From a report overseen by Dr. David Rakestraw (above) found a lab leak was a plausible origin scenario for COVID-19
The question arises as to whether officials deliberately withheld a top-secret government report concluding that COVID-19 may have originated in a lab leak, after it emerged that the investigation took five months to reach the State Department.
Lawrence Livermore National Lab’s secretive ‘Z Division’ intelligence unit produced the report on May 27, 2020, but it didn’t reach the State Department until October last year, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.
dr. David J. Rakestraw, a senior scientific advisor who previously led LLNL’s biodefense programs and coordinated the lab’s technical response to COVID-19, was reportedly heavily involved in the preparation of the Z Division report.
The classified study weighed the possibility of lab leak and the theory that the pandemic passed naturally from an animal, concluding that both scenarios were plausible and could not be ruled out.
This explosive conclusion, which came at a time when many experts were shouting loudly that the origin of a lab leak was impossible, could have significantly impacted the debate had the research been more widely disseminated.
“We will not comment on this matter,” Lynda Seaver, director of Livermore Public Affairs, told DailyMail.com on Tuesday when asked about the delay in spreading the report to other government departments.
The (above) secret intelligence unit at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab produced the report on May 27, 2020, but it didn’t reach the State Department until October last year.
The slow distribution of the Z Division’s report on the highest levels of government frustrated Trump administration officials and led some of them to access reporting by other intelligence agencies on the subject, according to Sinclair Broadcasting Group, which first revealed the existence of the study.
On May 11, three House Republicans sent a letter to Livermore Director Kimberly S. Budil, demanding that Rakestraw appear before Congress to give a secret briefing on the Z Division report.
‘Rare’ genome sequence suggests virus was man-made
Two US experts have written a scathing essay stating that science strongly suggests the novel coronavirus was manufactured in a Chinese laboratory.
The claim was submitted by Drs Stephen Quay, CEO of biopharmaceutical company Atossa Therapeutics Inc, and Richard Muller, professor of physics at the University of California Berkeley, in The Wall Street Journal on Sunday.
In the op-ed, the men say their evidence lies in genome sequencing, or analyzing the DNA, of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
There are 36 segments of DNA — made up of three-letter “words” — that viruses use to make an amino acid known as L-arginine.
L-arginine helps make proteins, but is also often used in so-called gain of function research, which alters viruses to make them more transmissible and deadlier.
The new virus contains a segment called CGG-CGG, which is considered rare even in experiments where researchers try to manipulate the virus.
Even more telling, this combination has never been found naturally in any other type of coronavirus, including SARS and MERS, both cousins of the new virus.
“A virus simply cannot pick up a sequence from another virus if that sequence is not present in another virus,” Quay and Muller wrote.
‘The combination CGG-CGG has never been found naturally. That means the usual method of viruses picking up new skills, called recombination, can’t work here.’
The letter gave a May 25 deadline for response, but it was not immediately clear whether the briefing ever took place.
In May 2020, as the Z Division was finalizing its report on the origin scenarios of COVID, Rakestraw referred to COVID-19 as “a natural phenomenon” in an interview on YouTube.
However, he also placed the pandemic in the context of Chinese gain-of-function research, the controversial field of genetically modifying dangerous viruses to make them more deadly, to assess the risks of future outbreaks.
“What I’ve been working on is probably the hardest part to be able to respond quickly to biological threats as they arose,” Rakestraw said in the interview.
“And we were focused on both the potential for natural events, such as the most recent COVID-19, but also the potential for adversaries to use advances in biotechnology to create new threats for which we would not have vaccines,” he added. ready.
Livermore is one of 17 national labs President Joe Biden has ordered to assist in another 90-day intelligence assessment of the origins of the pandemic.
“We’ve spent a lot of time over the past six years using the computing resources at LLNL to try to accelerate the timelines for developing a response to an emerging biological threat,” Rakestraw said in a Livermore press release at the beginning of the report. year. pandemic.
“That effort has put us in a position where we now have tools that are applicable to helping with the current response,” he said.
The sprawling Livermore lab has an annual budget of $2.5 billion and employs 7,900 people.
It is largely funded by the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.
The California lab has not confirmed the contents of their report, which remains secret.
Anthony Blinken, the Secretary of State, has urged China to be more transparent about what they knew, when.
“What the government hasn’t done in the beginning and still hasn’t done is give us the transparency we need,” Blinken said in an interview with axios.
The White House has also accused China of obstructing investigations into the source of the pandemic.
Concerns have been raised over ‘gain-of-function’ research taking place at the Wuhan Institute for Virology (above), located in the city where the outbreak began
The World Health Organization (WHO) sent a team to the Wuhan lab in late January, but the researchers were only allowed in for three hours and were not given access to all the documentation they needed.
dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the WHO, said their visit was inconclusive and accused China of not cooperating.
dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser and the nation’s top infectious disease expert, is now under scrutiny about what he knew, when — and whether he was always honest with the public.
His critics, mostly Republicans, accuse him of downplaying the “lab leak” theory because it was heavily promoted by Donald Trump.
Critics also argue that at the time, Fauci would not admit that US taxpayers’ money went to the lab in Wuhan.
He has since confirmed that $820,000 has been given to the lab over six years to fund their research into coronaviruses.
At Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where scientists investigated a year ago whether COVID-19 escaped a lab in Wuhan, China
Fauci justified the expenditure when questioned about it before Congress last month, stressing that understanding the coronaviruses that come from bats, and the bats were in China, was vital.
He said it would have been a dereliction of duty not to support scientific research.
Fauci also insisted that the grants were not used for “function gain” research, which makes viruses more transmissible or deadly, to understand their capabilities.
He said the scientific studies published thanks to US funding contain no evidence of “gain of function” research.
But he admitted he couldn’t know if the Wuhan lab was secretly conducting experiments.
ORIGIN OF COVID-19: THE THEORIES
US state officials have given impetus to the idea that COVID-19 was either leaked from a lab or created by China as some sort of weapon against humanity.
It was first thought that a wet market in Wuhan was the breeding ground of the virus, where the sale of live, wild animals would have provided the perfect opportunity for the virus to spread naturally between species.
It is thought that the virus first developed in bats before being passed on to a creature such as a pangolin who then came into contact with humans and transmitted the virus.
Once it got into humans, it probably mutated to survive and then got out of control due to an unprepared population.
There are also theories that the virus was genetically manipulated by scientists, or that it has been around for years and has even killed people in the past.
Two high-security labs in the city — the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and the Wuhan Institute of Virology — have been the subject of many conspiracy theories.
President Donald Trump claims he has seen evidence that the virus, which he blames only on China, comes from the Wuhan Institute of Virology — but he is not allowed to reveal it.
The Institute has denied the claims from the early days of the outbreak.
In April, Trump said, “We are conducting a very thorough investigation into this terrible situation that has occurred.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed in May that there is “enormous evidence” that the coronavirus outbreak originated in a Chinese lab – but has provided none of the alleged evidence.