State Department officials were battling the theory of a laboratory leak

In the last days of the Trump administration, the State Department became embroiled in controversy over China’s role in the origins of COVID-19, which is now spilling over into the public eye.

In: open letter Christopher Ford, the former assistant secretary of state for international security and non-proliferation, told Medium on Thursday that he had intervened by not allowing the US government to “disgrace” him by accusing China of developing the coronavirus, although there was no evidence.

In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Ford said his colleagues claim that China violated the International Biological Weapons Convention in a State Department report that could have triggered a diplomatic crisis with one of the United States’ main global rivals.

It is very unusual for a former high-ranking State Department official to publish the personal account of the latest internal disputes. But Ford’s open letter comes amid a heated debate over the so-called “laboratory leak” version of COVID-19. The most extreme version of this theory assumes that Chinese scientists designed SARS-CoV-2 as a biomarker.

Sourcing his account to: Also: put in: that: public domain through a report Fox News: և: Vanity Fair:Ford’s Medium Post described in detail his increasingly pregnant relationship with State Department contractor David Asher, who was investigating the origins of COVID-19 և Thomas Dinano, former Acting Head of the Department’s Arms Control, Inspection and Inspection Bureau. Compliance (AVC): According to Vanity FairAsher և Dianno believed that Ford was deliberately concluding that the virus was of natural origin.

In the middle note, Ford said that Dinanno signals that the investigation is focused on “China allegedly violating the Biological Weapons Convention by creating a virus.” He added. “They seemed to believe that COVID-19 was the wrong biological weapon (BW), or perhaps even a BW agent that deliberately unleashed the world.”

“They seemed to be obviously coming from the point of view of biological weapons,” Ford told BuzzFeed News. “They screamed if you were pushing back to find evidence of biological weapons on the coronavirus, but they seemed to be trying to sue.”

Ford also told BuzzFeed News that Asher and Dianno wanted to include the allegation that China had violated the Biological Weapons Convention. annual report Congress prepares State Department report mandated by US law Compliance with international agreements on arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament.

“Their legal arguments seemed rather weak to me. They have never provided proof of fact [bioweapons] “Worked,” Ford said, adding that his colleagues argued that China should have found itself violating the Biological Weapons Convention by failing to fully answer questions about the COVID-19 crisis.

In his open letter, Ford alleges that military historian Miles Yoon DiNanno, a Chinese political scientist, told former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that he wanted to deter the department’s bioscientists and intelligence community from investigating the department. In the origin of COVID-19. Since the spring of 2020, Trump and Pompeo have had claimed to have evidence that the virus came out in a laboratory in Wuhan, China.

Yoon denied allegations that Pompeo tried to dissuade experts from reviewing the investigation. “The AVC investigation was in no way an act of fraud or termination. “It has partnered with our national science labs, world-renowned serious but diverse scientists, and several key agencies in the intelligence community,” Yoon told BuzzFeed News by e-mail. “Chris Ford tells a story that contradicts the facts to cover up his extreme hostility to any scientifically based investigation that supports and encourages Secretary Pompeo,” he said.

Asher also challenged Ford’s account. “I was shocked by the fact that Ford did not conduct an investigation when I arrived and began to try to reach possible violations in China. [Biological Weapons Convention]”Work that should continue at AVC,” he said by e-mail.

DiNanno did not answer BuzzFeed News’ questions, citing its Vanity Fair story.

Debates over the origin of the virus intensified in late March, when joint WTO-China report came empty-handed however, he described the leak as “extremely unlikely”. That prompted the United States և 13 other governments spread the word calling for “transparent, independent analysis, evaluation, free from interference and inappropriate influence.”

President Biden on May 26 revealed that he had ordered 90-day reconnaissance inspection, which examines two scenarios. Did the coronavirus spread naturally from animals to humans or was it released as a result of a laboratory accident? And in a telephone conversation with a high-ranking Chinese official on Friday, Secretary of State Anthony Blink squeezed China allow further studies by WHO experts on the origin of the coronavirus.

