Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Secret Intelligence Leaks vs. Basic Common Sense, by Ron Unz - The Unz Review


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Historical Examples

During 1940 the determined efforts of President Franklin Roosevelt to involve America in the war against Hitler’s Germany were blocked by the overwhelming opposition of the American people, running at 80% according to some polls. A group of young Yale Law School peace activists had launched the America First Committee and it quickly attracted 800,000 members, becoming the largest grassroots political organization in our national history. The leadership of the AFC included many of our most prominent business and journalistic figures, and famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, one of our greatest national heroes, served as its top spokesman.

With American antiwar sentiment so seemingly strong and resolute, various political stratagems were employed to reduce it. In late October 1941, just few weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor finally settled the issue, FDR announced in a nationwide radio broadcast that he had obtained a German map that revealed the secret Nazi plans to seize control of Latin America, which Hitler would then use as a base to attack the United States as part of his bold plan of world conquest.

Our President declared:

Hitler has often protested that his plans for conquest do not extend across the Atlantic Ocean. I have in my possession a secret map, made in Germany by Hitler’s government – by the planners of the new world order. It is a map of South America and a part of Central America as Hitler proposes to reorganize it…This map makes clear the Nazi design, not only against South America but against the United States as well.

Probably millions or even tens of millions of Americans believed FDR’s words about that direct threat to our national security and therefore softened their resistance to our country’s involvement in the European war. But as historians have long since acknowledged, the map was a forgery, probably produced by FDR’s own close British collaborators. In an earlier private conversation with the British ambassador, FDR had warned that his secret activities with the British would probably lead to his impeachment if they were revealed.

I think few Americans at the time were willing to publicly accuse our President of such major falsehoods, but from a distance of more than eighty years, what strikes me is the sheer absurdity of FDR’s accusation. Germany had no significant navy and had been stymied for over a year by the barrier of the English Channel, only 18 miles wide. Yet apparently a large majority of the American media and the American public were willing to believe that the Germans could easily cross the thousands of miles of the Atlantic Ocean and gain control of the countries of South America, whose total population was considerably larger than that of Germany itself. So the excitement of being privy to a secret intelligence document seems to have triumphed over rational thought in the minds of many people, including eager journalists.

FDR’s illegal efforts to involve us in a totally unnecessary war outraged many of our Military Intelligence professionals at the time, but they were bound by an oath of secrecy, and their views only became known years or decades later when they published their books and personal memoirs. Extensive archival research by Prof. Joseph Bendersky fully uncovered their extremely bitter contemporaneous sentiments, and he noted the “fierce delight” they took in FDR’s eventual death: “Finally, the evil man was dead!”

Just after the end of the war, Gen. George Patton, one of our most illustrious military commanders, told his colleagues that he intended to resign his commission so that he could begin a nationwide speaking tour to provide the American public with the true facts about the war that they had just fought. Patton soon died in a highly-suspicious vehicle accident, and decades later his self-confessed American assassin revealed that he had killed Patton under direct orders from top figures in our own government.


Government officials have long recognized that secret information, even if heavily distorted or completely false, can be used to effectively shape media coverage. Many journalists and pundits are always eager to receive leaks, confidential tidbits that they are willing to make the centerpiece of their one-sided stories, thereby allowing themselves to be manipulated.

A perfect example of this process occurred during the run-up to the Iraq War, when leaks of secret intelligence information from Bush Neocons were widely promoted in such elite media outlets as the New York Times and the New Yorker. This persuaded our gullible citizenry that Saddam Hussein was on the verge of developing nuclear weapons and also planned to attack our country with anthrax and other deadly biological weapons, while seemingly being in cahoots with Osama bin Laden, his regional arch-enemy. As I described a decade ago, most of Congress and the American people fully accepted such obvious nonsense, resulting in our disastrous Iraq War, which began the destruction of much of the Middle East:

