FBI: In 2018, CBP agents stopped Chinese national with three mysterious vials in his luggage

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In November 2018, just over a year before the Chinese coronavirus came to the world’s attention in Wuhan, China, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents (you know, the ones that AOC and the Squad want to get rid of) stopped a Chinese biologist with three vials labeled “Antibodies” in his luggage at Detroit Metro Airport, Law Enforcement Today has learned via Yahoo News.

According to Yahoo, the biologist advised the agents that he had been asked to deliver the vials to a researcher at a U.S. institute by a colleague. After examining the vials however, customs agents became concerned.

“Inspection of the writing on the vials and the stated recipient lead inspection personnel to believe the materials within the vials may be viable Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) materials,” says an unclassified FBI tactical intelligence report that was obtained by Yahoo News.

In a written report by the Chemical and Biological Intelligence Unit of the FBI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate, it does not mention the name of the Chinese scientist carrying the suspected SARS and MERS samples, nor the intended recipient in the U.S.

However, the FBI concluded that the incident, as well as 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 represent a US biosecurity risk,” reads the report.

“The WMDD makes this assessment with high confidence based on liaison reporting with direct access.”

FBI: In 2018, CBP agents stopped Chinese national with three mysterious vials in his luggage

The report offers yet another red flag about Chinese involvement with the pandemic currently gripping the world aside from the claim that it started in a so-called “wet market” in the province of Wuhan.

The report came out more than two months before the World Health Organization, which has been covering for China’s involvement, learned of a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan that turned out to be COVID-19.

It also appears to indicate a larger FBI concern with China’s involvement with scientific research in the U.S. While the report only broadly refers to foreign researchers, all three cases involve Chinese nationals.

 In the case of the vials which were suspected to be SARS and MERS, the intelligence report cites another classified document that is marked “FISA.”

In other words, it contains information collected under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. In yet another case cited in the report, it mentioned flu strains, while a third was suspected E. coli.

FBI: In 2018, CBP agents stopped Chinese national with three mysterious vials in his luggage

FBI: In 2018, CBP agents stopped Chinese national with three mysterious vials in his luggage

While the FBI does not indicate precisely what type of biosecurity risk these cases could present, Raina MacIntyre, a professor of global biosecurity at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia said the FBI appears to be concerned with dual-use research that would be used for bioterrorism.

She also notes that if the prohibited samples cited in the report were being transported into the U.S., it is likely that the traffic went in both directions.

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“How do you know what they’re bringing in and out unless you have a comprehensive surveillance point?” she asked.

“If it’s going one way, it’s going the other way. You’d be very naïve to assume otherwise.”

Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert Spalding worked on China issues on the National Security Council under the Trump Administration.

He said “there is a threat” posed by Chinese nationals carrying biological samples, but believes it’s “likely the carrier…would be someone who is unwitting,” making it difficult to determine what the intention was.

“Some likely could be deliberate, to test our ability to identify and intercept. Others could be opportunistic,” he said.

The report cited by the FBI refers to both biosecurity, which typically refers to the intentional misuse of pathogens, such as for bioterrorism, and biosafety, which covers accidental release. The FBI declined to comment on the report.

Concerns about biosafety where it concerns China is not new.

For instance, the SARS outbreak in 2003 was followed by several incidents of infections caused by laboratory accidents, including eight cases that resulted from mishandling at the Chinese Institute of Virology in Beijing.

“There have been cases in the past where a variant of some kind of flu pandemic had escaped from a laboratory because of mismanagement,” said Elsa Kania, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

While the cases involving the Chinese have been more conspicuous, the issue is not solely limited to Chinese researchers.

Kania continued:

“Certainly it is a biosecurity risk when anyone is transporting materials in a manner that is clandestine because…there have been several incidents when this has occurred with researchers of a variety of nationalities.”

Since tensions were already high between the US and China over matters such as trade, the coronavirus outbreak is likely to strain the relationship even more. Concerns about China’s breach of biosafety precautions have been longstanding, and this can only add to those concerns.

Andrew Weber, who worked during the Obama administration as the assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs, said the relationship with China in biological sciences has degraded over recent years.

