under the leadership of Ranking Member Michael McCaul, summarized the experiment in their August 2021 report, “The Origins of COVID-19: An Investigation of the Wuhan Institute of Virology”:

In other words, they removed the spike protein from SHC014 and inserted it into a SARS coronavirus that was genetically manipulated to better infect mice. This work was done under BSL-3 conditions. The newly created virus was then shown to bind to ACE2 in humans, replicate “efficiently” in primary human airways cells, and withstand antibodies and vaccines. Researchers concluded that the work “suggests a potential risk of SARS- CoV re-emergence from viruses currently circulating in bat populations.”

We have to take Baric’s word for it that SARS-CoV-2 isn’t strikingly similar to SHC014-MA15, because he didn’t deposit the sequence of SHC014-MA15 in GenBank until May 22, 2020! (And, when he did, he misnamed it SHC015-MA15.)

How reliable is Baric’s claim that the closest known virus to SARS-CoV-2 isn’t SHC014-MA15?

Is there any way to check his work? Are there physical samples of SHC014-MA15 that can be reexamined? Are there lab notes contemporaneous with its creation? Did Baric share the virus or its sequence with other scientists prior to May 22, 2020?

The Baric Lab at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has the answers to these questions; China’s cooperation is unnecessary.

So far, the world has accepted at face value the claim of Wuhan Institute of Virology scientist Shi Zhengli that RaTG13 is the closest known relative of SARS-CoV-2. 

Shi announced this in "Discovery of a novel coronavirus associated with the recent pneumonia outbreak in humans and its potential bat origin,” on January 23, 2020.

However, like Baric, Shi has a credibility problem in that her virus didn’t exist prior to 2020 outside of a short sequence published as RaBtCoV/4991 in 2016’s “Coexistence of multiple coronaviruses in several bat colonies in an abandoned mineshaft.” Shi says that there is no remaining physical sample of the virus available, so no one can check her work.

An anonymous scientist who blogs at Nerd Has Power says Shi faked RaTG13. He has published pseudonymously as Shu Kang with Li-Meng Yan, a Hong Kong scientist associated with Steven Bannon and Guo Wengui who believes that SARS-CoV-2 is a Chinese bioweapon.

RaTG13 has also been given the side-eye by establishment scientists. An analysis by Eddie Holmes and George Gao, “Genomic characterisation and epidemiology of 2019 novel coronavirus: implications for virus origins and receptor binding,” published on January 29, 2020, didn’t even mention RaTG13. 

When asked why on Twitter on January 30, 2020, Holmes said, “Technically, as it was discovered second, the question should be whether RaTG13 is the same species as 2019-nCoV.”

Another thing that has complicated the search for the closest known relative of SARS-CoV-2 is that back on September 12, 2019, without explanation, the Wuhan Institute of Virology pulled its virus database offline in the middle of the night, so researchers no longer have access to what was believed to be the largest collection of SARS-like coronaviruses.

However, it is the U.S. military that has the largest collection of viruses in the world. Considering that the U.S. was collaborating with the Wuhan Institute of Virology and funding their virus hunting in China, it is very likely that we have duplicate records.  

The Biden Administration should conduct its own comparison of the SARS-CoV-2 genome to the coronaviruses in U.S. databases, both natural and lab-made.

2. Why did U.S. government officials collude to hide evidence that SARS-CoV-2 was genetically engineered?

Evidence of genetic engineering is written all over SARS-CoV-2.

In January 2020, when scientists examined the genome of SARS-CoV-2 it was immediately clear that the unique feature that made it “100 to 1,000 times” more infectious than the first SARS was something that couldn’t have been achieved through natural recombination. In fact, the virus’s genetic code bore a tell-tale sign that it had been engineered in the lab. This was obvious to every scientist who looked at the virus, even those who later published articles claiming the virus wasn’t engineered.

It should be a top Biden Administration priority to investigate and hold accountable U.S. government officials, including Anthony Fauci, Francis Collins, and Robert Kadlec, who coordinated with Jeremy Farrar, director of the £29bn Wellcome Trust, to suppress evidence that SARS-CoV-2 was genetically engineered.

There is no question that they coordinated a cover-up. What we need to learn is why.

Emails obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests by Buzzfeed News and The Washington Post, revealed that on January 31, 2020, Kristian Andersen shared with Fauci the first impressions he and fellow scientists Eddie Holmes, Bob Garry and Mike Worobey had of SARS-CoV-2. They thought that “some of the features (potentially) look engineered” and found “the genome inconsistent with expectation from evolutionary theory.”

In a conference call led by Farrar the next day, they were persuaded to change their opinion. Publications establishing the natural origin theory of COVID-19 followed. 

On March 17, 2020, Kristian Andersen, Eddie Holmes and Bob Garry were among the scientists who published “The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2,” in which they stated that their “analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposely manipulated virus.”

