Wuhan Institute of Virology

State Department officials say they were warned not to explore the Wuhan Institute of Virology's (above) gain-of-function research, because it would bring unwelcome attention to U.S. government funding of it
At least four State Department employees said in separate interviews that they repeatedly were 'warned' that an investigation into a possible COVID-19 leak from the Wuhan lab would 'open Pandora's Box;' and reveal that the U.S. funded gain-of-function research there.

It 'smelled like a cover-up,' Thomas DiNanno told Vanity Fair.

DiNanno, the former acting assistant secretary of the State Department's Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, was one of four State Department officials who told Vanity Fair they wanted to investigate the possibility that COVID-19 spread after it escaped from the Wuhan lab.

The others were David Asher, David Feith and Miles Yu.

But they were muzzled by other State Department officials as well as the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation and even 'ostracized,' Yu told Vanity Fair.

The lab leak was touted by then-President Donald Trump and other right-wing leaders, but was deemed impossible by a 'scientific consensus' in a letter signed by 27 scientists, published on February 19, 2020 in the medical journal The Lancet.

After that, the Wuhan lab theory was considered to be at best a conspiracy - some even considered it racist - so it wasn't discussed as a realistic origin of COVID-19 until recently.

Yu, the State Department's principal China strategist, found the government's and scientists' silence 'maddening,' Vanity Fair reported.

He said, 'Anyone who dares speak out would be ostracized.'

Asher, now a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute who ran the State Department's day-to-day COVID-19 origins inquiry, told Vanity Fair it became clear that 'there is a huge gain-of-function bureaucracy' inside the federal government.

One of the people with an interest in hiding it was Peter Daszak, the president of EcoHealth Alliance who's been working with Shi Zhengli - the Wuhan virologist known in China as the 'bat lady' - for more than 15 years.

David Asher and David Feith

David Asher (left) and David Feith (right) were among the State Department officials who were told not to open 'Pandora's Box' and look into the Wuhan lab leak theory
Miles Yu and Thomas DiNanno

Miles Yu and Thomas DiNanno pushed to have an investigation into the possibility of a leak from the Wuhan lab caused COVID-19
Peter Daszak

Peter Daszak, right, Thea Fischer, left, and other members of the World Health Organization team investigating the origins of covid-19 arrive at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on Feb. 3
It's unclear exactly much U.S. government funding was going to the Wuhan lab, but at least some of it was being routed through EcoHealth Alliance.

Daszak not only signed The Lancet letter but spearheaded it and encouraged colleagues who do gain-of-function research on coronaviruses not to sign it, in order to obscure the connection.
Controversial gain-of-function research boosts the infectivity of pathogens and makes them more LETHAL

Gain of function is controversial research that involves boosting the infectivity and lethality of a pathogen.

PROPONENTS SAY: It helps researchers spot potential threats to human health and allows them to figure out ways to tackle a new virus.

Dr. Fauci has advocated for gain-of-function research in the past, including a 2011 op-ed he co-wrote that promoted it as a means to study influenza viruses.

CRITICS SAY: It's a risky endeavor that puts human lives at stake.

In 2014, the US government paused new funding of gain-of-function research on influenza, MERS and SARS to address concerns about risks and benefits.

The pause was backed by over 300 scientists called the Cambridge Working Group.

In December 2017, the US government lifted the pause and announced a new framework called 'Potential Pandemic Pathogen Care and Oversight' for evaluating whether funding should be granted.

Research for 'enhanced potential pandemic pathogens' would be allowed if it was 'essential to protecting global health and security.'

The review process is highly classified, and names of reviewers or details of the experiments are not released.
Gain-of-function research is a controversial field that involves collecting dangerous viruses and genetically modifying them to be more deadly, in order to study the risks of future outbreaks.

Richard H. Ebright, a professor at Rutgers, has compared the field of gain-of-function research to 'looking for a gas leak with a lighted match.'

The Vanity Fair article also noted serious concerns about safety and upkeep at the Wuhan lab facilities that handle hundreds of strains of bat coronaviruses.

In 2019, in an article pleading for more funding, top Wuhan scientist Yuan Zhiming describes widespread deficiencies in biosafety training in China's biosafety-level 3 labs.

Zhiming noted that 'most laboratories lack specialized biosafety managers and engineers.'

He also wrote: 'Maintenance cost is generally neglected; several high-level [BSL-3 labs] have insufficient operating funds for routine, yet vital processes... some BSL-3 laboratories run on extremely minimal operational costs or in some cases none at all.'

David Feith, former deputy assistant secretary of state in the East Asia bureau, told Vanity Fair, 'The story of why parts of the U.S. government were not as curious as many of us think they should have been is a hugely important one.

'You had Chinese [government] coercion and suppression,' Feith told Vanity Fair. 'We were very concerned that they were covering it up and whether the information coming to the World Health Organization was reliable.'

One of thousands of Director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci's emails released this week was a February 17, 2020 email from woman who said China was underreporting COVID-19's spread and death totals.

