State Department officials are arguing over the laboratory leak theory

In the last few days of the Trump administration, the State Department was embroiled in a heated debate about China’s role in the origin of COVID-19, and this debate is now spreading to the public eye.

in a Open the envelope Former Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Non-Proliferation, Christopher Ford, stated on Medium on Thursday that he intervened to prevent the U.S. government from “embraging and discrediting” itself by accusing China of deliberately creating the coronavirus-although there is no evidence of that situation. .

In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Ford said that his colleagues are pushing to include allegations of China’s violation of the International Biological Weapons Convention in the State Department’s report to Congress, which may trigger a diplomatic crisis with one of the United States’ major global competitors.

It is very unusual for a former senior State Department official to publish a personal description of the recent internal dispute. But Ford’s open letter is amid a heated debate about the so-called “laboratory leak” hypothesis of COVID-19. The most extreme version of this theory suggests that Chinese scientists designed SARS-CoV-2 as a biological weapon.

Purchase his account to e-mail Invest in This Public area By reporting Fox News with Vanity Fair, Ford’s Medium post details his relationship with David Asher, the State Department contractor who is responsible for investigating the origin of COVID-19, and Thomas DiNanno, the former acting director of the Arms Control, Verification and Verification Bureau of the department. ) Increasingly tense relationship. Compliance (AVC). According to Vanity Fair, Asher, and DiNanno believe that Ford promoted a preconceived conclusion that the virus has a natural origin.

Ford said in a media post that Dinano stated that the focus of the investigation was “allegedly making China a virus that violates the Biological Weapons Convention.” He added: “They seem to think that COVID-19 is a biological weapon (BW) effort that has gone wrong—maybe even BW agents deliberately released to the world.”

“They obviously solved this problem from the perspective of biological weapons,” Ford told BuzzFeed News. “If you postpone whether there is evidence to support the discovery of biological weapons against the coronavirus, they will feel uneasy, but they seem to be working hard to establish a case.”

Ford also told BuzzFeed News that Asher and DiNanno wanted to include China’s claims of violating the Biological Weapons Convention. annual report The State Department prepares for Congress.This report authorized by U.S. law details the Compliance with international agreements On arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament.

“Their legal arguments sound weak to me. They never provided actual evidence [bioweapons] Work,” Ford said, adding that his colleagues also argued that China should have been found to have violated the Biological Weapons Convention for failing to fully answer questions about the COVID-19 crisis.

Ford also claimed in the open letter that military historian and Chinese policy expert Miles Yu told DiNanno that former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wanted to keep the department’s biological weapons experts and intelligence community away from the department’s investigations. Enter the origin of COVID-19.Since the spring of 2020, Trump and Pompeo Claim to have evidence The virus came from a laboratory in Wuhan, China.

Yu denied that Pompeo had tried to prevent experts from reviewing the investigation. “AVC’s investigation is by no means a rogue and quiet operation — it works with our National Science Laboratory, world-renowned serious but dissenting scientists, and several key agencies in the intelligence community,” Yu told BuzzFeed News via email . “Chris Ford is fabricating a narrative contrary to the facts to cover up his extreme hostility towards any valuable science-based investigations supported and encouraged by Secretary Pompeo.

Asher also disputed Ford’s statement. “When I arrived, Ford did not conduct an investigation. I was shocked and set out to try to find out that China might violate [Biological Weapons Convention]. Work that should continue in AVC,” he said in an email.

DiNanno did not answer BuzzFeed News’ questions, but instead directed us to his account in the Vanity Fair article.

Since late March, the debate about the origin of the virus has intensified. WHO-China Report Come empty-handed But it is “extremely impossible” to judge a laboratory leak.This prompted the United States and 13 other governments to issue a statement Call for “transparent and independent analysis and evaluation, free from interference and undue influence.”

On May 26, President Joe Biden Revealed that he had ordered A 90-day intelligence review explored two scenarios: whether the coronavirus was naturally transmitted from animals to humans, or whether it was released in a laboratory accident. In a phone call with senior Chinese officials on Friday, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken Suppress China Allow WHO experts to conduct more research on the origin of the coronavirus.