On July 7, 2021 Kristian Andersen, Eddie Holmes, Bob Garry and Mike Worobey were among the authors of “The Origins of SARS-CoV-2: A Critical Review”, where they stated that “SARS- CoV-2 carries no evidence of genetic markers one might expect from laboratory experiments,” citing their first paper, “Proximal origin” as their reference for the assertion and acknowledged Farrar’s Wellcome Trust, Collins’ National Institutes of Health and Fauci’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases among their funding sources.

The emails reporting on the February 1, 2020, call were heavily redacted, so it isn’t clear what changed the scientists’ minds. Emails prior to the last days of January have not been made available, so we don’t have a full record of what led up to the February 1 call. It is incumbent on the Biden Administration to complete the record and make it available to the public.

Even with a truncated and redacted record, it is obvious that the organizers of the call controlled the financial resources the scientists relied on for their livelihoods. 

In May 2021, Kristian G. Andersen received a new Center for Research in Emerging Infectious Disease (CREID) funded by Fauci’s National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease.

Were quid pro quos involved? The Biden Administration must investigate. 

A lesser-known aspect of this U.S. government-coordinated cover-up that hasn’t garnered the attention it deserves is a January 2020 analysis conducted for the Director of National Intelligence by the Broad Institute, the organization founded and directed by Biden’s Science Secretary Eric Lander.

Broad Institute scientists working on an Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) program known as FELIX (Finding Engineering-Linked Indicators) claim to have compared SARS-CoV-2 to 58 million virus sequences and, after only 10 minutes of analysis, determined that "all regions of the SARS-CoV-2 genome match naturally-occurring coronaviruses better than they match any other organisms, including any other viruses. This analysis indicates that no sequences from foreign species have been engineered into SARS-CoV-2."

This statement is demonstrably false.

The three bat coronaviruses identified by the FELIX team, BtRs-BetaCoV/YN2018C, BtRl-BetaCoV/SC2018 and SARSr-Rf-BatCoV YNLF_31C, do not provide matches for “all regions of the SARS-CoV-2 genome.”

Why would they publish a transparently bogus analysis?

Much of what IARPA does is classified and funded from a classified budget, so it may be that there is more to the FELIX project than has been revealed to the public.

The ostensible goal of FELIX was to be able to tell the difference between a naturally occurring pathogen and one that was engineered in a lab, but the true purpose of FELIX could be to help scientists get better at what Ralph Baric calls the “no-see-um” technique that keeps detectable fingerprints off lab creations.

“If you know how to detect bioengineering, you theoretically understand how to hide your own,” observed one commentator.

Was FELIX meant to hide bioengineering rather than reveal it?

Or, did it just have a “junk-in, junk-out” problem like the January 2021 Forbes article, “IARPA’s Bioweapon Detection Tools Have Difficulty Finding What They’re Not Looking For,” concluded?

The FELIX scientists couldn’t figure out how to pin SARS-CoV-2 on the phylogenetic tree. 

They weren’t alone, as phylogeneticist John Wenzel complained on the pages of Cladistics. (He had particularly harsh words for the “Proximal origin” scientists.)

What is the reason for these poorly done papers? Were the scientists careless and sloppy? 

Or were they trying to do the impossible, wedging a lab-engineered chimera into a phylogenetic tree of naturally occurring viruses?

This cover-up, intended to bury evidence that SARS-CoV-2 was genetically engineered, happened in the U.S. and only a U.S. investigation can get to the bottom of this.

3. How did U.S. funding contribute to the origin of COVID-19?

The Biden Administration must conduct a complete audit of all U.S. funding, including from military and classified programs, for coronavirus surveillance, collection, gain-of-function experimentation, countermeasures development and pandemic preparedness.

Congressman Michael McCaul’s August 2021 report, “The Origins of COVID-19: An Investigation of the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” lists U.S. government grants that supported the virus hunting and gain-of-function experiments necessary to produce SARS-CoV-2.

One of these is the United States Agency for International Development’s Emerging Pandemic Threats PREDICT program that provided funding for the identification and collection of viruses that had the potential to spillover into human populations.

It was on PREDICT virus hunts in Yunnan, China, that Peter Daszak of EcoHealth Alliance and Shi Zhengli of the Wuhan Institute of Virology found RsSHC014, the virus they gave to Ralph Baric for his infamous gain-of-function experiment. Shi and Daszak announced their discovery of RsSHC014 in their 2013 paper, “Isolation and Characterization of a Bat SARS-Like Coronavirus that Uses the ACE2 Receptor,” and stated that it was found during “a 12-month longitudinal survey (April 2011–September 2012) of SL-CoVs in a colony of Rhinolophus sinicus at a single location in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China.”