The circumstances surrounding our Iraq War demonstrate this, certainly ranking it among the strangest military conflicts of modern times. The 2001 attacks in America were quickly ascribed to the radical Islamists of al-Qaeda, whose bitterest enemy in the Middle East had always been Saddam Hussein’s secular Baathist regime in Iraq. Yet through misleading public statements, false press leaks, and even forged evidence such as the “yellowcake” documents, the Bush administration and its neoconservative allies utilized the compliant American media to persuade our citizens that Iraq’s nonexistent WMDs posed a deadly national threat and required elimination by war and invasion. Indeed, for several years national polls showed that a large majority of conservatives and Republicans actually believed that Saddam was the mastermind behind 9/11 and the Iraq War was being fought as retribution. Consider how bizarre the history of the 1940s would seem if America had attacked China in retaliation for Pearl Harbor.

An even greater absurdity unfolded last year, after a serious of mysterious underwater explosions destroyed the $30 billion Russian-German Nord Stream pipelines, probably Europe’s most important civilian energy infrastructure.

Numerous top American officials had publicly threatened to eliminate the pipelines if Russia invaded Ukraine, but after Russia did so and Nord Stream was destroyed, virtually all the mainstream media outlets both in America and in Europe declared that Russian President Vladimir Putin had probably destroyed his own pipelines, thereby further demonstrating his criminal insanity, and scarcely any other possibility was even considered. When Prof. Jeffrey Sachs was interviewed on Bloomberg TV and pointed to the American government as the obvious suspect, his statement was greeted with horror and disbelief and he was quickly yanked off the air.

Over the last half-century, Seymour Hersh had established himself as our greatest investigative journalist, and a few months after the attacks, he provided a very detailed account of exactly how our own military had destroyed the pipelines under orders from President Joe Biden, but no mainstream outlets reported his bombshell revelations.

However, Hersh had successfully broken many previous government cover-ups, and his blockbuster revelations left the earlier claim that Russia had destroyed the Russian pipelines looking rather threadbare, so various Western Intelligence agencies soon leaked a replacement cover story. The Nord Stream pipeline attacks probably ranked as the greatest act of industrial terrorism in world history, but the media now began reporting that the attacks had probably been carried out by a handful of shadowy Ukrainian activists operating from a rented sailboat. I’m not sure how many gullible Westerners fell for that particular fabrication, but Hersh quickly explained why the technical details of that new scenario were completely impossible.

Obviously not all intelligence leaks are false or useless. But we must be very cautious in accepting them, especially if they seem to strongly support the obvious political goals of the leakers.

Covid Origins Leaks

These are some of the points I think we should keep in mind as we consider the recent flurry of discussion regarding the origins of the Covid epidemic.

One of the most important developments may have come in a long Tucker Carlson interview of Presidential Candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., which according to Twitter might have been watched a couple of million times.

I found myself in strong agreement with most of Kennedy’s views, including his sharp criticism of our Ukraine War policy and the hidden reality of America’s enormous and longstanding biological warfare program. In his #1 Amazon bestseller, Kennedy had devoted a long chapter to that last subject, and he made a good case that after President Richard Nixon had publicly abandoned our biowarfare efforts in 1969, those operations were later reconstituted under the label of “biodefense” and “vaccine development,” while being shifted from the Pentagon to Dr. Anthony Fauci’s division at the National Institutes of Health.

Then in 2014, as Kennedy tells the story, several high-profile leaks at American facilities led Congress to force an end to such dangerous biowarfare work on U.S. soil, forcing Fauci to relocate our bioweapons development research to overseas labs. All of this seems quite plausible.

The problem came towards the end of his 8 minute discussion. According to Kennedy, the Pentagon and the CIA funded and controlled Fauci’s biowarfare development research, which obviously constituted one of America’s most advanced and powerful military technologies. But Kennedy then claimed that our government decided to transfer all of that cutting-edge biowarfare technology to the Chinese. So beginning in 2014, America’s future biowarfare development work would be performed at the Wuhan lab, a facility that he describes as being under Chinese military control.

