skeptical authorities in public, distrustful in private

A wave of emails from the beginning of the pandemic exchanged by influential health authorities suggests that they worked to suppress the hypothesis of laboratory origin of the new coronavirus. The messages, previously legally censored, were released via the access to information law, following a court request made by independent journalist James Tobias. Those officials include Anthony Fauci, director of the infectious disease section of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, a large UK research funding organisation.

The 174 pages of emails bring revelations in detail of what was already known after the release of electronic correspondence last year, when more judicial censorship was carried out, with stripes over excerpts and sensitive information. Many of the censors were at the request of the NIH. It was already known, for example, of a crucial meeting of Fauci, Farrar and other scientists in February 2020. At the time, those who suspected that the Covid-19 virus had a laboratory origin expressed these doubts, but changed their minds in a few days .

One of the scientists, Kristian Andersen of the Scripps Institute, told Fauci in a January 31, 2020 email that “some of the characteristics [do vírus] (potentially) look like a product of engineering”. Another, Robert Garry, said days later: “I can’t understand how [essas
características] are achieved in nature”. A mere four years later, Andersen himself ridiculed the idea of ​​the laboratory origin of Covid-19, classifying it as “crazy theories”. When these messages were revealed, scientists defended themselves by saying they changed their minds because of new evidence.

The emails show, however, that the lab-based concerns were so serious that they considered talking to national security officials. In an email dated early February 1, 2020, Fauci told Farrar, Andersen and two NIH colleagues that “if everyone agrees with this concern, they should report it to the appropriate authorities. I imagine in the US they are the FBI and in the UK MI5.” MI5, the British intelligence agency, already had Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller as director general, who chaired the Wellcome Trust until 2021, being replaced by former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. In intelligence agent fashion, Farrar said in book that, during the e-mail period, he used a disposable telephone.

Another informative email is dated February 4, 2020, when Farrar sent Fauci and Francis Collins, director of the NIH, a draft of a scholarly paper that later became one of the most influential to the narrative that the origin hypothesis laboratory would be a “conspiracy theory”. After reading the draft, Fauci responded “?? serial pass [do
vírus] in transgenic mice with ACE2” (ACE2 is a human lung receptor molecule that allows the virus to enter cells, transgenic mice produce it). Farrar retorted “Exactly!” and Collins commented “Surely this wouldn’t be done in a laboratory with BSL-2?”, referring to an insufficient level of laboratory safety, just one level above the minimum, equivalent to dentist’s office protocols.

The date of the emails is important because it coincides with the time when the scientists say they changed their minds due to new evidence. They were working on a draft article that assured that the origin of the virus was linked only to wild animals. At the same time, however, in messages between them they expressed perplexity with laboratory protocols for coronavirus research in China and the level of security with which these experiments were carried out, both signs that could corroborate laboratory leaks.

Scholarly papers reveal that the US-funded Wuhan Institute of Virology was actually experimenting with coronaviruses at this exact level of safety. Farrar ended the conversation by referring to the institute as the “Old West…”, that is, a lawless place.

Despite all the misgivings expressed in these emails, the language of the academic paper published by the scientists was strong against any speculation towards a laboratory leak origin. The article was published in the magazine Nature Medicine on March 17, 2020. A similar article was published at the time in the medical journal The Lancet🇧🇷 Two years later, the
lancet backtracked and, after a report by a commission of its own, began to consider laboratory origin as a serious competitor to the hypothesis of purely natural origin.

Press secretary helps Fauci with tough question

Last week, Anthony Fauci was at a press conference at the White House. About to retire at the age of 81 next month, he was one of the main voices of the American state medical bureaucracy in both the Trump administration and the Biden administration. At Tuesday’s press conference (22) he did not respond to questions about what he did to investigate the origins of the new coronavirus, which causes Covid-19.

A US Congressional committee suggested in October that, at the moment, it is more plausible that the virus escaped from a Chinese laboratory that was using US research funds to study gain-of-function (altering the infectious capabilities of viruses through genetic engineering). There was a period of moratorium on funding for this type of research during the Obama and early Trump administrations. One of the gaps in the moratorium is that funds could be released by direct order from authorities like Fauci and Collins.

“What did you personally do to investigate the origins of Covid?”, asked Diana Glebova, a reporter for the conservative newspaper daily caller🇧🇷 Press secretary and spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre interrupted the press conference to scold the reporter.

“Wait a second. We have a process here. I will not call people who scream and you are being disrespectful to your colleagues and guests”, said Karine. “I will not call you [para fazer perguntas] if you scream and you’re taking time because dr. Fauci needs to leave in a few minutes.”

But some colleagues did not seem bothered by Diana’s posture, contrary to what was suggested by the spokeswoman. “Can we gain an answer?” contributed Kimberly Halkett of Al Jazeera. “We need an answer, Dr. Fauci, on the origins of Covid,” added Steven Nelson of the new york post, who also wanted to know “why are we still funding the EcoHealth Alliance, dr. Fauci? Why are they making millions of additional dollars?” — he refers to the NGO that acted as an intermediary of resources between the American government and the laboratories in China, whose funding was renewed in October.

Documents obtained by The intercept last year show that EcoHealth asked for funds before the pandemic to insert a molecular structure called a “furin cleavage site” into strains of coronavirus. None of the closest relatives of SARS-CoV-2, the Covid virus, found in nature has this structure, and therefore, suspicions of laboratory origin are raised. “She has a valid question. She is asking about the origins of Covid and Dr. Fauci is the best person to answer”, reinforced Simon Ateba, from Today News Africa🇧🇷 “I heard the question,” replied Karine, “but we’re not going to do this the way you want. It’s disrespectful. Simon, that’s enough. You are taking time away from your colleagues”, she finished her.

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