Not long after (August and September 2012 and April and July 2013), Shi and Daszak discovered the closest known relative to SARS-CoV-2, now known as RaTG13. They published a short sequence of it as RaBtCoV/4991 in 2016’s “Coexistence of multiple coronaviruses in several bat colonies in an abandoned mineshaft.” 

It was also during this virus hunt that six men exposed to bat guano ended up in a Kunming hospital with severe pneumonia of an unknown cause. They were admitted to the hospital in April, 2012. Three died. The longest hospitalization lasted into September 2012.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology collected samples from the men in the hospital. Curiously, according to the Genome Sequence Archive, RaTG13 was “was extracted from bronchoalveolar lavage fluid,” which suggests that the virus was taken from a sick person, but elsewhere RaTG13 is identified as an RNA sequence taken from a bat fecal swab.

Strangely, none of the PREDICT scientists published anything related to the deadly outbreak, even though spillover events like this were their raison d'etre.

What is the significance of the 2012 Kunming SARS-like outbreak and its relationship to the origins of SARS-CoV-2?

Is it a comedy of errors where scientists, who tell funders they can predict the next pandemic, are so inept that they accidentally cause it, making prophets of the lab safety advocates?

Or, has the origin of COVID-19 been grafted on to this spillover event to give an intentionally released genetically engineered virus the semblance of a natural origin?

Complicating things even more is that the viruses collected in Yunnan didn’t stay in Yunnan. As we know, most ended up in Wuhan, 1500 km away where the COVID-19 pandemic began. At least one went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Did any of the viruses end up with Metabiota?

Metabiota, was on the PREDICT virus hunt with the Wuhan Institute of Virology and EcoHealth Alliance. The three organizations published “Evidence for Retrovirus and Paramyxovirus Infection of Multiple Bat Species in China” (2014), an analysis of bat viruses collected in Yunnan, south of Kunming, between November 2011 and March 2012. 

Metabiota is a for-profit company funded by Google Ventures that is a notorious Pentagon biological weapons contractor.

Is this why Google’s Eric Schmidt is so interested in suppressing the origin of COVID-19?

Eric Schmidt’s foundation is funding the Philip Zelikow-led COVID Commission Planning Group. Jeffrey Skoll’s foundation is chipping in on the official cover-up; like Google, it also funded Metabiota. The Rockefeller Foundation is underwriting the Zelikow snow job, too; it’s directed by Rajiv Shah, who was USAID director at the time of the PREDICT virus hunts.

A little-known fact is that Eric Schmidt launched Predict and Prevent at Google.org in 2008 with donations from Google and Skoll to the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative, a non-profit precursor to Metabiota. Then, he found a home—and hundreds of millions of dollars—for Metabiota at USAID in 2009. That’s how USAID’s PREDICT program got started.

Metabiota is a sketchy defense contractor that’s taken $59.8 million from the federal treasury, but EcoHealth Alliance, the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Baric Lab also have ties to the U.S. military.

Peter Daszak’s EcoHealth Alliance has an unexpected advisor for a public health non-profit: David R. Franz, former commander of Fort Detrick, the largest domestic U.S. military biological weapons research laboratory.

Upon retiring from the military in 1998, Franz received contracts from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to produce microencapsulated anthrax. David Franz worked on the project with Ken Alibek and Charles Bailey, a former Russian biological weapons scientist and a fellow former Fort Detrick commander. Alibek and Bailey’s firm Advanced Biosystems was the prime contractor for the DARPA project, while Franz’s Southern Research Institute was a subcontractor. Bailey and Alibek filed a patent on the silicon microencapsulation technology in 2001.

In their 2012 article in the peer-reviewed Journal of Bioterrorism & Biodefense, “Evidence for the Source of the 2001 Attack Anthrax,” Martin E. Hugh-Jones, Barbara Hatch Rosenberg and Stuart Jacobsen linked the forensic evidence from the 2001 attack anthrax to the silicon coated anthrax developed by Franz, Alibek and Bailey.

It is likely David Franz who helped EcoHealth Alliance become such a successful military contractor, with just under $39 million in Pentagon funding from 2013 to 2020. In 2020, Peter Daszak’s EcoHealth Alliance received more money from the Department of Defense’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) for Scientific Research Combatting Weapons of Mass Destruction than any other military contractor—$15 million (25.575 percent) of the $60.2 million dispersed.

Shi Zhengli and her colleagues at the Wuhan Institute of Virology have collaborated directly with U.S. military scientists and participated in Pentagon funded research.

Ralph Baric has also worked very closely with U.S. military scientists, including Kristopher M. Curtis of the United States Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick. In fact, as Dr. David E. Martin revealed, Curtis and Baric filed two patents together, “Methods for producing recombinant coronavirus,” in 2001―prior to SARS―and “Compositions of coronaviruses with a recombination-resistant genome,” in 2003.