Does this make any sense whatsoever? In 2012, the Obama Administration had announced its “Pivot to East Asia,” declaring that it would refocus American strategic and military resources against China, which was seen as America’s most formidable long-term competitor and rival. But we are to believe that two years later, the Pentagon and the CIA decided to transfer our most powerful biowarfare technologies—producing bioweapons unmatched by those of any other nation—to the Chinese, selecting a Chinese military lab to develop our own bioweapons. We even paid them a few hundred thousand dollars for that privilege, a tiny fraction of one percent of our large biowarfare budget. Compared to that absurdity, the notion of Nazi Germany conquering most of the Western Hemisphere without the benefit of a navy seems far more plausible.

Furthermore, in 2015 Harvard’s Graham Allison had published a very high profile article arguing that the U.S. and China were almost inevitably headed for open warfare, and a couple of years later, his book on the same subject became a national bestseller, widely discussed and accepted in DC political circles. Yet with many top Pentagon and CIA officials being convinced that we would soon be at war with China, Kennedy seems to believe that these same officials nonetheless continued relying upon Chinese military researchers to develop our most powerful biowarfare technology.

None of these astonishing claims had appeared in Kennedy’s previous book and he doesn’t provide any sources for his interview remarks. But based upon some of his details, I think his information probably came from several stories published two months ago by various journalists, all of which were apparently based upon confidential leaks from anonymous sources.

Back in March, President Joseph Biden had ordered the complete declassification within 90 days of all U.S. intelligence information relating to the origins of the Covid virus. With that deadline approaching in late June, there suddenly appeared a flurry of articles based upon anonymous leaks. These claimed that secret evidence proved that three identified researchers at the Wuhan lab had been the earliest infected individuals or even suggested that Covid had been developed as a Chinese bioweapon whose accidental leakage had killed perhaps twenty million people worldwide, including over a million Americans.

Such explosive charges might seem like the sort of wild conspiratorial claims found in dark corners of the Internet, but they instead appeared in such leading mainstream newspapers as the London Sunday Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times, or were co-authored by reputable investigative journalists such as Matt Taibbi.

The first of those outlets had published the earliest and most dramatic account, a long investigative piece that relied upon anonymous American sources to claim that Covid was a leaked Chinese bioweapon. Much of Kennedy’s information seems to have been derived from that article.

  • What really went on inside the Wuhan lab weeks before Covid erupted
    Fresh evidence drawn from confidential reports reveals Chinese scientists spliced together deadly pathogens shortly before the pandemic, the Sunday Times Insight team report
    Jonathan Calvert and George Arbuthnott • The London Sunday Times • June 10, 2023 • 5,500 Words

However, just a couple of days later, the editor of the Daily Sceptic, another British publication, pointed out some of the serious weaknesses in that reconstruction. He noted that the leadership of the Wuhan lab and the Chinese government hardly reacted as if a dangerous Chinese bioweapon had suddenly begun circulating in a city of 11 million that served as a major national transit hub.

Several other articles appeared over the next couple of weeks, mostly focusing on claims that three specific Wuhan lab researchers had become infected with Covid during November 2019, the earliest such cases anywhere and therefore the likely source of the outbreak. Once again, all these accounts were based upon anonymous government intelligence sources.

The long WSJ article was the weightiest piece, and two years earlier those same reporters had published a previous very high-profile article making similar claims, probably relying upon the same unnamed government sources.

This cascade of articles naturally raised enormous anticipation regarding the intelligence documents about to be released. But the result was a tremendous anticlimax when the declassified DNI report largely refuted all these claims, denying the existence of any solid evidence that Wuhan researchers had been hospitalized with Covid-like symptoms and stating that any reported illness they suffered had not necessarily been suggestive of Covid.

These official DNI conclusions seemed to confirm the personal testimony of the best single Western eyewitness, Australian virologist Danielle Anderson, who had been working at the Wuhan lab during the period in question. In a long 2021 interview, she had told Bloomberg that no one at the lab had become seriously ill with Covid-like symptoms, nor had she heard any rumors of a lab-leak or even any indication that the Covid virus had been developed there.

