Former State Department investigator said COVID-19 outbreak may have resulted from bioweapons research accident

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As senior U.S. officials prepare to meet their Chinese counterparts for their first in-person meeting during the Biden administration, the former State Department lead investigator who oversaw the COVID-virus origin task force 19 tells Fox News he doesn’t only believe the virus escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, but it could be the result of research the Chinese military, or the People’s Liberation Army, was doing. on a biological weapon.

“The Wuhan Institute of Virology is not the National Institute of Health,” David Asher, now a senior researcher at the Hudson Institute, told Fox News in an exclusive interview. “He was operating a secret, classified program. In my opinion, and I’m just one person, I think it was a biological weapons program.”

Asher has long been a “follow the money” guy who worked on some of the most confidential State Department and Treasury intelligence investigations under the Democratic and Republican administrations. He led the team that uncovered the international nuclear supply network run by the father of Pakistan’s nuclear program, AQ Khan, and uncovered key elements of secret uranium enrichment in North Korea. He believes the Chinese Communist Party has been involved in a massive cover-up over the past 14 months.

“And if you think, like me, that it could have been a weapon vector gone awry, not deliberately released, but in development and then somehow leaked, it turned out to be the greatest weapon. of history, “Asher told a panel discussion at the Hudson Institute: The Origins of COVID-10: Policy Implications and Lessons for the Future. “You have wiped out 15 to 20 percent of the world’s GDP. You have killed millions of people. The Chinese population has hardly been touched. Their economies have become number one again in the entire G20.”

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Asher says the Chinese government’s behavior reminds him of other criminal investigations he has overseen.

“Motivation, cover-up, conspiracy, all of the hallmarks of guilt are associated with it. And the fact that the initial group of victims surrounded the very institute that carried out the highly dangerous, if not dubious, research is significant,” Asher said. , which hired the Chinese government as the lead representative of the State Department during the 2003 SARS outbreak.

At first, China said the COVID19 virus originated from the Wuhan seafood market – but the problem with the Chinese theory: the first case had no connection to the market. Last fall, the United States obtained intelligence that there was an outbreak among several scientists at the Wuhan lab with flu-like symptoms that left them hospitalized in November 2019 – before China reported its first case. Asher and other experts on the Hudson Institute panel said that in 2007, China announced it would start work on genetic biological weapons using controversial “gain-of-function” research to make viruses more deadly.

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The Chinese stopped talking publicly about their research at the Wuhan lab in 2016. It was then, according to Asher, that the People’s Liberation Army stepped in and shifted from biodefense research to biodefense research. biological offense. In the same year, China’s top state television commentator said:

“We have entered an area of ​​Chinese biological warfare, including using things like viruses. I mean, they have publicly stated to their people that this is a new priority under the Xi’s national security policy, ”Asher points out.

The Chinese, according to Asher, stopped talking publicly about research on “coronavirus disease vectors that could be used for weapons” in 2017, at the same time his military began funding research at the Institute of Wuhan virology.

“I doubt it’s a coincidence,” Asher said.

Meanwhile, US biological weapons researchers still focus primarily on older biological weapons like anthrax. A key turning point in research on how to defend against coronavirus biological weapons has included controversial ‘gain-of-function’ research and a breakthrough in the Netherlands that surprised the scientific community.

“I remember I was in The Hague to meet with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the day the news broke that a laboratory in the Netherlands funded by the National Institutes of Health was conducting functional influenza research. highly pathogenic avian, in particular to increase the transmissibility of this very dangerous influenza virus, ”recalled Andy Weber, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for President Obama’s nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs.

The Obama administration quickly imposed a moratorium on this type of research, fearing it could become a playbook for terrorists. The Trump administration lifted the moratorium in 2017, but suspended NIH funding to the Wuhan lab in April 2020 after the pandemic began.

Biosafety has long been a concern for level 4 biosafety labs in China, experts say.

“China has been involved in this type of virus research since the 2003 SARS outbreak,” said Miles Yu, the State Department official who co-wrote a recent editorial in the WSJ with the former secretary. of Mike Pompeo on the virus. origins. “China’s biosafety standard is really low and very dangerous. So it’s an accident waiting to happen.”

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When the team sent by the WHO to Wuhan in February visited the Wuhan Institute of Virology, they did not put on a biosafety suit and spent 3 hours indoors, but according to reports, they did not. didn’t have access to the scientists or the data she needed to totally rule out that the virus escaped from the lab.

At the time, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said, “It should be noted that virus traceability is a complex scientific issue and we need to provide enough space for experts to conduct scientific research. ” He added, “China will continue to cooperate with WHO in an open, transparent and accountable manner and will make its contribution to better prevent future risks and protect the life and health of people in all countries.”

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