Here’s something that’s been bugging me. How did U.S. intelligence analysts pick up on what they deemed a dangerous novel virus in China at a time when there’s no good evidence China had picked up on it or was concerned? How did they spot the signal in all the noise of a normal Chinese flu season?
U.S. intelligence officials have admitted in various media reports to tracking the coronavirus outbreak in China since mid-November 2019, and even briefing NATO and Israel at the time. Yet at no point has any detail been provided on what caused them to take this unusual action.
Here’s what we’ve been told, as gathered by DRASTIC’s Gilles Demaneuf. ABC News on April 9th 2020 reported information from “four sources” that “as far back as late November, U.S. intelligence officials were warning that a contagion was sweeping through China’s Wuhan region, changing the patterns of life and business and posing a threat to the population”.
These concerns “were detailed in a November intelligence report by the military’s National Center for Medical Intelligence (NCMI)”, citing two officials familiar with the report. The report was “the result of analysis of wire and computer intercepts, coupled with satellite images”. One of the sources said: “Analysts concluded it could be a cataclysmic event” and that “it was then briefed multiple times to” the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s Joint Staff and the White House.
The ABC report adds that “China’s leadership knew the epidemic was out of control” and the U.S. President was briefed in January.
From that warning in November, the sources described repeated briefings through December for policymakers and decision-makers across the federal Government as well as the National Security Council at the White House. All of that culminated with a detailed explanation of the problem that appeared in the President’s Daily Brief of intelligence matters in early January, the sources said…
“The timeline of the intel side of this may be further back than we’re discussing,” the source said of preliminary reports from Wuhan. “But this was definitely being briefed beginning at the end of November as something the military needed to take a posture on.”
The NCMI report was made available widely to people authorised to access intelligence community alerts. Following the report’s release, other intelligence community bulletins began circulating through confidential channels across the Government around Thanksgiving, the sources said. Those analyses said China’s leadership knew the epidemic was out of control even as it kept such crucial information from foreign governments and public health agencies.
However, the media reports are inconsistent. The same day (April 9th), NBC News published the following report, stating that “there was no assessment that a lethal global outbreak was brewing at that time”.
The intelligence came in the form of communications intercepts and overhead images showing increased activity at health facilities, the officials said. The intelligence was distributed to some federal public health officials in the form of a “situation report” in late November, a former official briefed on the matter said. But there was no assessment that a lethal global outbreak was brewing at that time, a defence official said.
Air Force Gen. John Hyten, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that he did not see intelligence reports on the coronavirus until January.
We went back and looked at everything in November and December. The first indication we have were the reports out of China in late December that were in the public forum. And the first intel reports I saw were in January.
The NCMI itself denied to ABC the existence of the “product/assessment” i.e., the report being referred to (though some have suggested a report that wasn’t technically an intelligence ‘product’ likely existed).
According to a Times of Israel report of April 16th 2020, the U.S. intelligence community “became aware of the emerging disease in Wuhan in the second week of [November] and drew up a classified document”. The report also claims that China was aware at the time: “Information on the disease outbreak was not in the public domain at that stage – and was known only apparently to the Chinese Government.” An Israeli Channel 12 report of the same date claimed U.S. intelligence was ‘following the spread’ in mid-November and even briefed NATO and Israel at the time – though, somewhat contradictorily, said the information “did not come out of the Chinese regime”.
A secret U.S. intelligence report, which warned of an “unknown disease” in Wuhan, China, was sent to only two of its allies: NATO and Israel. In the second week of November, U.S. intelligence recognised that a disease with new characteristics was developing in Wuhan, China. They followed its spread, when at that stage this classified information was not known to the media and did not come out of the Chinese regime either.
These media reports from unnamed intelligence officials referring to undisclosed briefing documents are clearly not all consistent. The Times of Israel claim that the Chinese Government knew in November is particularly odd as that report says it draws its information directly from the Channel 12 report, which states the opposite. The ABC News claim that the Chinese Government was aware in November of an “out of control” epidemic that was “changing patterns of life” but this information was kept secret is also odd. How could an “out of control” epidemic that was “changing patterns of life” be kept secret? When the virus came to light at the end of December it was accompanied by a flurry of social media activity in China. Where is the social media activity from November, of people talking about an “out of control” epidemic that was “changing patterns of life and business”? Where are the satellite images showing these impacts on hospitals and social life? None have been produced, though this would be straightforward to do.
This leads to a crucial question. Did China know in November? I had previously assumed so, but looking more objectively, I’ve not seen any hard evidence it did. The 2021 US intelligence report on Covid origins says China “probably did not have foreknowledge that SARS-CoV-2 existed before WIV researchers isolated it after public recognition of the virus in the general population”. But was it aware of an unusual outbreak of unknown etiology earlier? I can’t see we’ve been shown evidence it was.