So just three days after publishing their explosive article, that same pair of WSJ reporters released a short piece summarizing this new intelligence information, almost amounting to a retraction of their previous story.

And oddly enough, the byline of the second co-author of that controversial earlier article seems to have now been removed, leaving only the name of Michael R. Gordon. Two decades earlier, Gordon had shared numerous bylines with Judith Miller at the New York Times, when the two of them had eagerly promoted the Neocon hoax of Saddam’s WMDs, also based upon anonymous government leaks.

Vanity Fair‘s Katherine Eban had previously published several long articles generally sympathetic to the lab-leak scenario, and she now summarized this confusing situation, including the angry reactions of several U.S. Senators who claimed that our intelligence agencies had failed to comply with the law by refusing to release other documents.

  • A New Intelligence Report Suggests That the Lab-Leak Wars Will Never End
    Given a 90-day deadline to share what they know about COVID’s origins, America’s divided intelligence agencies produced a slim report that leaves both major hypotheses on the table—and raises as many questions as it answers.
    Katherine Eban • Vanity Fair • June 28, 2023 • 2,700 Words

Since coming into office, the Biden Administration has become extremely hostile to China, denouncing it at every turn, seeking to choke-off its entire technology industry, and repeatedly violating its “red lines” regarding Taiwan. If any half-plausible evidence existed that Covid had leaked from the Wuhan lab, it’s difficult to understand why our government would be working to keep it secret. Yet the official release of all relevant documents provided no evidence of a lab-leak, and the DNI declared that nearly all of our 17 different Intelligence agencies had taken that same position.

This strongly suggests that the wave of lab-leak stories may have been based upon the very same sort of extremely doubtful or even fraudulent evidence as Saddam’s WMDs two decades ago, possibly peddled by anti-China former officials from the Trump Administration, who had repeatedly made such accusations in the past.

A very long NYT Sunday Magazine article late last month by veteran science writer David Quammen summarized much of this new information. He actually seemed quite impressed with some of these recent media developments and was now far more open to the lab-leak theory than when he had published his own book Breathless last year.

  • The Ongoing Mystery of Covid’s Origin
    We still don’t know how the pandemic started. Here’s what we do know — and why it matters.
    David Quammen • The New York Times Sunday Magazine • July 25, 2023 • 9,300 Words


Over the last couple of years, Sherri Markson has become one of the leading media advocates of the lab-leak theory, writing a 2021 book on the subject, though it hadn’t particularly impressed me. Last month she published a long magazine article in the Australian, summarizing the latest evidence, some of which seemed quite intriguing.

Then late last week, she came up with a genuine scoop, revealing on SkyNews and in the Australian that several named Pentagon analysts believed they had found “smoking gun” evidence that Covid had been bioengineered, noting that a particular genetic segment was identical to one found in another Wuhan lab virus, and three other intelligence groups had come to similar conclusions. Moreover, they claimed that their important findings had been excluded from the released intelligence documents in an act of blatant censorship by the Biden Administration:

When the report was published it concluded that most intelligence agencies assessed the virus, even if it had leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, was natural rather than manipulated in a laboratory.

Sky News can reveal that this was not the assessment made by the four groups within the intelligence agencies that actually engaged in scientific analysis, who concurred that there was either a highly likely or reasonable chance the virus was genetically engineered.

Scientists at the Defence Intelligence Agency’s National Centre for Medical Intelligence (DIA NCMI) had conducted rigorous research on the genomic sequence of the virus and firmly concluded that it was, most likely, a laboratory construct.

In a world exclusive, Sky News can for the first time reveal their story, their research and their discoveries about SARS-CoV-2…

Their internal research at the Pentagon-based agency led to a finding that was described internally as a “smoking gun”.

One of the scientists discovered that the size and location of a fragment of COVID-19 resembled the same fragment in Wuhan Institute of Virology research from more than a decade earlier, in 2008. It was the same technique that the WIV had used in grant applications to make chimeric viruses.

“This paper is the smoking gun of everything. When the team reviewed this data, they thought ‘This is created in the lab. It’s a reverse genetics construct,” a source said.