Leading scientists have recently called for a deeper investigation into the origin of COVID-19. writes in the journal Science that in the WTO-China study “the two theories were not considered balanced”.

Ford is conservative record: hawk About the threats posed by China to the United States. The reason for his open letter was that his former colleagues, in his opinion, had misinterpreted him as initially opposed to the idea that the coronavirus might have escaped from the laboratory.

“I am strict is supported “Studying the ‘laboratory leak’ hypothesis, which is obviously a real probability,” Ford wrote in his middle note. “It simply came to our notice then. I said it in time. A lot. “

The laboratory leak hypothesis is not a single theory, but rather a constellation of ideas Origin of COVID-19,

Given: history of slips in virology laboratories In the whole world“բաց Lack of full transparency on the part of China, many scientists agree that there is no way to rule out that the virus was accidentally collected from wild animals,” said Wuhan in the laboratory. The global focus is on the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), where a team led by Shi heng Engli has listed potentially dangerous coronaviruses found in bats.

More detailed theories suggest that scientists at WIV or another city lab performed well-intentioned but risky “function” experiments by genetically modifying the bat coronavirus to study the changes that would make it more likely. infect people.

The suspicion fell on Shi, as he had earlier collaborated on related experiments is headed by Ralph Barrick, a virologist at Chapel Hill University in North Carolina. Baric’s team spiced up the protein from one of the bats’ coronaviruses, which it uses to shut down its infected cells, into another coronavirus that was adapted to infect mice.

Since the study was published in 2015, Shi has denied having similar attempts to profit from the functions. But the secrecy of research in WIV հետազոտ other laboratories means that speculation about this possibility continues.

The most extreme idea considered by most experts to be a conspiracy theory is that Chinese military scientists intentional engineering The virus that causes SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19 as a biomarker.

In his middle post, Ford accuses Dinanno of “dragging his feet” to be tested by bioscientific experts by the scientific community. But on January 7 this year, an online meeting attended by scientists, including Barrick and David Relman, a microbiologist at Stanford University many times argued that the leak theory of the laboratory deserves a thorough investigation, the State Department was called in to review the evidence.

They heard from Steven Quay, CEO of Atossa Therapyics Biomedicine, who conducted a statistical analysis claiming:beyond reasonable doubtThat SARS-CoV-2 was obtained in the laboratory. According to: Vanity Fair:, Quay’s presentation was criticized by Baric, who said that they ignore the multitude of coronaviruses of bats unknown to science.

Summary of the meeting that Ford sent to his State Department colleagues the next day. he wrote:: «[H]The statistical analysis is distorted by the fact that we do not actually have the data to support basic model investments. “Critically, we do not have data on the vast majority of coronaviruses in the wild.” Ford left the State Department the same day after announcing his intention to leave.

Dianno later answered“On the contrary, we do not need to know the genome of each bat coronavirus to understand the possibility of zoonotic.” [natural] against laboratory origin. “We just need to reliably estimate the number of bat coronaviruses – to put that into the weight of our current knowledge of bat coronaviruses.”

Barik and Relman did not respond to requests for comment.

In an email to BuzzFeed News, Quay defended his defense Statistical analysissaying it has been viewed more than 160,000 times online. “I have not received any substantive criticism of my work,” he said. “The point of my meeting was that they were trying to free me as much as possible so that they could write their report and move on to something else.”

On January 15, the Pompeo State Department announced “Document:“On the activities of the WIV, which criticized China’s secrecy over COVID-19.

Instead, it said, based on intelligence reports, that the US government “has reason to believe that several researchers within the WIV fell ill in the fall of 2019, before the first case of the outbreak was detected. The symptoms were similar to those of COVID-19.” as well as common seasonal diseases. “

The document reiterated the United States’ long-standing concerns about China’s transparency in its previous biosecurity research. “For many years, the United States has publicly spoken out about China’s work on former biological weapons, which Beijing neither documented nor demonstrated, despite its clear commitments to the Biological Weapons Convention.” And it was said that the WIV had been cooperating with the Chinese military in covert investigations since 2017.

But the statement does not claim that SARS-CoV-2 is the result of a Chinese biomass study.

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