The Washington Post report last week saying that U.S. Embassy officials in China warned the State Department in Washington as early as January 19, 2018, about inadequate safety at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) lab, in addition to scientists conducting risky research on coronavirus from bats.
The U.S. embassy in Beijing had sent U.S. science diplomats to the WIV lab, which had distinguished itself in 2015 as “China’s first laboratory to achieve the highest level of international bio-research safety (known as BSL-4). WIV issued a news release in English about the last of these visits, which occurred on March 27, 2018… Last week, WIV erased that statement from its website, though it remains archived on the Internet.” The U.S. officials on the trip were so concerned by what they saw that they sent two diplomatic cables labelled “Sensitive But Unclassified” back to Washington.
The first cable, which was obtained by the Post, also sent red flags about the laboratory’s work on bat coronaviruses and more specifically how their potential human transmission represented the risk of a new SARS-like pandemic. The January 19 cable stated: “During interactions with scientists at the WIV lab, they noted the new lab has a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory.”
The cable also called attention to Shi Zhengli, the head of the research project, who in November 2017 published a paper that showed the horseshoe bats collected from a case in Yunnan province were most likely from the same bat population that had been behind the first SARS coronavirus in 2003.
President Donald Trump, when asked about the leaks, communicated that he had no prior kowledge of them: “People knew it was happening. And people didn’t want to talk about it. I don’t know why but we’re going to get to the bottom of it.” Incidentally, this would not be the first time covert operations were initially hidden from a president, such as The Bay of Pigs Invasion with John F. Kennedy or The Iran-Contra Affair with Ronald Reagan. Nor would this be the first time the U.S. State Department officials manipulated sensitive information resulting in the deaths of innocent people.
A salient example is when the Department of State, under then-Secretary Hillary Clinton, covered-up the Islamic terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012, which killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith. While Clinton claimed that the surge was unforeseen and was a backlash of an anti-Islamic film, her emails from a private server revealed just the opposite. In fact, as per former House Representative Jason Chaffetz’s book The Deep State, while there had been previous attempts by Muslims to breach the compound, the State Department refused to provide even the minimum level of security standard required by the Inman Report — a 1985 security standard develop after the U.S. embassy in Beirut was attacked in 1983.
Are the cable leaks of the COVID-19 a déjà vu all over again? Is this another Deep State conspiracy?
The fact that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) withheld information about the coronavirus, while horrible, should not surprised us, since Chinese officials only care about maintaining their power, even at the cost of its own people. This was confirmed by the Associated Press last week, which reported that the CCP secretly determined they likely were facing a pandemic from a new coronavirus, the city of Wuhan in the Hubei province at the epicenter of the disease hosted a mass banquet for tens of thousands of people; millions began passing through for Lunar New Year celebrations (January 14-20). General Secretary Xi Jinping only warned the public on the seventh day (Jan. 20). Based on retrospective infection data, more than 3,000 people had been infected during almost a week of public silence, to say nothing of the approximate 430,000 Chinese nationals that flew on direct flights from Wuhan to the U.S. after the CCP disclosed the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Taking into account this may be the “costliest government cover-up of all time” according to one of the sources, it would be disturbing if State Department officials knew about this and said nothing in public, especially after the U.S. National Institutes of Health awarded a $3.7 million grant to the Wuhan Institute of Virology lab.
It seems, however, that we are not going to get any straight answers anytime soon. In an interview that Martha MacCallum of Fox News had with Secretary of Sate Mike Pompeo last Wednesday night, MacCallum asked Pompeo for an explanation as to the cable leaks. He said:
“The mere fact that we don’t know the answers, that China hasn’t shared the answers, I think is very, very telling. To your point, the President said that there are multiple sources. What we do know is we know that this virus originated in Wuhan, China. We know that there is the Wuhan Institute of Virology just a handful of miles away from where the wet market was. There’s still lots to learn.”
MacCallum went onto to charge that U.S. officials “said that it was highly likely that a pandemic could result from how mishandled everything was there. What happened to those cables? Who received them in the State Department? Who went over them in the State Department two years ago?” To which Pompeo cautiously responded:
“Martha, I appreciate you want to ask about that. I can’t comment on the cables tonight. I can say this. This is a laboratory that contained highly contagious materials. We knew that. We knew that they were working on this program. Many countries have programs like this. And in countries that are open and transparent, they have the ability to control and keep them safe and they allow outside observers in to make sure all the processes and procedures are right. I only wish that that had happened in this place. We would know more about it and we would know more about what has transpired there, if anything, today.”
All things being possible, the American people, and for that matter the rest of the world, have a right to know what the State Department knew and how much of this information was withheld from the President. There has been more than enough collusion and cronyism within the American political system, such as the Teapot Dome scandal of the early 1920s under the Harding administration and the Fast and Furious scandal under the Obama administration, both revealing an unprecedented level of greed and corruption. It is time, as Trump promised he would, to “get to the bottom of it.”
Mario Alexis Portella is a priest of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Florence, Italy. He has a doctorate in canon law and civil law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome; he also holds a M. A. in Medieval History from Fordham University in New York, as well as a B.A. in Government & Politics from St. John’s University.
* Sources not cited may be found in my book Islam: Religion of Peace? – The Violation of Natural Rights and Western Cover-Up.