U.S. State Department career staffers ‘warned’ authorities not to examine the possibility that COVID-19 (or Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Virus)) spilled from a Wuhan facility, fearing that it would expose U.S. support for gain-of-function research there.
New evidence supports the hypothesis that the coronavirus pandemic may have spilled from Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), prompting questions about why the idea was not studied more completely from the start, according to a news story from Vanity Fair which analyzes the behind-the-scenes dispute over COVID’s origins.
“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,” David Feith, a former deputy assistant secretary of state in the East Asia bureau, told Vanity Fair.
The issue was raised in a memo obtained by Vanity Fair on Thursday, June 3, by Thomas DiNanno, former acting assistant secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, Daily Mail reported.
Staff from two bureaus, DiNanno’s and the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, “warned” leaders not to undertake a probe into COVID-19’s origins because it would “open a can of worms” if they did.
DiNanno recalled how his investigation into the lab leak idea was hindered at every opportunity, with angry and aggressive technical employees telling him not to open “Pandora’s box” in an interview with the publication.
“The admonishments ‘smelled like a cover-up, and I wasn’t going to be part of it,” DiNanno said.
Former Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also said on Fox News recently that the National Institute of Health attempted to obstruct the department’s probe.
He claimed he had to deal with “internal debate” from the NIH and criticism from colleagues in his department who did not agree with him or President Trump.
According to Pompeo, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was spreading Chinese talking points in his interviews earlier in the day by voicing “the exact same theories that the Chinese Communist Party has presented for over a year now.”
Officials claim that at one State Department meeting, colleagues specifically advised them not to look into the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s gain-of-function study because it would draw unwanted attention to the U.S. government fund supporting the project.
Gain-of-function research is a contentious subject in which researchers collect harmful viruses and genetically modify them to make them more lethal to investigate the dangers of future outbreaks.
Gain-of-function research has been compared to “looking for a gas leak with a lighted match,” according to Professor Richard H. Ebright at Rutgers.
Things came to a head at a State Department meeting on Dec. 9, 2020, when officials discussed what the department could or should say publicly about the Wuhan lab.
According to attendees, Christopher Park, the director of the State Department’s Biological Policy Staff at the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, instructed attendees not to mention the U.S. government’s engagement in gain-of-function research.
Park, like DiNanno, is a Trump appointment that was involved in easing a federal funding prohibition on gain-of-function research in 2017.
Park told Vanity Fair, “I am skeptical that people genuinely felt they were being discouraged from presenting facts.”
He argued that all he was doing was arguing that it “is making an enormous and unjustifiable leap … to suggest that research of that kind [meant] that something untoward is going on.”
According to reports, Park was not the only one concerned that the probe would lead to inquiries regarding U.S. support.
Four former State Department officials told the magazine that the panel was frequently warned not to open a “Pandora’s box” as it investigated the lab-leak scenario and other alternatives.
According to sources, the acting undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security at the time, Chris Ford, was opposed to an investigation.
Ford pushed back against an early examination from a specialist group in a January 2021 document, believing it included poor evidence.
“I would also caution you against suggesting that there is anything inherently suspicious—and suggestive of biological warfare activity—about People’s Liberation Army (PLA) involvement at WIV on classified projects,” the memo said.
“[I]t would be difficult to say that military involvement in classified virus research is intrinsically problematic, since the U.S. Army has been deeply involved in virus research in the United States for many years.”
Ford responded with a memo, claiming that DiNanno was distorting the panel’s findings. He also took issue with previous cautions about the dangers of creating a can of worms if he investigated.