Samples of the suspected SARS virus and influenza were found in Chinese scientists’ luggage arriving in the U.S., according to an unclassified FBI tactical intelligence report obtained by Yahoo News.
“Inspection of the writing on the vials and the stated recipient led inspection personnel to believe the materials contained within the vials may be viable Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) materials,” the report said.
The report, written by the Chemical and Biological Intelligence Unit of the FBI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate (WMDD), does not give the name of the Chinese scientist carrying the suspected SARS and MERS samples, or the intended recipient in the U.S. But the FBI concluded that the incident, and two other cases cited in the report, were part of an alarming pattern.
“The Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate assesses foreign scientific researchers who transport undeclared and undocumented biological materials into the United States in their personal carry-on and/or checked luggage almost certainly present a US biosecurity risk,” reads the report. “The WMDD makes this assessment with high confidence based on liaison reporting with direct access.”
The report, which came out more than two months before the World Health Organization learned of a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan that turned out to be COVID-19, appears to be part of a larger FBI concern about China’s involvement with scientific research in the U.S..While the report refers broadly to foreign researchers, all three cases cited involve Chinese nationals.
There have been numerous reports that the coronavirus may have emerged from a lab in Wuhan, China. In February, the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology put out a directive titled: “Instructions on strengthening biosecurity management in microbiology labs that handle advanced viruses like the novel coronavirus.”
It turns out that in all of China there is only one such lab, the New York Post wrote. “And this one is located in the Chinese city of Wuhan that just happens to be . . . the epicenter of the epidemic.”
That’s right. China’s only Level 4 microbiology lab that is equipped to handle deadly coronaviruses, called the National Biosafety Laboratory, is part of the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
What’s more, the People’s Liberation Army’s top expert in biological warfare, a Maj. Gen. Chen Wei, was dispatched to Wuhan at the end of January to help with the effort to contain the outbreak.
According to the PLA Daily, Gen. Chen has been researching coronaviruses since the SARS outbreak of 2003, as well as Ebola and anthrax. This would not be her first trip to the Wuhan Institute of Virology either, since it is one of only two bioweapons research labs in all of China.