But their input into the 90-day origins probe was censored…

They [NCMI scientists Robert Greg Cutlip, Jean-Paul Chretien and John Hardham] wrote an unclassified working paper, dated May 26th 2020, titled ‘Critical Analysis of Anderson et al. The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2′. Their paper was circulated within the NCMI and among multiple scientists within the intelligence community. It was also intended for wider publication, so that the public could have a greater understanding of the new virus sweeping the globe. But it was never allowed to be disseminated more broadly, in yet another cover-up of scientists who questioned the natural origins narrative perpetuated by senior officials.

The report was scathing of the Proximal Origin authors’ claim that COVID-19 had a natural origin.

“We consider the evidence they present and find that it does not prove that the virus arose naturally. 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.”

Their unclassified working paper from May 2020 is available on the Internet and all this important new information was summarized in an excellent Daily Sceptic article:


Articles that name specific government officials are obviously far more credible than those of the anonymous variety, and I would expect numerous investigative journalists may soon attempt to directly contact and interview those research analysts.

Furthermore, the Republicans and Democrats in Congress can request that they testify under oath regarding their important scientific findings on the true origins of an epidemic that killed more than a million Americans. Given that President Biden had publicly promised to declassify all American intelligence on Covid origins, he could hardly justify blocking such important investigative efforts.

But I suspect that both Markson and nearly all of her readers are missing a crucial aspect of these new revelations. Unlike all those other recent stories, this one focused on the bioengineered aspects of the Covid virus rather than claimed any evidence of a Wuhan lab-leak, two separate issues that have been regularly—and wrongly—conflated by nearly all the journalists covering the story. Last year I reviewed the contradictory evidence and the arguments of the key proponents on both sides, suggesting that an excluded third possibility was the best solution.

I think these exchanges demonstrate that to a considerable extent, the two main camps on the Covid origins debate have been talking past each other.

The testimonies provided by Quammen and Holmes strongly challenged the possibility of any lab-leak at Wuhan, suggesting that this proves the virus must have been natural, even though few arguments on that latter point were ever made; at most, they raised some doubts about the strength of the evidence for bioengineering.

Meanwhile, the articles and papers by Wade, Sachs, Bruttel, and others have provided strong evidence that the virus was artificial. All of this has usually been interpreted as support for the lab-leak hypothesis, even though very little evidence was ever presented that any lab-leak had occurred.

Yet the apparent vector-sum of these conflicting arguments is the conclusion that the Covid virus neither leaked from the Wuhan lab nor was natural, and this suggests that the public debate has been improperly restricted to just those two possibilities.

For more than 30 months I have emphasized that there are actually three perfectly plausible hypotheses for the Covid outbreak. The virus might have been natural, randomly appearing in Wuhan during late 2019; the virus might have been the artificial product of a scientific lab in Wuhan, which accidentally leaked out at that time; or the virus might have been the bioengineered product of America’s hundred-billion-dollar biowarfare program, the oldest and largest in the world, a bioweapon deployed against China and Iran by elements of the Trump Administration at the height of our hostile international confrontation with those countries.

The first two possibilities have been very widely discussed and debated across the Western mainstream and alternative media, while the third has been almost totally ignored, despite top Russian, Iranian, and Chinese government officials having publicly accused America of releasing Covid in a deliberate biowarfare attack.

Indeed, beginning in April 2020 I have published a long series of articles arguing that there is strong perhaps even overwhelming evidence in favor of that third, disregarded possibility.

Last December I had discussed and reviewed several important recent books on the origins of the Covid virus, all advocating the lab-leak hypothesis. I noted that none of the authors—Jasper Becker, Sharri Markson, Alina Chan and Matt Ridley—had dared to even consider the excluded third possibility, perhaps because the realities of the publishing industry required them to apply such Orwellian “crimestop” to their thinking.

If Congress can now confirm that several different scientific groups at our intelligence agencies have concluded that the Covid virus probably came from a laboratory, we can then begin asking the far more dangerous question of which laboratory and how and why the virus was released.

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