According to a recently-obtained unclassified FBI Report, authorities stopped a Chinese biologist from smuggling vials of respiratory viruses into the United States over a year before the coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan, China.
The November 2019 report, which was written by the Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate’s Chemical and Biological Intelligence Unit, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents working at the Detroit Metro Airport detained an unnamed Chinese scientist the previous November, because he was carrying three vials mislabeled “Antibodies” in his luggage.
But the reality was far different.
The report reads:
“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 both similar illnesses to COVID-19, aka the novel coronavirus.
The SARS virus is extremely deadly — 9% of infected patients will die, including up to HALF of those patients who are past the age of 60.
But MERS is exponentially worse, because it kills approximately 36% of diagnosed patients.
A Pattern of Targeting the U.S.
Even more alarming, these incidents are evidently part of a terrifying pattern, because the report also cites two other too-similar-to-be-coincidence incidents, each happening at the Detroit Metro Airport and each involving a Chinese National.
- May 2018: CBP agents questioned a passenger arriving from Beijing, who told them he was a “breast cancer researcher in Texas and was not traveling with any biological products”.
However, upon further inspection, the individual’s checked bag contained a centrifuge tube containing e-coli bacteria-derived materials that were engineered to reproduce independently.
- September 2019: A Chinese National who had stated they had nothing to declare was found to have eight vials of liquid in their checked luggage. When questioned, they said that the vials contained “DNA …derived from a low pathogenicity of H9N2”, a subtype of the “bird flu” virus.
However, some of the vials had “WSN” hand-written on top. These initials are associated with H1N1, the virus most-responsible for flu among humans.
Intentional or Not, the Threat is Real
Air Force Brigadier General Robert Spalding (Retired), a former member of the National Security Council and expert on issues having to do with China, says “there is a threat” posed by these incidents, but it’s hard to determine the extent. “Some likely could be deliberate, to test our ability to identify and intercept. Others could be opportunistic,” he says.
There are different issues.
Biosecurity refers to the intentional misuse of biological agents and pathogens to cause harm to others. Bioterrorism would be an example of this. A leading conspiracy theory is that the current COVID-19 pandemic is a result of China’s creation of a weaponized virus, especially given the timing…during the Presidential campaign, immediately after tense trade negotiations between China and the U.S.
Biosafety, on the other hand refers to the accidental mishandling or release of pathogens. This could include a lack of/disregard for established safety protocols in laboratories or hospitals, or during transport.
Elsa Kania, with the Center for a New American Security, says, “There have been cases in the past where a variant of some kind of flu pandemic had escaped from a laboratory because of mismanagement.”
In this regard, China already has a exceedingly-poor track record:
- January 2003: A fishmonger became the first super-spreader of the SARS virus when he infected 30 doctors and nurses at a Guangzhou hospital.
- March-April 2004: A researcher at the Chinese National Institute of Virology became ill after exposure to the SARS virus and then infected her caregivers — her mother, who was a physician, and a nurse. Her mother died, and while the nurse survived, she did spread third-generation infections to five other people.
Alarmingly, the researcher, while ill, was allowed to take two train trips between Beijing and Anhui province.
Three other researchers at the NIV were independently infected. Two of them had never knowingly worked with or around live SARS virus. Ultimately, those three infections were found to be from a SARS preparation that had not been inactivated adequately and then used in laboratory areas that had not been properly biosecured.
So which is the problem…biosecurity or biosafety?
Dr. Richard Ebright, a Chemical Biology Professor at Rutgers University, doesn’t believe that COVID-19 is a weapon. But he doesn’t discount the possibility that the pandemic’s origin may be the result of poor biosecurity.
“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.”