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Aug 31, 2023
Notes from the Pentagon

Report: Pentagon’s medical intel arm uncovered evidence suggesting COVID-19’s lab origins

By Bill Gertz
Scientists at the Pentagon’s premier medical intelligence unit uncovered evidence during the COVID-19 pandemic suggesting that the outbreak of the disease was caused by a virus engineered at a now-infamous Chinese laboratory in Wuhan.

Two virus experts at the Defense Intelligence Agency’s National Center for Medical Intelligence concluded that the virus, known as SARS-CoV-2, was bioengineered based on its properties for infecting humans, and past experiments at the Wuhan Institute of Virology manipulating animal viruses to make them more infectious to humans.

Their facts were outlined in an unclassified research paper published in 2020 by NCMI experts Robert Greg Cutlip and Navy Cmdr. Jean-Paul Chretien.

The internal NCMI working paper was called “Critical Analysis of Anderson et al. The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2.”

It was a scientific rejoinder to a widely quoted paper published in Nature Medicine. That paper was written by Kristian G. Andersen and four other scientists. It concluded: “Our analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus.”

The Nature Medicine paper became the centerpiece of a political and media narrative promoted by Dr. Anthony Fauci, until recently chief medical adviser to the president on infectious disease threats, and other senior U.S. officials who rejected the idea COVID leaked from a lab as a conspiracy theory, and insisted the virus had been passed to humans naturally from bats via an intermediate animal host that has never been identified.

The NCMI experts argue in their paper, first disclosed by Sharri Markson, a reporter for The Australian, that COVID almost certainly spread from virus research at the Wuhan institute. Ms. Markson told Inside the Ring that the final NCMI paper is secret but its findings are largely reflected in the working paper.

The paper was circulated to other intelligence agencies but was blocked from public release or for release to the FBI, one of two U.S. agencies that are on record as saying the virus likely leaked from the Wuhan lab, the newspaper reported.

According to the NCMI report, the medical intelligence experts discovered that a fragment of the COVID-19 virus resembled a fragment of a lab-manipulated virus from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in 2008.

“We consider the evidence they present and find that it does not prove that the virus arose naturally,” the medical intelligence report states. “In fact, the features of SARS-CoV-2 noted by Anderson et al. are consistent with another scenario: that SARS-CoV-2 was developed in a laboratory, by methods that leading coronavirus researchers commonly use to investigate how the viruses infect cells and cause disease, assess the potential for animal coronaviruses to jump to humans, and develop drugs and vaccines.”

The paper went on to reject the argument of the authors of the Nature Medicine paper that the COVID virus’s binding ability to human cells developed through natural selection.

“This is not a scientific argument but rather an assumption of intent and methodology for a hypothesized scientist,” they stated.

The NCMI scientists said the virus could have been “synthesized” by combining parts of a bat virus similar to a virus called RaTG13 with elements of another virus isolated from pangolins. The goal of the research was to find if pangolins could be intermediate hosts for bat viruses that could infect humans, work that has been done by the Wuhan Institute of Virology in the past, the report said.

The NCMI said such work may not have been reported by the institute because of the COVID outbreak or may have been done in secret.

“We highlight the features of SARS-CoV-2, noted by Anderson et al, are consistent with longstanding and ongoing laboratory experiments; the evidence Anderson et al. present does not lessen the plausibility of laboratory origin,” the report concludes.

Genomic analysis at the NCMI had by mid-2020 produced compelling results that the virus behind the pandemic was genetically engineered.

By 2021, four scientific groups within the government agreed that SARS-CoV-2 “was not a natural virus,” a source close to the inquiry told The Australian.

In May 2021, President Biden ordered a three-month investigation of the virus’s origin, and the unclassified report rejected the NCMI findings and stated that most U.S. spy agencies believed the virus was not genetically engineered and likely originated naturally.

But critics of the final report by the Office of Director of National Intelligence said that there was no discussion in the report of genomic analysis and other evidence the virus could have been the result of dangerous work at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

An ODNI spokeswoman said: “The National Intelligence Council’s work on COVID origins complied with all of the intelligence community’s analytic standards including objectivity.”

A spokesman for the Defense Intelligence Agency, parent agency of NCMI, said the agency still concurs with ODNI regarding its analysis of COVID origins.