Apart from the claims in the above media reports (which, as noted, are largely denied by defence officials), the only evidence we have comes from the 2022 Senate minority staff report, which has links to U.S. intelligence, especially biodefence bigwig Robert Kadlec. This report suggests that China became aware of a leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in November 2019 and, at that time, began working on a vaccine. But it gives no real evidence for this claim, just vague statements about when safety training occurred and insinuations about the timing of vaccine development. It also, notably, puts the attention wholly on Chinese research and the WIV and not at all on U.S. research, leading to suspicions it is a ‘limited hangout‘ from the intelligence community and an exercise in attention diversion.
It’s worth noting that Colonel Dr. Robert Kadlec, who appears to be behind the Senate report, was the first Homeland Security Director of Biosecurity Policy under President G.W. Bush and a mastermind of the early pandemic simulations, including 2001’s Dark Winter. When COVID-19 struck, Kadlec became the top emergency preparedness official co-ordinating the response from both the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the federal Government. He is thus a central figure in the U.S. biodefence establishment that brought us lockdowns and cannot be considered an independent or reliable source of information.
The best independent evidence we currently have that China knew earlier than the end of December are the reports Gilles Demaneuf relays from two U.S. scientists, Lawrence Gostin and Ian Lipkin, that in mid-December Chinese scientist contacts mentioned an unusual virus outbreak to them. This is hardly early, though, and is weeks after mid-November.
There are many reasons to think, as per the Channel 12 media briefing, that China did not know before December. For example, the evident lack of concern the Chinese Government had about the virus right up until around January 23rd. As late as January 14th China’s experts were telling the World Health Organisation they weren’t even sure the virus transmitted between humans! It’s hard to credit that, but it still shows how unalarmed they were.
There is also the absence of previous public health alerts like the one that appeared on December 31st 2019 from the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission, plus, as noted, the lack of any social media activity about an outbreak in November. In addition, there is the apparent failure to sequence the virus earlier than the end of December, and then in a private lab, which also puts the idea that China was developing a vaccine from November on shaky ground. And there is the fact that Chinese authorities appeared to believe the Huanan wet market was a plausible origin for the virus during January until they investigated the theory and debunked it.
Sure, there may be alternative explanations for some of these things. For instance, the wet market story may have been a way of supporting the bizarre initial claim that there didn’t appear to be human-to-human transmission, which it’s hard to believe Chinese scientists ever really believed, given how implausible it is and the fact that there did seem to be some awareness of a wider outbreak among Chinese scientists during December. On the other hand, the leaked Chinese Government report from February 2020 appears to show officials hurriedly looking back to see what was going in hospitals in October and November, with no indication they knew at the time – and also no indication of an “out of control” epidemic. Perhaps this too is a clever fake. But is all of it fake? And in any case, where is the actual positive evidence that China knew?
The apparent cluelessness of the Chinese contrasts strongly with what U.S. intelligence officials have said they knew in November, as per the above media briefings which state that U.S. intelligence analysts were ‘following the spread’ since mid-November and that the United States’ military, Government and allies were being kept informed. Perhaps some of this is exaggerated by intelligence officials trying to defend themselves from charges of missing the early signs of the pandemic. But all of it?
Furthermore, there is a very telling report from Dr. Michael Callahan, whom Dr. Robert Malone has described as “the top U.S. Government/CIA expert in both biowarfare and gain of function research”, and who was already in Wuhan at the beginning of January “under cover of his Harvard Professor appointment”. He told National Geographic that he had gone to Singapore to track the virus during November and December. He claims to have been tipped off about the virus by “Chinese colleagues”, but this is very vague and may not be true.
In early January, when the first hazy reports of the new coronavirus outbreak were emerging from Wuhan, China, one American doctor had already been taking notes. Michael Callahan, an infectious disease expert, was working with Chinese colleagues on a longstanding avian flu collaboration in November when they mentioned the appearance of a strange new virus. Soon, he was jetting off to Singapore to see patients there who presented with symptoms of the same mysterious germ.
There are two other striking contrasts between the initial approaches of the United States and China that are worth noting. Firstly, U.S. intelligence and biodefence people were highly alarmist about the new virus straight off in January while the Chinese Government remained apparently calm until around January 23rd. It’s still not entirely clear why China reversed policy at that point; ostensibly it was connected with acknowledging human-to-human transmission, but that is unlikely to be the real reason.
Secondly, U.S. scientists and intelligence officials latched onto a wet market theory that they knew to be false given that U.S. intelligence had been following the outbreak since November and that Chinese authorities themselves debunked the theory very early on. Despite this, some U.S. scientists, including those involved in the Fauci lab leak cover-up, have stuck to it doggedly since.
It is also of significance that U.S. intelligence officials and scientists have since the very start actively blocked any attempt to investigate the possibility of an engineered virus, a lab leak or early spread of the virus (though a few in U.S. intelligence seem to have been willing to investigate, albeit apparently with an agenda to exclusively blame China). Senior Government officials have been reported as repeatedly warning colleagues “not to pursue an investigation into the origin of COVID-19” because it would “‘open a can of worms’ if it continued”.
