The National Security Council received a warning about the Wuhan Institute of Virology two years before the deadly coronavirus pandemic, according to an email obtained by U.S. Right to Know.
Concerns about China’s first maximum security lab and bat coronaviruses had reached the highest levels of the U.S. national security apparatus by December 2017 — two years before COVID-19 first emerged in Wuhan.
Two State Department cables described a shortage of safety training at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the danger posed by novel coronaviruses in 2018.
The cables outlined details about the shortage of adequately trained staff, Wuhan Institute of Virology senior scientist Zhengli Shi’s rejected request to study coronaviruses at the highest biocontainment level, and the discovery of novel SARS-like bat coronaviruses that bind to human receptors.
The cables generated a public outcry after the Washington Post reported them in April 2020.
They also generated quiet astonishment within the State Department, according to emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. The emails also show the apparent indignation of the official who authored the cables.
According to that official, whose name is redacted, the information had been communicated to the “NSC.”
“Too bad I couldn’t get anyone to listen even with front channel cables and letters from the Ambassador to the NSC,” the official wrote.
“NSC” refers to the White House’s National Security Council.
Former Ambassador to China Terry Branstad sent a letter about the matter to Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert in December 2017, a former administration official confirmed.
U.S. Right to Know has not obtained the letter from Branstad to Bossert.
By April 2018, Bossert had been ousted by the newly appointed National Security Advisor John Bolton.
By May 2018, Bolton dissolved the Global Health Security and Biodefense unit and consolidated some of its members into a team with a broader mandate, according to press reports. The move was part of a NSC shakeup that involved more isolated decision making, fewer interagency meetings, and less regular order, according to critics.
Bossert and Bolton did not respond to requests for comment.
“I actually forgot about these cables my team and I did in Beijing back in 2018 until very recently and just tracked down a copy,” the State Department official wrote. “Too bad no one paid attention to the point we were trying to make with these cables! The world would be a different place if we had.”
“Geez, I shall call you Cassandra from now on,” another email reads, a reference to the Greek myth about unheeded prophesies.
“The prescience in that cable is amazing/scary,” a third email states.
U.S. Right to Know obtained the documents reported in this article through Freedom of Information Act litigation against the State Department. All of the documents obtained in the course of our investigation into the origins of Covid-19 can be reviewed here.