By Whitney Webb
via The Last American Vagabond
January 31, 2020
DARPA recently spent millions on research involving bats and coronaviruses, as well as gene editing “bioweapons” prior to the recent coronavirus outbreak. Now, “strategic allies” of the agency have been chosen to develop a genetic material-based vaccine to halt the potential epidemic.
WASHINGTON D.C. – In recent weeks, concern over the emergence of a novel coronavirus in China has grown exponentially as media, experts and government officials around the world have openly worried that this new disease has the potential to develop into a global pandemic.
As concerns about the future of the ongoing outbreak have grown, so too have the number of theories speculating about the outbreak’s origin, many of which blame a variety of state actors and/or controversial billionaires. This has inevitably led to efforts to clamp down on “misinformation” related to the coronavirus outbreak from both mainstream media outlets and major social media platforms.
However, while many of these theories are clearly speculative, there is also verifiable evidence regarding the recent interest of one controversial U.S. government agency in novel coronaviruses, specifically those transmitted from bats to humans. That agency, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), began spending millions on such research in 2018 and some of those Pentagon-funded studies were conducted at known U.S. military bioweapons labs bordering China and resulted in the discovery of dozens of new coronavirus strains as recently as last April. Furthermore, the ties of the Pentagon’s main biodefense lab to a virology institute in Wuhan, China — where the current outbreak is believed to have begun — have been unreported in English language media thus far.
While it remains entirely unknown as to what caused the outbreak, the details of DARPA’s and the Pentagon’s recent experimentation are clearly in the public interest, especially considering that the very companies recently chosen to develop a vaccine to combat the coronavirus outbreak are themselves strategic allies of DARPA. Not only that, but these DARPA-backed companies are developing controversial DNA and mRNA vaccines for this particular coronavirus strain, a category of vaccine that has never previously been approved for human use in the United States.
Yet, as fears of the pandemic potential of coronavirus grow, these vaccines are set to be rushed to market for public use, making it important for the public to be aware of DARPA’s recent experiments on coronaviruses, bats and gene editing technologies and their broader implications.
Examining the recent Wuhan-Bioweapon narrative
As the coronavirus outbreak has come to dominate headlines in recent weeks, several media outlets have promoted claims that the reported epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan, China was also the site of laboratories allegedly linked to a Chinese government biowarfare program.
However, upon further examination of the sourcing for this serious claim, these supposed links between the outbreak and an alleged Chinese bioweapons program have come from two highly dubious sources.
For instance, the first outlet to report on this claim was Radio Free Asia, the U.S.-government funded media outlet targeting Asian audiences that used to be run covertly by the CIA and named by the New York Times as a key part in the agency’s “worldwide propaganda network.” Though it is no longer run directly by the CIA, it is now managed by the government-funded Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which answers directly to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was CIA director immediately prior to his current post at the head of the State Department.
In other words, Radio Free Asia and other BBG-managed media outlets are legal outlets for U.S. government propaganda. Notably, the long-standing ban on the domestic use of U.S. government propaganda on U.S. citizens was lifted in 2013, with the official justification of allowing the government to “effectively communicate in a credible way” and to better combat “al-Qaeda’s and other violent extremists’ influence.”
Returning to the subject at hand, Radio Free Asia’s recent report on the alleged origins of the outbreak being linked to a Chinese state-linked virology center cited only Ren Ruihong, the former head of the medical assistance department at the Chinese Red Cross, for that claim. Ruihong has been cited as an expert in several Radio Free Asia reports on disease outbreaks in China, but has not been cited as an expert by any other English-language media outlet.
Ruihong told Radio Free Asia that:
“It’s a new type of mutant coronavirus.They haven’t made public the genetic sequence, because it is highly contagious…Genetic engineering technology has gotten to such a point now, and Wuhan is home to a viral research center that is under the aegis of the China Academy of Sciences, which is the highest level of research facility in China.”
Though Ruihong did not directly say that the Chinese government was making a bioweapon at the Wuhan facility, she did imply that genetic experiments at the facility may have resulted in the creation of this new “mutant coronavirus” at the center of the outbreak.
With Radio Free Asia and its single source having speculated about Chinese government links to the creation of the new coronavirus, the Washington Times soon took it much farther in a report titled “Virus-hit Wuhan has two laboratories linked to Chinese bio-warfare program.” That article, much like Radio Free Asia’s earlier report, cites a single source for that claim, former Israeli military intelligence biowarfare specialist Dany Shoham.
Yet, upon reading the article, Shoham does not even directly make the claim cited in the article’s headline, as he only told the Washington Times that: “Certain laboratories in the [Wuhan] institute have probably been engaged, in terms of research and development, in Chinese [biological weapons], at least collaterally, yet not as a principal facility of the Chinese BW alignment (emphasis added).”
While Shoham’s claims are clearly speculative, it is telling that the Washington Times would bother to cite him at all, especially given the key role he played in promoting false claims that the 2001 Anthrax attacks was the work of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. Shoham’s assertions about Iraq’s government and weaponized Anthrax, which were used to bolster the case for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, have since been proven completely false, as Iraq was found to have neither the chemical or biological “weapons of mass destruction” that “experts” like Shoham had claimed.
Beyond Shoham’s own history of making suspect claims, it is also worth noting that Shoham’s previous employer, Israeli military intelligence, has a troubling past with bioweapons. For instance, in the late 1990s, it was reported by several outlets that Israel was in the process of developing a genetic bioweapon that would target Arabs, specifically Iraqis, but leave Israeli Jews unaffected.
Given the dubious past of Shoham and the clearly speculative nature of both his claims and those made in the Radio Free Asia report, one passage in the Washington Times article is particularly telling about why these claims have recently surfaced:
“One ominous sign, said a U.S. official, is that the false rumors since the outbreak began several weeks ago have begun circulating on the Chinese Internet claiming the virus is part of a U.S. conspiracy to spread germ weapons. That could indicate China is preparing propaganda outlets to counter future charges the new virus escaped from one of Wuhan’s civilian or defense research laboratories” (emphasis added).
However, as seen in that very article, accusations that the coronavirus escaped from a Chinese-state-linked laboratory is hardly a future charge as both the Washington Times and Radio Free Asia have already been making that claim. Instead, what this passage suggests is that the reports in both Radio Free Asia and the Washington Times were responses to the claims circulating within China that the outbreak is linked to a “U.S. conspiracy to spread germ weapons.”
Though most English-language media outlets to date have not examined such a possibility, there is considerable supporting evidence that deserves to be examined. For instance, not only was the U.S. military, including its controversial research arm — the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), recently funding studies in and near China that discovered new, mutant coronaviruses originating from bats, but the Pentagon also became recently concerned about the potential use of bats as bioweapons.