She said she got her information from a Chinese exchange student in contact with a Chinese nurse.

DiNanno told Vanity Fair how the probe into the lab leak theory was thwarted at every turn, with hostile and antagonistic technical staff warning him not to open 'Pandora's box.'

Things came to a head at a meeting on December 9, when State Department staff met to discuss what the department could or should say publicly about the Wuhan lab.

Peter Daszak 2

British-born Peter Daszak, 55, is the president of EcoHealth Alliance, the nonprofit that funneled US grant money to gain-of-function research at WIV and elsewhere. He is seen above participating in the World Health Organization's investigation in Wuhan
According to people at the meeting, Christopher Park, the director of the State Department's Biological Policy Staff in the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, advised that people shouldn't say anything that would point to the U.S. government's own role in gain-of-function research.

The Vanity Fair article said Park, a Trump appointee like DiNanno, had been involved in lifting a U.S. government moratorium on funding for gain-of-function research in 2017.

The acting undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security at the time, Chris Ford, was hostile to an investigation, according to officials.

In a January 2021 memo, Ford pushed back against an initial probe from a panel of experts, because he believed it contained weak evidence.

'I would also caution you against suggesting that there is anything inherently suspicious — and suggestive of biological warfare activity — about People's Liberation Army (PLA) involvement at WIV on classified projects,' the memo said.

'[I]t would be difficult to say that military involvement in classified virus research is intrinsically problematic, since the U.S. Army has been deeply involved in virus research in the United States for many years.'

DiNanno then hit back with his own memo, arguing that Ford was misrepresenting the panel's finding. He also objected to previous warnings about not investigating because of the risk of opening a can of worms.

Shi Zhengli

'Bat lady' Shi Zhengli works with other researchers in a lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan in a file photo. She has published research on gain-of-function experiments
Pompeo hits out at Fauci for parroting the same 'crazy talk' theories as China about COVID origins and says NIH tried to thwart his State Department probe

Former Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has hit out at Dr Anthony Fauci for parroting the same 'crazy talk' excuses and theories as China about the origins of the COVID-19 outbreak and says the National Institute of Health tried to thwart the State Department's investigation.

Pompeo addressed the fight to uncover the origins of COVID-19 following a bombshell Vanity Fair report that revealed some State Department officials had advised against investigating the possibility virus leaked from a Wuhan lab.

In an interview with Fox News' The Ingraham Angle on Thursday night, Pompeo said it was no surprise that some within the State Department tried to suppress the probe because they didn't like President Trump or himself.

He added that he had to deal with a lot of internal bureaucracy and debate from the NIH.

Pompeo also criticized Fauci, who runs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases under the NIH, for suggesting that China has an interest in the US discovering how the outbreak started.

''To hear Fauci... talk about how the Chinese have an interest in us discovering what happened is just crazy talk. The Chinese have a deep interest in covering it up. They have done so pretty darn effectively,' he said.

Pompeo said there was 'overwhelming evidence' that supports the theory - touted regularly by Trump but initially dismissed by many experts - that COVID-19 likely escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Mike Pompeo

Former Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday addressed the fight to uncover the origins of COVID-19 following new report that exposed the tug-of-war

'When you heard Dr Fauci... those are the exact same words, the exact same excuses, the exact same theories that the Chinese Communist Party has presented for over a year now.

'He implies good faith for the Chinese Communist Party. Here we are on the 32nd anniversary of Tiananmen Square where we saw the brutality of this regime. For Dr Fauci to go out and think the Chinese Community Party cared that there were people in Wuhan that were dying, whether it was Chinese people or Americans, is just naïve beyond all possible imagination.

'The Chinese Communist Party doesn't care for a moment. They have no desire for the world to know what happened. They could clear this all up in a minute if they wanted to, they've chosen not to.

'I think that's another link in the chain that demonstrates that when we get to the end of this, we will have demonstrated the Chinese knew what had happened and their virology lab was at the center of it.'

Pompeo wouldn't speculate on China's intention or the potential coverup.

'But we know this: They don't want you to know. That suggests to me that we should give them no benefit of the doubt and we should impose enormous costs of the Chinese Community Party until they come clean about what happened inside their country,' he said.

Pompeo went on to praise the work of a group of State Department officials, specifically Yu who speaks Mandarin, who he says worked diligently to investigate the origins.

The Vanity Fair report revealed that Yu was translating and 'mirroring' documentation he found on the Wuhan Institute of Virology's website so he could compile a dossier of questions for Pompeo about the research.

Pompeo acknowledged that he received an 'extensive piece of work' from Yu in April last year that they then worked to get declassified.

'There were folks all over that community who just didn't want to talk about this, who wanted to stay focused on other things. They didn't want the world to know the Chinese Communist Party was in the process of covering up,' Pompeo said of Yu's dossier.

'We can all draw our own conclusions... We had a group in the State Department - Miles Yu, a handful of others - who were working diligently to get this information out to the American people so the world could see what the Chinese Communist Party had done to all of us.'