A shocking report suggesting that the coronavirus has been “released”[d from] The Wuhan Institute of Virology in China is now in circulation in US military and intelligence circles and on Capitol Hill. However, a daily beast analysis shows that the report has a critical error: some of the most convincing evidence that appears to be convincing is false – demonstrably wrong.
Several congressional committees have received and are reviewing the 30-page report prepared by the Multi-Agency Collaboration Environment (MACE), part of Sierra Nevada, a key contractor for the Department of Defense. The report claims to rely on social media posts, commercial satellite imagery, and location data from mobile phones to conclude that a “dangerous event”
However, the report’s claim focuses on missing location data for up to seven Phones – and in many cases less. The sample size is too small to prove much, especially if the same devices had similar absences in spring 2019. The MACE document claims a conference in November 2019 was canceled because of an accident. There are actually selfies from the event.
In addition, images collected by DigitalGlobe’s Maxar Technologies satellites and made available to The Daily Beast provide a simpler, less exotic reason why analysts believed that after the alleged accident, “roadblocks” were created in the laboratory: the Road construction. The Maxar pictures also show typical working days with normal traffic patterns in the laboratory after the allegedly catastrophic event.
“This is an illustrated guide on how open source analysis cannot be done,” said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Non-Proliferation Program at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, who analyzed the MACE report for The Daily Beast. “It is filled with comparisons between apples and oranges, motivated considerations, and the complete refusal to consider worldly explanations or to put the data in any context.”
A Defense Department spokesman told The Daily Beast that MACE had not prepared the report “in coordination with the Department of Defense.” Sierra Nevada did not respond to a request for comment.
The document, which NBC News first published and reported on May 8, came to Capitol Hill a few days after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview that there was “tremendous evidence” that the virus came from the Wuhan laboratory .
Members of the Senate Armed Forces Committee were informed of the report by MACE earlier this month after Pompeo’s comments, according to two congressional assistants familiar with the matter. The report then went to the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Several congress committees have asked MACE to meet and discuss its product. Members have also asked senior Trump administration officials to answer questions about whether they trust the report and agree with its claims.
According to Senate assistants who checked the document, there appear to be problems with the analysis. One of these sources said the report “failed the odor test”. Another source of Congress told The Daily Beast that the report “is not based on actual intelligence.”
The MACE document is being released as part of a concerted effort to blame Beijing for the coronavirus pandemic. And its existence is confirmation that government funds are now being used to research this proposal, even if the actual intelligence remains far less conclusive. While there is broad agreement that COVID-19 originated in China, The New York Times reported that top Trump administration members have urged US intelligence agencies to look for Chinese government guilt and investigate Wuhan laboratory theory.
President Trump told reporters earlier this month that the virus escaped the Wuhan laboratory because “someone was stupid.” Since then, the administration has not released evidence to support this theory. Foreign officials and members of Trump’s own corona virus task force have pushed back. Dr. Anthony Fauci said the virus originated “in the wild”.
“Everything about the gradual development over time strongly indicates this [this virus] developed in nature and then jumped species, ”said the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases National Geographic.
The MACE document suggests that the Chinese authorities blocked traffic around the Wuhan laboratory in mid-October. The authors give readers the impression that an alleged decrease in local traffic shows that Chinese officials have recognized that a leak has occurred and tried to prevent passers-by from becoming infected. “Roadblocks are believed to have been installed to prevent traffic from getting close to the facility,” the document said.
“This is an illustrated guide on how you cannot do open source analysis. It is filled with comparisons of apples to oranges, motivated considerations, and a complete refusal to consider worldly explanations.”
– – Jeffrey Lewis from the Center for Nonproliferation Studies
In particular, the authors pointed to a decrease in cell phone location data from a freeway that leads past the laboratory shortly after the alleged incident. “There was absolutely no traffic” near the facility from October 14-19, the document said.
But that’s just not the case. This conclusion is contradicted by satellite imagery provided to The Daily Beast by DigitalGlobe’s Maxar satellites. The images taken on October 17th show vehicles on the street next to the facility, in the laboratory parking lot near the BSL-4 laboratory where a leak is said to have occurred, and in nearby buildings. “The traffic pattern visible on October 17, 2019 is identical to the traffic pattern on other days. People are still coming to work, ”said Lewis.
The Maxar images also show why MACE analysts may have believed that there were roadblocks around the facility. It shows the construction of a highway near the Wuhan laboratory, which is scheduled for completion in October.
“These closures and roadblocks are much more related to construction work that we know is taking place. For what it’s worth there are cars and buses in neighboring companies on October 17th – so I imagine that part of the lack of data could be related to collection issues, as it appears that people are at work were, ”said Lewis.
MACE analysts tried to establish a “life pattern” in the Wuhan laboratory to find out what they thought was an anomaly that was allegedly caused by a leak. The MACE document shows the apparent movement of Wuhan laboratory personnel into and out of the facility until October, when the alleged leak occurred. Analysts wrote on a slide that there was an “18-day gap” in which “no observable events” of equipment in the laboratory occurred between October 6 and 24, allegedly indicating an accidental leak.
They do not seem to have been aware of an important cultural factor that complicates the normal course of events: a vacation. “The first week of October is a golden week in China that will disrupt this pattern,” said Lewis.