Leading scientists also recently called for more in-depth investigations into the origin of COVID-19, Writing in “Science” magazine In the WHO-China study, “the two theories are not considered in a balanced manner.”

Ford is a conservative Hawks’ record Regarding the threat China poses to the United States. The reason for his open letter is that, in his view, his former colleague mistakenly described him as a natural objection to the idea that the coronavirus might escape from the laboratory.

“I am strong Supported Investigating the “lab leak” hypothesis, this is obviously a real possibility,” Ford wrote in his media post. “But I’m not just talking about this now. I also said it at the time. a lot of. “

The laboratory leak hypothesis is not a single unified theory, but revolves around The origin of COVID-19.

Given Slipped history In the virology laboratory all around the worldAs well as China’s lack of complete transparency, many scientists admit that the possibility that the virus was collected from wild animals and accidentally released from the Wuhan laboratory cannot be ruled out. Global attention is focused on the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), where a team led by Shi Zhengli cataloged potentially dangerous coronaviruses found in bats.

A more detailed version of the theory assumes that scientists at WIV or other laboratories in the city are engaged in well-intentioned but risky “gain-of-function” experiments to genetically modify the bat coronavirus to study changes that make it more likely to infect people.

Suspicion fell on the stone, because she had earlier Cooperate in related experiments Run by Ralph Baric, a virologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Baric’s team spliced ??a spike protein from one of Shi’s bat coronaviruses into another coronavirus that has been adapted to infect mice. The protein is used to attach to the cells it infects.

Since the study was published in 2015, Shi has consistently denied any similar functional gain experiments have been conducted. But the confidentiality surrounding WIV and other laboratory research means that speculation about this possibility continues.

The most extreme idea, regarded by most experts as a conspiracy theory, is the Chinese military scientist Deliberately designed SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is used as a biological weapon.

In his Medium post, Ford accused Dinano of “procrastinating” in getting the intelligence community and scientific experts to review the biological weapons statement. But on January 7 this year, an online conference attended by scientists, including Baric and Stanford University microbiologist David Relman. repeatedly debate He believed that the laboratory leakage theory was worthy of thorough investigation and was called by the State Council to review the evidence.

They learned from Steven Quay, CEO of biopharmaceutical company Atossa Therapeutics, that he conducted a statistical analysis, claiming “Beyond reasonable doubt”SARS-CoV-2 originated from the laboratory. According to Vanity Fair, Quay’s speech was criticized by Baric, who pointed out that they ignored a large number of bat coronaviruses that are still scientifically unknown.

In the meeting summary that Ford sent to colleagues at the State Department the next day, He wrote: “[H]Statistical analysis is weakened by the fact that we basically have no data to support key model inputs. Crucially, we do not have data on the vast majority of bat coronaviruses that exist in the wild. “Ford left the State Department on the same day after announcing his intention to step down.

Dinano later Responded“On the contrary, we don’t need to know every bat coronavirus genome to understand the possibility of zoonotic diseases [natural] Originated with the laboratory. We only need to reliably estimate the number of bat coronaviruses and include it in the weight of our current knowledge of bat coronaviruses. “

Baric and Relman did not respond to requests for comment.

In an email to BuzzFeed News, Quay is his Statistical Analysis, Saying that it has been viewed more than 160,000 times online. “My work has not received substantial criticism,” he said. “My feeling about this meeting is that they try to simply fire me as much as possible so that they can write the report and continue to do other things.”

On January 15, Pompeo’s State Department issued a “Fact Sheet“Regarding WIV’s activities, the event criticized China’s secrecy on COVID-19.

Instead, it stated that based on intelligence reports, the U.S. government “has reason to believe that several researchers within WIV fell ill before the first confirmed outbreak in the fall of 2019, with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and common cases. Season. Sexual diseases.”

The fact sheet also reiterated the United States’ long-standing concern about the transparency of China’s past biological weapons research: “For many years, the United States has publicly expressed concerns about China’s past biological weapons work. Beijing has neither recorded nor explicitly eliminated these work, although it In the “Biological Weapons Convention.” It also said that since 2017, WIV has been cooperating on confidential research on behalf of the Chinese military.

But the statement did not claim that SARS-CoV-2 was a product of China’s biological weapons research.

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