Despite squashing the investigations into origins, U.S. intelligence officials have insisted time and again that the virus definitely or likely wasn’t engineered and even backed the wet market theory months after it was discredited by the Chinese themselves. On April 30th 2020 the office of the U.S. Director of National Intelligence (which at that time was in vacancy) issued a statement that: “The Intelligence Community also concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified.” On May 5th 2020, CNN reported a briefing from a Five Eyes intelligence source stating unequivocally that the coronavirus outbreak “originated in a Chinese market”.
Intelligence shared among Five Eyes nations indicates it is “highly unlikely” that the coronavirus outbreak was spread as a result of an accident in a laboratory but rather originated in a Chinese market, according to two Western officials who cited an intelligence assessment that appears to contradict claims by President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
There is of course no way that genetic modification could have been ruled out, either then or since, given the lack of similar natural viruses and animal reservoirs and the fact that the knowhow to make the modifications certainly exists. For all its faults, the 2022 Senate report was the first intelligence-associated document to treat an engineered agent as a serious possibility – though notably to try to put the blame entirely on China. American scientists are simply not talking, however – an evasiveness that led Jeffrey Sachs to disband the Covid origins taskforce which formed part of the Lancet Covid commission he was chairing, perceiving severe conflicts of interest and a basic lack of cooperation from U.S. scientists, who appeared to be hiding something.
My fear is that there aren’t many good ways to explain all this. Why was U.S. intelligence following a potentially dangerous virus outbreak in China in November, weeks before there is evidence China was aware of the situation or concerned about it? How did it spot such a signal in the noise of an early flu season? As Gilles Demaneuf points out:
Satellite imaging would not allow us to distinguish between a bad seasonal pneumonia outbreak and the beginning of a coronavirus outbreak occurring at the same time. It is therefore likely that only part of the data that NCMI observed, such as communications at specific hospitals, was indeed linked clearly to something worse than a bad but still standard pneumonia.
But of course – and this is a crucial point – COVID-19 is not clearly and clinically distinguishable from a bad but still standard pneumonia. Demaneuf implies that analysts intercepted hospital communications revealing something distinctive that caused them considerable concern. But what is that? They don’t say – but they should. To state the obvious, these reports should be declassified and put into the public domain. The difficulty, though, is that it’s hard even to conceive what it might be. What were the doctors saying to one another that grabbed the intelligence analysts’ attention and caused them to start briefing NATO and jetting off to Singapore? Whatever it was, it does not appear to have alarmed the hospital doctors themselves, as no evidence has been produced that doctors or Government officials in China noticed or were concerned prior to mid-December. We have also seen no evidence of the “out of control” epidemic that was “changing patterns of life and business” as claimed in ABC News. The trouble is, in the absence of details, we’re left wondering what it could conceivably be, particularly when COVID-19 is not clinically distinguishable from other causes of severe pneumonia.
There is, it should be noted, one straightforward way to explain all of this, but it’s implications are disturbing to say the least. It is that the virus was deliberately released in China by some group or groups within the U.S. intelligence and security services. The purpose of such a release would be partly to disrupt China and partly as a live exercise for pandemic preparedness – which is, as we know, how the pandemic was in practice treated by those in the U.S. biodefence network. While shocking, this is not outside the bounds of possibility. Consider what Robert Kadlec wrote in a Pentagon strategy paper in 1998:
Using biological weapons under the cover of an endemic or natural disease occurrence provides an attacker the potential for plausible denial. Biological warfare’s potential to create significant economic loss and subsequent political instability, coupled with plausible denial, exceeds the possibilities of any other human weapon.
If this were the case, it may be that the addition of the furin cleavage site to the virus would be to enhance its infectiousness in order to increase the chance of a pandemic occurring (perhaps they’d tried before with a less infectious virus and it hadn’t worked so well). The virus would be deliberately relatively mild so it didn’t do too much harm, but severe enough to have the desired impact – at least when assisted with psyops and propaganda. Very few individuals would likely know the origin – most would be part of the live exercise.
Such a scenario would neatly explain how U.S. intelligence personnel were closely ‘following the spread’ in November despite China being oblivious. It would also explain why U.S. biodefence people were far more alarmist than the Chinese authorities from the get-go; why they have denied the virus could be engineered and squashed all efforts to investigate origins (and clung to discredited theories); and why they have followed through on the whole lockdown-and-wait-for-a-vaccine biodefence plan despite the virus plainly not warranting it (and the measures not working), and generally treated the whole thing like a live exercise. It’s uncontentious to point out that the pandemic was a golden opportunity to put their long-prepared plans into practice. But what if it was an opportunity they didn’t leave to chance?
None of us wants to draw this conclusion, of course. To disprove it, at least as far as this argument is concerned, we would need to see considerably more detail about what U.S. intelligence analysts were seeing and saying in November 2019, which would explain how they knew what China did not and why they were so concerned when China was not.
Short of this, it’s hard not to wonder: what if releasing the virus in China to disrupt the country and see how the world responds could have been some hare-brained scheme cooked up in the deeper recesses of the U.S. biosecurity state?
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