Legal Insurrection has been following reports that the Wuhan Coronavirus spread from a research laboratory in the capital city of Hubei Province in central China, noting that one China expert indicated that Chinese Communist Party officials could have allowed its citizens to travel the globe and spread the contagion.

Politico is now reporting that other nations may seize on this biowarfare concept.

The Pentagon and the intelligence community are more forcefully investigating the possibility that adversaries could use the novel coronavirus as a bioweapon, according to defense and intelligence officials, in a shift that reflects the national security apparatus’ evolving understanding of the virus and its risks.

Officials emphasized that the change does not mean they believe the virus was purposefully created to be weaponized—the intelligence community is still investigating the virus’ potential origins, but there is currently no hard intelligence or scientific evidence to support the theory that it spread from a lab in China, people briefed on the matter said.

Meanwhile, the intelligence community has also begun gaming out the potential for bad actors to weaponize the virus, particularly against high-level targets, and the Defense Department has recently shifted its focus toward monitoring the possibility more closely, said three people familiar with the matter.

Meanwhile, the full background on the source of the virus and the incipient stages of the outbreak in Wuhan may remain unknown for quite some time. The Chinese are rejecting all calls for an international probe into the origins of the pathogen.

A top diplomat in the UK, Chen Wen told the BBC the demands were politically motivated and would divert China’s attention from fighting the pandemic.

Information about the origin of Covid-19 and how it initially spread could help countries tackle the disease.

The virus is thought to have emerged at a wildlife market in the city of Wuhan late last year.

A report from European Union officials initially accused China of spreading disinformation about the crisis, in an effort to deflect blame. Now, they are walking back the criticism.

Worried about the repercussions, European officials first delayed and then rewrote the document in ways that diluted the focus on China, a vital trading partner — taking a very different approach than the confrontational stance adopted by the Trump administration.

The initial European Union report, obtained by The New York Times, was not particularly strident: a routine roundup of publicly available information and news reports.

It cited Beijing’s efforts to curtail mentions of the virus’s origins in China, in part by blaming the United States for spreading the disease internationally. It noted that Beijing had criticized France as slow to respond to the pandemic and had pushed false accusations that French politicians used racist slurs against the head of the World Health Organization. The report also highlighted Russian efforts to promote false health information and sow distrust in Western institutions.

“China has continued to run a global disinformation campaign to deflect blame for the outbreak of the pandemic and improve its international image,” the initial report said. “Both overt and covert tactics have been observed.”

But China moved quickly to block the document’s release, and the European Union pulled back. The report had been on the verge of publication, until senior officials ordered revisions to soften the language.

Without international-scale consequences or significant repercussions for the way it handled the onset of the pandemic, China has no motivation to changes its policies. Furthermore, there will not be a serious disincentive for malign actors to tinker around with the use of biological assault tactics.

Finally, determining where the virus came and what the Chinese did during the initial stages of the outbreak will pose significant challenges because China decimated U.S. intelligence apparatus in its country years ago.

…Reports emerged in 2017 that China had dealt a huge blow to the CIA’s infrastructure within its borders. From 2010 through to around 2013, according to The New York Times, more than a dozen carefully curated assets in China were jailed or killed — with one even brazenly shot outside a government building as a perceived warning to others.

“It was devastating. The setback probably delayed the U.S. national security community from fully comprehending Beijing’s move toward a more oppressive and assertive policy,” Patrick Cronin, Asia-Pacific security chair for the Hudson Institute, told Fox News. “The gap in a sharper understanding of the Chinese Communist Party’s true aims bought it more time to enact greater information suppression at home and more aggressive political warfare abroad.”

The moves were deemed one of the worst in the agency’s modern history.

“We didn’t lose just a single spy. We lost entire networks,” said Dean Cheng, senior research fellow and lead China expert at the Heritage Foundation. “That means that many of the various people who worked for us were all rolled up, which, in turn, would have devastated the credibility of our own agency and affected our ability to recruit new people.”

If there is no way to determine what went wrong so that preventative measures can be established, and no incentive for China to change, then it seems safe to assume we will face another version of Wuhan coronavirus in the future.

 

 
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