Tuesday, 21 July 2020 06:15

US leaked parts of cables to plant false theory on Wuhan lab coronavirus leak Featured

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US leaked parts of cables to plant false theory on Wuhan lab coronavirus leak Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The US State Department selectively leaked parts of two diplomatic cables about the infectious disease research lab in China's Wuhan Province to the Washington Post, resulting in a badly skewed op-ed about security at the lab being written by columnist Josh Rogin.

Earlier this year, both US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were spreading what turned out to be a falsehood, that the coronavirus plaguing the world was released due to a mistake at the lab in Wuhan.

This behaviour could have been driven by the administration's stance that one way it could still win the 2020 presidential election was by turning it into a referendum on China. A fortnight after this was made public, the Post reported that the Trump administration was pushing US intelligence agencies to search for proof of a link between the Wuhan lab and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The complete text of the cable has now been released following a freedom of information request by the Post and shows clearly that while Rogin's piece claimed there was "a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory", the US diplomats in Beijing who sent the cable were actually concerned that "the shortage would interfere with the lab's productivity and utilisation" and not its safety.

Dr Angela Rasmussen, a senior virologist at Columbia University, said in a tweet: "So yes, while we still can't exclude the possibility that #SARSCoV2 originated from a lab accident with a bat SARS-like CoV, we can say that the vague, out-of-context quotes used to bolster the 'I'm just asking questions, did it come from a lab?' theories were misinterpreted."

And she added: "This cable says NOTHING about concerns with the work that was being done at WIV. The supposedly worrisome work was actually presented as a success story in a lab that was coming online more slowly than everyone, including the US authors of the cable, expected or hoped."

In April, Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, said the misleading excerpts from the cables had come from an administration official with an obvious axe to grind.

He tweeted at the time: "The point is that the biology shows a lot of remaining uncertainty, and leaves open a range of plausible explanations that don't involve a lab spillover. And there is ample circumstantial evidence indicating a lab spillover is unlikely (albeit not impossible).

"So to portray lab spillover as the primary plausible scenario is at best incomplete, at worst misleading. Especially when sourcing the claim to an administration official with an obvious axe to grind, and leaving the alternate scenarios unmentioned, much less explored."


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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