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U.S. Declassifies COVID-19 Origins Report

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The Office of the Director of National Intelligence finally released a government report on the origins of COVID-19 on Friday. The chairs of the House Intelligence and Coronavirus Pandemic committees say the report lends credence to the theory that the virus may have originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, China.

Early this year, Congress enacted legislation requiring the declassification of evidence on possible links between the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) and the pandemic’s beginnings.

The declassified study outlines the Intelligence Community’s (IC) knowledge of the COVID-19 beginnings and offers insight into the WIV’s operations prior to the pandemic. It does not, however, conclusively identify the virus’s origin.

“All agencies continue to assess that both a natural and laboratory-associated origin remain plausible hypotheses to explain the first human infection,” the 10-page declassified report states (pdf).

The report includes assessments from the National Intelligence Council (NIC), the Department of Energy, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and other unnamed agencies.

Most organizations, including the NIC and four other Intelligence Community organizations, concur that the virus was likely spread naturally by contact with an infected animal or a close relative. The FBI and the Department of Energy, although having differing justifications, both believe that the virus first appeared in a lab.

The CIA and another agency are unable to determine the precise origin of COVID-19, as both hypotheses rely on significant assumptions or face challenges with conflicting reporting, the report states.

Some of the assessments in the report were previously known.

In order to determine if the original human infection resulted from contact with an infected animal spontaneously or if it was related to a laboratory occurrence, the IC broadened its investigation into COVID-19 in March. According to “almost all” of the agencies involved, the virus was neither genetically modified nor produced as a biological weapon, as stated in the study. Agencies dispute with the idea that the study was done in a lab, though.

Wuhan Experiments ‘Left No Traces of Genetic Modification’

Before the pandemic, the WIV engaged in collaboration with China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on “public health-related research.” Some of the WIV scientists conducted experiments on coronaviruses, but there is no evidence of genetic modification in these viruses, according to the report.

However, the report states that the WIV did not possess viruses that could “plausibly be the progenitor of SARS-CoV-2” before the pandemic. Instead, the viruses were primarily used for “virology and vaccine-related work.”

The WIV supported research initiatives between 2017 and 2019 and employed some of its staff in efforts to “enhance China’s knowledge of pathogens and early disease warning capabilities for defensive and biosecurity needs of the military.”

“The IC assesses that this work was intended for public health needs and that the coronaviruses known to be used were too distantly related to have led to the creation of SARS-CoV-2,” the report states.

Before the pandemic, the WIV carried out considerable research on coronaviruses, including genetic testing and animal collection, notably of bats.

The study confirms that genetic engineering work is being done at the WIV but claims that there is no “direct evidence that a specific research-related incident occurred involving WIV personnel before the pandemic that could have caused the COVID pandemic.”

The study, which cites a 2017 dissertation by a WIV student, says that several of the WIV’s genetic engineering experiments on coronaviruses included methods that might make it difficult to identify deliberate modifications.

“Some of the WIV’s genetic engineering projects on coronaviruses involved techniques that could make it difficult to detect intentional changes,” the report states.

“A 2017 dissertation by a WIV student showed that reverse genetic cloning techniques—which are standard techniques used in advanced molecular laboratories—left no traces of genetic modification of SARS-like coronaviruses.”

The WIV researchers tried to clone unrelated pathogenic viruses and genetically modified chimeras of coronaviruses that resembled SARS. SARS-like coronaviruses were subjected to reverse genetic cloning procedures, despite the fact that the paper claims there is no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 has ever undergone purposeful genetic change.

Inadequate Biosafety Precautions at Wuhan Lab

Before the pandemic, the WIV had raised biosafety issues when dealing with coronaviruses that resembled SARS.

The report noted that some WIV researchers “probably did not use adequate biosafety precautions at least some of the time prior to the pandemic in handling SARS-like coronaviruses.” This increased the risk of potential exposure to viruses.

The report adds that biosafety upgrades, training, and purchases were being done in the middle of 2019, but the IC is not aware of any particular event that led to those actions. This happened at the same time as China’s more extensive biosecurity laws.

Even after the WIV’s BSL-4 laboratory was accredited in 2017, one problem raised in the study is the lack of openness around China’s determinations regarding which diseases required stricter biocontainment measures. At the facility, there was a dearth of staff who were adequately trained.

Despite recognized hazards, tests were nevertheless carried out in lower containment facilities in 2019.

A few months after the COVID-19 epidemic started in 2020, the high-containment laboratories of the WIV were inspected. The inspection found a number of problems, including the need for equipment updates, more disinfection precautions, and ventilation system upgrades.

Although the results were made during the institute’s crisis reaction to the COVID-19 epidemic, the study included a warning that they may not be accurate. “not necessarily indicative” of the WIV’s biosafety status prior to the outbreak.