The most recent ODNI report published in June provided no new conclusions about the genesis of COVID-19, a question that has stumped U.S. intelligence investigators. It states that the agencies remain divided over whether the virus emerged naturally or from a laboratory leak.

The latest ODNI report, however, continued to lean to the idea that the virus was not the result of laboratory work at the Chinese lab, contrary to the findings at NCMI. “Almost all [intelligence community] agencies assess that SARS-CoV-2 was not genetically engineered,” the assessment stated.

Allied Tomahawks highlight new strategy to deter China
Concerned about China’s expanding missile program, Australia’s government announced earlier this month plans to buy more than 200 Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles from the United States.

“We are investing in the capabilities our Defense Force needs to hold our adversaries at risk further from our shores and keep Australians safe in the complex and uncertain world in which we live today,” Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles said in a statement announcing the missile purchase Aug. 21.

Currently, only the U.S. and British navies are armed with Tomahawks, a missile that U.S. defense officials say is one of the Western weapons most feared by China’s military. Like Australia, Japan earlier this year announced plans to buy 400 Tomahawks for its navy.

The addition of long-range strike missiles among allies in the region marks a shift in strategy from emphasizing the use of defensive anti-missile systems, such as the Patriot and Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, to counter China.

The new strategy shifts to offense. The U.S. military, along with the Japanese and Australian militaries, will seek to deter Chinese missile strikes by deploying Tomahawks that can penetrate deep inside Chinese territory.

China’s military leaders are said to be most concerned by the Navy’s hidden underwater arsenal of Tomahawk missiles, according to a U.S. official who studies China. The Navy in 2007 converted four Ohio-class nuclear missile submarines into cruise missile shooters. Each of the conventionally armed submarines, deployed in waters near China, can fire up to 154 Tomahawks, or 616 in total.

The addition of Japanese and Australian Tomahawks would nearly double the strike force that military planners say is needed to cover key targets in China in the event of a conflict.

Tomahawk deployments by Japan and Australia are part of a U.S. strategy to affect decision-making by senior Chinese government and People’s Liberation Army leaders. China’s current war-fighting strategy is said to rely heavily on its significant buildup of ballistic and cruise missiles over the past two decades.

The Pentagon estimates China has at least 1,200 short-range ballistic missiles, about 350 medium- and intermediate-range missiles, as well as several hundred long-range cruise missiles.

The Pentagon goal is to deploy hundreds of Tomahawks in the region and then make clear to China’s communist rulers that any resort to force over Taiwan, Japan or Philippines would produce massive waves of Tomahawk strikes on key Chinese Communist Party targets — considered the military center of gravity in China.

The new Tomahawks will be deployed on the Australian navy’s Hobart-class destroyers, which will be capable of hitting targets up to 932 miles away.

The missile purchase provides support for a recent Australian strategic defense review that called for the military “to be able to hold an adversary at risk further from our shores, by developing the [Australian Defense Force’s] ability to precisely strike targets at longer range.”

The specific variant was not identified in reports of the sale. But the missiles are expected to be the most advanced model of the Tomahawk, the model that is also being sold to Japan.

The Japanese government announced in February that its 400 Tomahawks will be used as a “counterstrike” force for hitting targets that pose a threat to Japan, officials in Tokyo said. A Japanese government panel stated in a November defense strategy report to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida that a rapid defense buildup and a preemptive strike capability are “indispensable” in countering mounting threats in the region.

The Japanese missiles will cost $1.55 billion for the Tomahawks and related equipment.

The version to be supplied to Japan will be a latest variant of the Tomahawk that began deployment with the Navy in 2021 and is capable of precision targeting at ranges over 994 miles.

“They can take evasive maneuvers to avoid interception,” Mr. Kishida said in announcing the plans.

Tomahawk manufacturer Raytheon states on its website that the latest variant, the Tomahawk Block V, is equipped with advanced navigation and communication systems. The Block Va missile can attack moving targets at sea, and the Block Vb is armed with what the contractor describes as a “joint multi-effects warhead that can hit more diverse land targets.”

Both the Block V and its earlier variant Block IV are called “tactical Tomahawks.” They are equipped with a data link that allows the missile to switch targets in mid-flights. The missile also can “loiter” over a target for hours and change course on command, Raytheon said.

  • Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter via @BillGertz.

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