On August 27, President Biden received the Intelligence Community Assessment on the “Investigation into the Origins of Covid-19” from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). The conclusion is that “China’s officials did not have foreknowledge of the virus before the initial outbreak of COVID-19 emerged.” Furthermore, “the virus was not developed as a biological weapon.” The IC is modestly divided as to whether the virus was genetically engineered.

The assessment presents two hypotheses as being possible, “natural exposure to an infected animal and a laboratory-assisted incident.”

The President called on China to be transparent and shared his commitment to obtain a “full accounting of this global tragedy.”

ODNI conclusions on COVID-19

The ODNI concludes, “China’s cooperation most likely would be needed to reach a conclusive assessment of the origins of COVID-19. Beijing, however, continues to hinder the global investigation, resist sharing information and blame other countries, including the United States. These actions reflect, in part, China’s government’s own uncertainty about where an investigation could lead as well as its frustration the international community is using the issue to exert political pressure on China”

Markedly similar to that found within “Biden Tasks Intelligence Community to Answer Wuhan Questions” which is, “Until China engages in a more transparent 360-degree review and investigation, the root cause of the global COVID-19 pandemic remains a mystery, shrouded in China’s obfuscation.“

President Biden on the origin of COVID-19

President Biden was more pointed, in his statement released on August 27, he commented, “The world deserves answers, and I will not rest until we get them. Responsible nations do not shrink these kinds of responsibilities to the rest of the world.” He continued, “We will also continue to press the PRC to adhere to scientific norms and standards, including sharing information and data from the earliest days of the pandemic, protocols related to biosafety, and information from animal populations. We must have a full and transparent accounting of this global tragedy. Nothing less is acceptable.”

A new resource to assist in obtaining regional transparency went online on August 25 when Vice President Kamala Harris presided over the opening of the new CDC Southeast Asia Regional Office in Hanoi, Vietnam. The HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra noted how “Through this office, we will work closely with our regional partners to share strategies and strengthen each other’s ability to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats, today and in the future.”

COVID-19 is causing China to LOSE face

What is keeping China’s disinformation machine rolling and their obfuscation rampant?

In June, Secretary of State reached out to his counterpart Yang Jiechi and requested “cooperation and transparency over the origins of Covid-19. Yang, expressed China’s displeasure how some in the U.S. were spreading the story the virus leaked from a Wuhan laboratory.

What is keeping China’s disinformation machine rolling and their obfuscation rampant?

As the ODNI opined, China’s uncertain where the investigation will lead and their desire to not lose face to the entire global community, now that we are fast approaching the second anniversary of the first human case of COVID-19 in Wuhan, they are caught between the rock and the proverbial hard-spot as the world demands to know the cause of the global pandemic.

China is, as detailed in ClearanceJobs previously, knee deep in projecting disinformation and misinformation with the intent to muddy the waters. It is as if the government may have read the basic manual on dealing with an interrogation – “deny everything, make counter accusations”

To that end a peek at how China’s disinformation machine one need only look to the Doublethink Lab  Chinese disinformation primer which explains how mechanics of the Chinese efforts. Axios, took a deep dive into Doublethink Lab’s efforts and distilled the four modes of Chinese disinformation.

  • Propaganda mode: Distorted information broadcasted by news outlets, either Chinese state media or news outlets that have received hidden financial or other incentives to repackage China’s propaganda as legitimate news
  • Pink mode: Mobilizing Chinese nationalists online to post and amplify disinformation
  • Content farm mode: Using websites that aggregate low-quality, high-engagement articles to amplify and spread disinformation, often through Facebook, YouTube, and other social media platforms
  • Collaboration mode: Working closely with real online influencers in the target country to get them to share the desired messages through their platforms

Disinformation and Misdirection Efforts

Why is this important? From June through August 2021, while the ODNI was conducting its review on the origin of Covid-19, China was doubling down on their disinformation and misdirection efforts, adding to and amplifying the various narratives we shared here in June 2021 in Chinese media outlet, through paid placement using global influencers and state-owned media relationships and the ubiquitous social networks with their army of amplification accounts.

  • The virus originated in the Wuhan wild animal market
  • The virus was not associated with research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV)
  • The virus was imported from abroad and dismissing the WHO second phase study as stepping around this possibility
  • The virus was created at Fort Detrick and imported via visiting U.S. Army soldiers with respect to the origin of Covid and created a petition to the WHO signed by five million Chinese to open an investigation; and
  • The virus originated in Italy, is another narrative published in local media then amplified across social networks

Their Embassy in Washington D.C. wasted no time in issuing a lengthy statement, rehashing many of the above items in an effort to deflect from the ODNI report. The statement called the ODNI report, “a report fabricated by the U.S. intelligence community.” Then tried to save face by projecting China as having been “transparent” and ending with an admonishment for the U.S. to stop slinging mud.

China drives to know what others know

In addition, in July 2021, four Chinese MSS officers were indicted for their attempts to engage in cyberespionage targeting research institutes and universities involved in infectious disease research. While China races to learn what others know, they continue to crack down on their own citizens who publicly speak of contracting Covid-19, as evidenced by the arrests of citizens for “inappropriate comments” when they posted on Chinese social network WeChat, “I’ve tested positive for Covid.”

While Covid-19 continues its global spread, the key to understanding the origin of the pandemic remains in China’s hands, and it remains unlikely China will unlock the secret anytime soon.

 

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Christopher Burgess (@burgessct) is an author and speaker on the topic of security strategy. Christopher, served 30+ years within the Central Intelligence Agency. He lived and worked in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central Europe, and Latin America. Upon his retirement, the CIA awarded him the Career Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the highest level of career recognition. Christopher co-authored the book, “Secrets Stolen, Fortunes Lost, Preventing Intellectual Property Theft and Economic Espionage in the 21st Century” (Syngress, March 2008). He is the founder of securelytravel.com
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