In the fall of 2019, some WIV researchers fell sick before the COVID-19 outbreak. The IC’s assessment “neither supports nor refutes” the theory that they were infected with SARS-CoV-2, saying that their symptoms were “consistent with but not diagnostic of COVID-19.” Their symptoms, the report states, “could have been caused by a number of diseases and some of the symptoms were not consistent with COVID-19.”

China Has ‘Some Serious Explaining To Do’

In a joint statement, Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, and Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), chair of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, said the declassified report is “a promising step toward full transparency.”

The two Republican lawmakers declared that “everyone deserves to know the truth.” The pair said the information gathered by their committees during this Congress and the last “supports the likelihood of a lab leak.”

Turner and Wenstrup said their committees “will continue to investigate the origins of COVID-19 and the information obtained today will help to further its investigation.”

“The Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army have some serious explaining to do. This declassified report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Intelligence Community lends credence to the lab leak theory, which suggests that the coronavirus outbreak most likely originated from a Wuhan virology lab in China,” they said.

“This is on top of the Government Accountability Office’s report released last week outlining the flow of U.S. taxpayer dollars to Chinese entities known to be doing coronavirus research,” their statement continued.

“While we appreciate the report from ODNI, the corroboration of all available evidence, along with further investigation into the origins of COVID-19 must continue.”

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CIA Secret Report Reveals Warning to Russia of Terrorist Attack was Marked “Urgent” but Failed to Identify Target

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US warning regarding a potential terrorist attack at a concert venue in Russia was labeled as “urgent.” However, the warning, according to Hersh’s source, did not specify Crocus City Hall as the target, despite some media reports suggesting otherwise.

The CIA allegedly provided the warning to Russian intelligence before the concert at the Crocus City Hall marking it “urgent,” meaning that the data in it “was credible and near term,” Hersh quoted the official as saying.

“The highly secret report on the attack in Moscow was prepared by the Counterterrorism Center at CIA headquarters and delivered to the terrorism division of the Russian Federal Security Service located in the old KGB building in Moscow. Separate briefings were presented in person by the FBI officer at the embassy. This is an established relationship,” the official said.

The warning, however, did not mention Crocus City Hall near Moscow and only said that an attack was being planned at some “public gathering,” according to the official.

The information provided by the official is contrary to a Washington Post report published on Tuesday claiming that Crocus City Hall was specifically identified in the warning as the target of a terrorist attack.

On March 22, several armed men broke into Crocus City Hall, a major concert venue just outside Moscow, and started shooting at people. They also started a fire in one of the auditoriums, which was full of people ahead of a concert. The attack left 695 casualties, including 144 dead, according to the latest data from the Russian Emergencies Ministry.

The four main suspects in the case — all of them citizens of Tajikistan — tried to flee the scene in a car but were detained and charged with terrorism. Russian authorities believe the perpetrators planned to flee to Ukraine, where a safe haven had been arranged for them. An investigation is underway.

Later in March, The New York Times reported, citing European and US security officials, that the US intelligence agencies did not provide the Russian side with all the information they had about the threat of a terrorist attack at Crocus City Hall in the Moscow Region out of fear that Russian authorities might learn about their intelligence sources or methods of work.

Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Alexander Bortnikov also said that the information transmitted by the United States on the preparation of a terrorist attack was of a general nature, and the Russian special services responded to it.

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Biden Admin is Using Fraudulent Climate Dataset in Push For Green Agenda, According to Government Watchdog

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A government watchdog group has filed a complaint with the Biden administration over its use of a dataset frequently used to push its climate agenda.

Protect the Public’s Trust (PPT) filed the complaint with the Commerce Department over the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) “Billions Project” dataset, which purports to keep track of natural [and climate] disasters that have caused at least $1 billion in damages going back to 1980. The billion-dollar disasters (BDD) data — cited frequently by the Biden administration to insinuate that climate change is intensifying and justify sweeping green policies — is based on opaque data derived from questionable accounting practices, PPT alleges in the complaint.

“American families and businesses continue to struggle with persistently high inflation, which many attribute in large part to the energy policies and government spending of the current administration. The idea that blatant violations of scientific integrity could be underlying the rationale for these policies should concern every American,” Michael Chamberlain, PPT’s director, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Unfortunately, this is far from an isolated incident. The Biden Administration came into office pledging that its decision making would be grounded in the highest-quality science, but all too often has failed to live up to those promises.”

The complaint was filed with the Commerce Department, as NOAA operates under its auspices, Chamberlain told the DCNF.

PPT’s complaint alleges that NOAA does not adequately disclose its sources and methods for compiling the BDD dataset, adds and removes BDD events from the dataset without providing its rationale for doing so and produces cost estimates that are sometimes significantly different than those generated by more conventional accounting procedures.