“After SARS, when China needed technical help, it had a strong relationship with the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]. They were transparent, because they realized covering up an outbreak cost them dearly,” said Weber, now a senior fellow at the Council on Strategic Risks.

“In recent years, they’ve tightened up, making international cooperation more difficult.”

The last few weeks have seen an escalation in tensions between Washington and Beijing, as President Trump has [rightly] referred to the coronavirus as the “Chinese” or “Wuhan” virus, much to the dismay of Democrats, who referred to the comments as racist, and used the same word to describe the president’s travel ban from China.

Trump looks pretty smart now, Democrats. While President Trump was looking at the coronavirus, Democrats were focused on their impeachment hoax. 

Meanwhile, the Chinese have dreamed up random conspiracy theories that the virus was a plant from a U.S. Army weapons lab. Fortunately, not too many outside of the Chinese communists are buying it.

Scientists have said and actually been adamant that the virus is not a weapon, either from the United States or China (sorry, not buying it).

“There’s no basis to suspect it’s a laboratory construct,” says Richard Ebright, a professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University. “It has none of the expected signatures that would be present for deliberate constriction.”

Ebright doesn’t exclude the possibility, however that the virus’s spread started from poor biosecurity in China.

A leading theory states that the virus jumped from wildlife to humans, believing that it happened at a live-animal, or “wet” market, where exotic species such as bats (what could possibly go wrong) are sold as food.

Ebright also notes that such wildlife viruses are collected in laboratories, including that in Wuhan.

“Therefore it’s also a possibility that this virus entered the human population through accidental infection of a lab worker carrying out a field collection, or an accident by a lab worker characterizing the sample in a laboratory,” he said.

The Justice Department has been involved in several cases involving the export of sensitive technology which involved Chinese scientists, or persons with alleged ties to the Chinese government.

Two months ago, Law Enforcement Today reported on a Justice Department indictment against a Harvard professor, Charles Lieber. Lieber, the chair of Harvard’s department of chemistry and chemical biology was indicted for concealing ties to the Chinese government.

Far-left Harvard professor arrested by feds, accused of lying about ties to China
Far-left Harvard professor arrested by feds, accused of lying about ties to China

“It’s a clear-cut case of a conflict of interest and unfortunately, it’s not an isolated incident,” said FBI special agent Joseph R. Bonavolonta, head of the Boston field office when he announced the charges.

Lieber has not yet entered a plea in the case and is free on a $1 million bond.

Of course, the “R” word has come out among academics where it concerns the government’s focus on China and Chinese scientists.

“I am concerned that the current trend in national security is toward profiling against people of Chinese descent,” said Nicholas Evans, an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell who specializes in medical ethics.

“That’s not only racist it’s bad practice. FBI and other intelligence and law enforcement attempts at profiling have very often been harmful without making us any safer.”

Just curious. We wonder how the professor feels about American citizens getting profiled by police, in say, Rhode Island? You now, New York residents who are being stopped at the border or having the National Guard and police hunt them down in Rhode Island to make sure they are quarantined, BECAUSE of a virus FROM China?

Evans questioned the FBI’s focus on scientists hand-carrying biological samples as a unique threat. He pointed to a U.S. lab in Maine that was fined over ten years ago for importing highly pathogenic avial flu viruses from Saudi Arabia.

“I am skeptical about the degree to which this particular behavior adds significant risks to security given that there are many other ways to get biological organisms into the country.”

Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said it’s true that China has long had loopholes in its biosafety regulations. That history has already encouraged rumors like the idea that the coronavirus originated as a bioweapon. 

Now, with relations between China and the U.S. deteriorating, Huang expects collaboration on biological research to grow even more difficult, reversing decades of cooperation.

“I often argue that U.S. engagement with China is the most successful in the area of public health,” he said. Such cooperation even survived the difficult period after the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

Now, however, those relations are being set back as hostilities between the two countries grow over a plethora of issues, with the pandemic outbreak being the most recent and most serious. 

“You could argue, health is borderless, especially when two countries face these common challenges. This would be a time for them to collaborate mostly closely,” he said. “That turned out to not be the case.”

Not the case. Very interesting that China has taken an adversarial approach when it comes to a worldwide pandemic that they started. One would think that they would be going out of their way to help. 

Strange indeed. 

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