Last April, Josh Rogin – a reporter for the Washington Post – published an explosive article that lent substantial new credibility to the lab leak theory.
Rogin had acquired cables sent in January of 2018 by U.S. diplomats working in China. Those diplomats had recently visited the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), and the cables they sent warned of safety issues at the lab, as well as the work being done there on bat coronaviruses.
One described a “serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory”. The diplomats asked for support from the U.S. Government to help the lab fix its problems. However, their requests went unanswered.
He begins by noting that, contrary to what many in the mainstream media had assumed, the cables were not leaked to him by someone in the Trump administration. Rogin’s story had actually irked Trump’s Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, who’d been trying to “keep up the veneer of good relations” with China.
The author then reveals that, when he called around to get reactions from officials he trusted, he discovered that “a large swath of the government already believed the virus had escaped from the WIV lab”.
As Rogin notes, any theory of the pandemic’s origin has to account for the location of the original outbreak – a large, dense city far away from the bat caves of Southern China. Yet when Dr Shi (the ‘Batwoman’) was interviewed in March, she said she’d “never expected this kind of thing to happen in Wuhan”.
As Alina Chan notes, the population of Wuhan was used as a control group in a 2015 serological survey of coronavirus spillover events in China. Among 240 blood donors from Wuhan, precisely zero had antibodies against SARS-related coronaviruses.
Returning to Rogin’s essay, he says that “large parts of the scientific community” criticised his story in the Post, insisting that most viral outbreaks are caused by natural spillovers, not lab accidents. However, many of the scientists who spoke out to defend the Wuhan lab, it transpired, were “Shi’s research partners and funders”.
What about the claim that WIV researchers had done their work out in the open, so we ought to just trust them that there wasn’t any leak? Rogin was apparently told that many U.S. officials came to believe that “these researchers had not been as forthcoming as had been claimed”. (Which makes sense in light of what the ‘internet sleuths’ have turned up.)
He quotes one U.S. official as saying, “We’ll probably never be able to prove it one way or the other”. Whether this is true or not, the debate is still interesting, and Rogin’s essay is worth reading in full.
Stop Press: A Telegraph investigation has revealed that all but one of the scientists who penned a letter in the Lancet dismissing the lab leak as a ‘conspiracy theory’ were linked to the Wuhan researchers, their colleagues or funders.