While NOAA states that it develops its BDD data from more than a dozen sources, the agency does not disclose those sources for specific events or show how it calculates loss estimates from those sources, PPT’s complaint alleges.

The complaint further alleges that NOAA’s accounting methods are opaque and “produce suspect results.”

For example, when Hurricane Id alia took aim at Florida in 2023, NOAA initially projected that the storm would cause about $2.5 billion worth of damages before insured losses ultimately came in at about $310 million, according to PPT’s complaint, which cites the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation

 for that figure. Nevertheless, NOAA subsequently marked up its estimate for how much damage the storm caused to $3.5 billion, a discrepancy for which NOAA provided no explanation, PPT alleges in its complaint.

NOAA researchers have disclosed in the past that the agency considers factors such as functions pertaining to livestock feeding costs — in addition to more conventional types of damages — in their cost calculations.

Further, the complaint alleges that BDD events are quietly added and removed from the dataset without explanation, citing Roger Pielke Jr., a former academic who believes climate change to be a real threat but opposes politicized science. In a forthcoming paper analyzing the merits of BDD statistics, Pielke compared the dataset in late 2022 to the dataset in the middle of 2023 and found that ten new BDD events were added to the list and 3 were subtracted without explanation.

Apart from the issues with methodology alleged by PPT in its complaint, the use of BDD events as a proxy for climate change’s intensity is inherently misleading because economic data does not reflect changes in meteorological conditions, as Pielke has previously explained to the DCNF.

For example, increasing concentrations of assets, especially in coastal areas, can confound the usefulness of BDD events as an indicator for the intensity of climate change, as Energy and Environment Legal Institute Senior Policy Fellow Steve Milloy has previously explained to the DCNF. Hypothetically, the same exact hurricane could hit the same exact place, decades apart, with vastly different damage totals; this would be the case because there are simply more assets sitting in the way of the storm, not because the storm was any more violent due to worsening climate change.

NOAA has acknowledged this limitation of the dataset in prior communications with the DCNF.

Additionally, NOAA will add disasters to the list retrospectively because it adjusts for inflation, meaning that a hurricane that caused $800 million in damages in 1980 dollars would be added to the list because the damages exceed $1 billion when adjusted for inflation, for example.

The Biden administration has frequently cited the BDD dataset to substantiate its massive climate agenda.

For example, Deputy Energy Secretary David Turk cited the dataset in written testimony submitted to lawmakers in February explaining the White House’s decision to pause new approvals for liquefied natural gas export terminals.

The BDD statistics are also referenced Fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA5), the Biden administration’s landmark climate report that is intended to provide the most sound scientific basis for lawmakers and officials to craft climate policy.

NOAA asserted that the increasing frequency of BDD events is a sign of intensifying climate change in a January press release and blog post summarizing 2023, and then defended the use of the dataset in subsequent communications with the DCNF.

“Sensational climate claims made without proper scientific basis and spread by government officials threaten the public’s trust in its scientific officials and undermines the government’s mission of stewarding the environment,” PPT’s complaint states. “It also poses the danger of policymakers basing consequential government policy on unscientific claims unsupported by evidence.”

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U.S. Military Has Started Recalling Retirees Due to Recruiting Crisis

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The U.S. Army Publishing Directorate released the ALARACT 017/2024, titled, “Utilization of the Army Retiree Recall Program.”

The document cites Executive Order 13223 from the Bush administration in 2001.

A retiree recall is a “retired Soldier who is ordered to active duty (AD) from the Retired Reserve or the retired list under 10 USC 688/688a, 12301(a), or 12301(d). Per AR 601-10, Recalled retiree Soldiers must be aligned to a valid vacant AC requirement that matches the grade and skill of the retiree before he or she may be recalled to AD,” according to the document. “The retiree population will be utilized as a last resort to fill Active Component vacant requirements.”

The ALARACT 017/2024 comes as the U.S. military is experiencing a recruitment crisis.

The U.S. Army recently announced that it is cutting thousands of positions. Authorized troop levels will now be an estimated 470,000 by fiscal year 2029, down 24,000 from its 494,000 soldiers.

“While making these investments and adding formations, the Army must also reduce force structure to protect readiness in light of decreased end strength. The Army is currently significantly over-structured, meaning there are not enough soldiers to fill out existing units and organizations. Army leaders seek to have at least 470,000 soldiers in the Active Component by FY29, which is nearly 20,000 above the current end strength but a reduction of about 24,000 authorizations compared to currently planned force structure,” the report

 states.

It added that the Army is “undertaking a similarly important transformation of its recruiting enterprise so that it can man units sufficiently, continue to bring the right types and amounts of new talent into the Army, and rebuild its overall end strength.” Noting the ongoing recruitment failure within the U.S. military, the document noted, “The Army must solve its recruiting challenges to successfully transform for the future.”

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