Former State Department official Thomas DiNanno says he was warned about lab leak theory by nervous colleagues
Career workers at the State Department ‘warned’ officials not to investigate the possibility of COVID-19 leaking from a lab in Wuhan, fearing it would expose U.S. funding for gain-of-function research there, according to a new report .
Thomas DiNanno, former acting assistant secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance, raised the concerns in a memo reported by Vanity Fair on Thursday.
DiNanno wrote that employees of two agencies, his own and the Office of International Security and Nonproliferation, “warned” leaders not to “continue investigations into the origins of COVID-19” because it would “open a can of worms” if it went through. .
At a State Department meeting, officials said colleagues explicitly told them not to investigate the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) gain-of-function study because it would draw unwanted attention to U.S. funds. taxpayers who supported the work.
Gain-of-function research is a controversial field in which dangerous viruses are collected and genetically modified to be more deadly, to study the risks of future outbreaks.
Richard H. Ebright, a professor at Rutgers, has likened the field of gain-of-function research to “looking for a gas leak with a lighted match.”
State Department officials say they were warned not to investigate the Wuhan Institute of Virology gain-of-function study (above) because it would draw unwanted attention to the US government’s funding of it.
The new report examining the behind-the-scenes battle over the origins of COVID follows new evidence to support the theory that the coronavirus pandemic may have leaked out of the WIV – and raises questions about why the possibility isn’t more thorough from the start was investigated.
“The story of why parts of the US government weren’t as curious as many of us think they should have been is hugely important,” David Feith, former deputy assistant secretary of state for the East Asian Bureau, told Vanity Fair.
In an interview with the outlet, DiNanno describes how his research into the lab’s leak theory was thwarted at every turn, with hostile and hostile tech personnel warning him not to open “Pandora’s box.”
Matters came to a head at a meeting on Dec. 9, when State Department officials gathered to discuss what the department could or should say publicly about the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).
According to people at the meeting, Christopher Park, the director of the Biological Policy Staff of the State Department at the Office of International Security and Nonproliferation, not to mention anything that would indicate the US government’s own role in job gain research.
Park, a Trump appointee like DiNanno, had been involved in the 2017 lifting of a US government moratorium on funding gain-of-function research.
‘Bat lady’ Shi Zhengli is working with other researchers in a lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan on a file photo. She has published research on gain-of-function experiments
Park was reportedly not alone in being concerned about the investigation, ultimately raising questions about US funding.
As the group explored the lab leak scenario and other possibilities, members were repeatedly advised not to open “Pandora’s box,” four former State Department officials told the magazine.
The admonitions “stank of a cover,” DiNanno said, “and I wouldn’t be a part of it.”
Park told Vanity Fair, “I’m skeptical that people really felt they were being discouraged from presenting facts.”
He insisted he had just claimed that it “takes a huge and unwarranted leap…to suggest that such research” [meant] that something undesirable is going on.’
It’s unclear exactly how much money from the US government went to the WIV, but at least some of it went through a nonprofit called the EcoHealth Alliance.
In 2018, according to tax returns, EcoHealth Alliance took in up to $15 million a year in grants from a range of federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, Homeland Security and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
EcoHealth Alliance and its founder Peter Daszak have been working with Shi Zhengli, the WIV virologist known as the ‘bat lady’, for over 15 years.
British-born Peter Daszak, 55, is the chairman of EcoHealth Alliance, the nonprofit that has funneled US grants into performance-oriented research at WIV and elsewhere. He can be seen above taking part in the World Health Organization survey in Wuhan
British-born Daszak, 55, is the chairman of EcoHealth Alliance – and in the early days of the pandemic was key to bringing about the veneer of a ‘scientific consensus’ that the origin of the lab leak was impossible .
Daszak not only signed a letter, but also led a letter signed by 27 scientists rejecting the lab leak hypothesis, which was published Feb. 19, 2020, in the medical journal The Lancet.
Leaked emails later revealed that he was encouraging colleagues doing job gain research into coronaviruses not to sign the letter, in order to obscure the connection.
The letter stated that the scientists had “no competing interests” — but it seems clear that Daszak did, since a leak in a lab would likely derail his entire field, but an animal origin would justify his life’s work.
Top WIV scientist Yuan Zhiming described widespread shortcomings in biosafety training in China’s biosafety level 3 labs in a 2019 article calling for more funding
The Vanity Fair article also highlighted serious concerns about the safety and maintenance of WIV facilities that handle hundreds of species of bat coronaviruses.
In 2019, in a article while advocating for more funding, top WIV scientist Yuan Zhiming describes widespread shortcomings in biosafety training in China’s biosafety level 3 labs.
China has dozens of BSL-3 labs, but only one BSL-4, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, although it plans to build half a dozen more.
Yuan noted that “most labs do not have specialized biosafety managers and engineers.”
He also wrote: ‘Maintenance costs are generally neglected; different high level [BSL-3 labs] have insufficient operating resources for routine but vital processes… some BSL-3 labs run at extremely minimal operational costs or in some cases not at all.’
Yuan claimed on Chinese state television last July that security protocols at WIV are so tight that “no mosquito can fly into the building without permission.”