A Suspected Smuggler with 3 Medical Vials Stopped at U.S Airport

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In late November an unnamed Chinese scientist was stopped by Security personnel at Detroit Metro Airport for three medical vials marked “Antibodies” after they were discovered in his luggage. 

The man stated that it was his job was to deliver the vials to a researcher at a U.S. institute as requested by a colleague in China.

Yahoo confirmed that after the vials were confiscated, customs agents raised the alarm suspecting that the vials may contain viable Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) materials, according to the inscription on the vials, as reported by an unclassified FBI tactical intelligence report.

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The report drafted by the Chemical and Biological Intelligence Unit of the FBI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate (WMDD) reported that the occurrence included two other cases, which formed a disturbing “pattern.”

The WMDD inspects foreign scientific researchers transporting undeclared biological materials into the United States, either in their luggage or on their person.

This report was released more than two months before the World Health Organization (WHO) was informed of the pneumonia cases in Wuhan. The virus was later identified as COVID-19.

A larger concern is China’s involvement with scientific research in the U.S. which the FBI is keeping under tight control.

The report mainly refers to “foreign researchers” regardless of the fact that all three cases are Chinese nationals.

The intelligence report also cited a classified document marked “FISA,” in the case of the (MERS,) (SARS) case. It is data gathered under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

There is a very real ongoing threat of Chinese nationals smuggling biological samples and it’s more than likely that the carrier usually is someone who is ignorant of the mission, which makes it difficult for authorities to determine the intent. “Someone who is “deliberate” will most likely test our ability to identify and intercept. Others could be opportunistic,” Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert Spalding, said who formerly worked on the National Security Council under the Trump administration.”

Concerns about smuggling and Chinese biosafety is not a new thing. The SARS outbreak in 2003 was followed by several incidents of infections caused by laboratory mishaps. It included eight cases that followed from the ineptitude of researchers 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,” Elsa Kania, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, said. “It’s not limited to Chinese researchers though, even if those cases have been prominent. 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,” Kania said.

Medical vials & syringe

Biosafety precautions have been a long-standing issue but since the coronavirus pandemic tensions have no doubt fuelled the flames between Beijing and Washington, which comes at a most inauspicious time, just as U.S.-China relations are spiking over trade to spying. 

Tensions can be literally be ‘cut with a knife,’ and more so recently when President Trump called the COVID-19 coronavirus “the Chinese Virus,” and to make it worse some media outlets directly named it “The CCP virus.”

Photo: Rete Liberale

In a military game, Beijing’s Propaganda machine now promotes conspiracy theories by claiming that the virus originated in a U.S. weapons lab.

Scientists claim that the virus is not a weapon, “There’s no basis to suspect it’s a laboratory construct, “Richard Ebright, one professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University said. “It has none of the expected signatures that would be present for deliberate construction.”

However, Ebright’s views don’t exclude that the spread of the virus’s spread could have begun from poor biosecurity in a lab in China. The main theory is that the virus jumped from wildlife to humans. Speculations are that this happened at a live-animal/wet market in Wuhan, Hubei Province where live exotic species are sold. Nevertheless, wildlife viruses are often put in laboratories, for the purpose of research. “Therefore, it’s also a possibility that this virus entered the human population through accidental infection of a lab worker carrying out field collection, or an accident by a lab worker characterizing the sample in a laboratory,” the professor said.

Regardless, the FBI’s focus on China’s biosecurity is under heavy suspicion by the U.S. government concerning China’s study of biosciences. Several recent high-profile Law and Justice Department cases have thrown the spotlight on the export of “sensitive technology” that involves some Chinese scientists and persons directly tied to CCP authorities. 

Photo: InformationLiberation

The Justice Department announced in January charges were filed against Charles Lieber, the chair of Harvard’s department of chemistry and chemical biology. He was indicted for concealing ties to the Chinese government. “It’s a clear-cut case of a conflict of interest, and unfortunately, it’s not an isolated incident,” an FBI special agent said. 

Lieber is out on a $1 million bond.

Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, admitted that China has had loopholes in its biosafety regulations. ‘That’s why President Xi Jinping]in February talked about beefing up the legislation for biosafety and biosecurity,” he said. 

But, not everyone is convinced and behind closed doors, relations are being held back as enmity and suspicion between the two countries continue to grow.

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