Baric has published many articles with USAMRIID scientists, including: 

• Peter Jahrling who oversaw the BSL-4 labs at Fort Detrick as director of the Integrated Research Facility. Jahrling and Baric’s partnership was profiled in the 2015 article, “Inside the $105 million lab that wants to wipe out MERS and Ebola.” Jahrling is now listed as an IRF Special Volunteer.

• Lisa Hensley who is now the Associate Director of Science at the Fort Detrick Integrated Research Facility.

Beginning in 2012, Baric received funding from the Pentagon through the Defense Threat Reduction Agency to develop a “Lung-on-a-Chip” to simulate human lung function in the lab.

It would be nice to think that Baric was ignorant of the biological weapons potential of his gain-of-function research, but he’s written extensively on the subject, in what can only be described as a how-to-manual for bioweapons enthusiasts.

4. What can U.S. doctors, scientists, military personnel and citizens who were in Wuhan in the second half 2019 tell us about the first cases?

China should share its data on the index cases of SARS-CoV-2 to identify Wuhan’s patient zero and determine how they got infected, but the U.S. has data on early cases, too. 

There were prominent U.S. doctors and scientists who received early alerts on the 2019 outbreak in Wuhan, including Michael Callahan and Ian Lipkin

Callahan is reported to have been in Wuhan when the outbreak began and treated early cases. Callahan said he and Chinese doctors analyzed the medical records of more than 6,000 hospitalized patients, 1,100 of whom had severe COVID-19 disease―prior to January 4, 2020. 

Lipkin was in Beijing not Wuhan, but his joint U.S-Chinese research team was able to “access nationwide blood bank samples taken from pneumonia patients so the group could study whether coronavirus had been present in the population before it was detected in Wuhan.”

Callahan and Lipkin’s communications, records and testimony should be mined for information on the earliest cases in China. 

There may also be additional early SARS-CoV-2 sequences available in U.S. databases, as Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center evolutionary biologist Dr. Jesse Bloom has shown. 

All U.S. citizens in Wuhan in the last half of 2019, including participants in the World Military Games, should be tested for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies and there should be an attempt to identify the earliest cases and their routes of exposure.

There are notable failures regarding the testing of quarantined U.S. citizens returning from abroad in early 2020. These should be reviewed.

Finally, there is data available in blood samples collected through NIH’s “All of Us” survey and nasal swabs from the Pentagon’s Respiratory Surveillance Program. So far, analysis of samples from early 2020 show that SARS-CoV-2 may have circulated in the U.S. as early as December 2019.

5. Can the U.S. rebut Chinese accusations that SARS-CoV-2 came from Fort Detrick?

Chinese accusations that SARS-CoV-2 originated in the U.S. biological weapons labs at the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick, Maryland, are disingenuous.

If China wanted to prove that SARS-CoV-2 had been brought to Wuhan by U.S. participants in the World Military Games, they could produce evidence on the earliest cases that demonstrated a connection between the Games and patient zero. Instead, they’ve actually hidden data on cases prior to the December 2019 cluster that they unsuccessfully tied to the seafood market.

Nevertheless, it is important to examine the real evidence that something was amiss at Fort Detrick in 2019. 

Given that both the U.S. and China are playing a blame game that isn’t getting us any closer to the truth, we can’t rule out the possibility that conspirators in both countries colluded in an intentional release that would look like a lab accident. Knowing what happened with the anthrax attacks in 2001—the official story said a Fort Detrick scientist was the culprit—anything’s possible.

Documents on the 2019 Fort Detrick shutdown obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests have been redacted to remove information on the pathogens involved in breaches of containment. Were SARS-like viruses involved?

Why did the Defense Department withhold $104 million from the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense in 2019?

A full investigation of the 2019 Fort Detrick shutdown could provide clues to the origin COVID-19, but full transparency is required regardless.

Each of these five questions is necessary to understanding the origin of COVID-19 and can only be answered by the U.S. 

As a first step, the U.S. government should declassify and submit to Congress all of the information reviewed during the 90-day Intelligence Community investigation.

TAKE ACTION: Sign the petition to ban gain-of-function research!

Ultimately, what we learn about the origins of COVID-19 is less important than what we do about it.

Congressman Michael McCaul’s August 2021 report, “The Origins of COVID-19: An Investigation of the Wuhan Institute of Virology” correctly states:

[T]here is legislation Congress can pass that would not only hold those responsible accountable but also help to prevent a future pandemic, including but not limited to:

Institute a ban on conducting and funding any work that includes gain-of-function research until an international and legally binding standard is set, and only where that standard is verifiably being followed.

Americans agree. More than 50,000 people have signed this petition to ban gain-of-function research.