Using up to seven mobile devices to determine the life pattern in the laboratory may also have hindered the analysis.
“The number of mobile phones involved is extremely small – most months are two or less unique devices,” said Lewis. “Note that there were no devices or pings in March and April 2019. Should we conclude that there was also an accident in the spring? It is far more likely that one or two phones that regularly go near the lab, on vacation, got sick, or lost their phone. (These are all things that have happened in my family in the past year.) ”
The Daily Beast asked analysts from award-winning open source news channel Bellingcat to review the MACE dossier and evaluate the quality of its conclusions. Within minutes of receiving the dossier, Bellingcat’s lead investigator, Nick Waters, disproved one of the MACE document’s claims: a conference scheduled for the first week of November to manage biosafety laboratories at the Wuhan laboratory was canceled.
Waters found a Facebook post from a Pakistani scientist who took part in the event and took selfies there, including in the BSL-3 laboratory. The conference actually took place, as NBC reported for the first time.
“Whoever wrote this document is clearly confused about the nature of the open source information. Not only does the key information it contains appear to be not open source, a simple search on Facebook can also disprove one of the most important principles of valuation, ”Waters told The Daily Beast.
He also dealt with one of the many amateur elements in the MACE presentation. “Perhaps the authors should have spent more time testing their analysis than figuring out how to cut Sauron’s eye into a logo copied from the Internet,” said Waters.
As the MACE document circulates through America’s chambers of power, a second dossier has searched the Wuhan laboratory for the outbreak of the corona virus caused a sensation in Australia. The daily telegraph, one of the most read newspapers in Australia, was the first to claim that it had received the “dossier” and published one Front page The story of political editor Sharri Markson on May 2, entitled “China’s Batty Science”, which she describes as “worldwide exclusive” and reports on a “bombshell dossier”, describes the case against the People’s Republic. Rupert Murdoch’s paper exploded five pages of explosive claims that COVID-19 came from a laboratory in Wuhan and that the laboratory and its scientists were now “under investigation by the Five Eyes intelligence community”. referring to the partnership for the exchange of information between the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain
Since then, former Australian foreign ministers and media around the world have openly questioned the origins and intentions of the dossier, suggesting that it has leaked The daily telegraph US interests that want to believe Trump and Pompeo’s claims. “It appears that the US embassy has presented a pre-packaged report to an Australian newspaper, inflating unsubstantiated claims that the COVID19 virus has hatched in a Chinese laboratory in Wuhan,” said former Australian Secretary of State Bob Carr The Sydney Morning Herald.
“Perhaps the authors should have spent more time testing their analysis than figuring out how to cut Sauron’s eye into a logo copied from the Internet.”
– – Nick Waters from Bellingcat
“This is not a secret intelligence. It has not been relayed to Australia by any of Five Eyes’ major intelligence agencies, nor has it been generated by Australian intelligence agencies. Some of these things that are sold are nonsense, ”Neil Fergus, a Sydney-based security expert at Intelligent Risks, told The Daily Beast.
The State Department has not commented on the record of this story. The House Foreign Affairs Committee has contacted the Australian government for additional information on the “dossier,” said a congressional assistant.
Officials in the United States and Australia describe both the “dossier” and the MACE document in a similar way and believe that both are based on similar methods of data collection. Asked for the “dossier” The Australian official told The Daily Beast: “It’s a dead story here – it wasn’t taken seriously.” A U.S. intelligence official described it as “a series of open source facts strung together”.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has repeatedly stated that there is no information to support the theory that COVID-19 comes from a laboratory in Wuhan.
“What we have in front of us does not suggest that this is the likely source,” Morrison replied to Trump’s comments that the virus came from a Wuhan laboratory. “There is nothing to suggest that this was the likely source, although you cannot rule out anything in these environments.”
“We know it started in China, we know it started in Wuhan. The most likely scenario that was advertised relates to wet wildlife markets, but that’s a matter that needs to be carefully considered,” added Morrison added.
The United States, Australia and the United Kingdom have asked China to allow an independent investigation into the origins of the virus. China has refused. And no wonder: Beijing has been credibly accused of covering up the severity of the virus since the earliest days of the outbreak.
According to a Department of Homeland Security report earlier this month from the Associated Press, China has withheld information about the virus – including its spread and ability to kill – to provide much-needed medical supplies to the rest of the world. And it seems the government has also misled the international community over the death toll. In mid-April, Beijing said officials in Wuhan had increased the number of deaths by 50 percent.
It is therefore not surprising that some are wondering whether China has also misled the origins of COVID-19. Trump and Pompeo’s claims have troubled State Department officials who say the secretary, in particular, is going too fast to publicly close what intelligence officials around the world are either trying to understand or have found inaccurate.
Pompeo’s public statements have already started to disrupt diplomatic relations, officials recently told The Daily Beast when foreign officials in Australia and elsewhere told their US counterparts that the secretary’s statements would make it difficult to get China to do so to agree to an investigation.
Defend your work, The Daily Telegraphs Markson, who won several Walkley Awards, Australia’s highest journalist award, appeared in Steve Bannon’s podcast War Room: Pandemic on May 12. The former Trump campaign manager asked her about skepticism about the legitimacy of the dossier she reported on.
“Now in Australia there are really strong attacks from the left that are almost on China’s side here. You want a question about how I got the dossier, ”she said.