Blob, CCP Virus, Central Intelligence Agency, China, CIA, coronavirus, COVID 19, intelligence community, Mainstream Media, Mike Pompeo, MSM, Our So-Called Foreign Policy, The New York Times, Trump, U.S. intelligence, Wuhan labs, Wuhan virus
The head-shaking problems with yesterday’s New York Times article on the Trump administration, the intelligence agencies, and the CCP Virus, start with the headline. Instead of “Trump Officials Are Said to Press Spies to Link Virus and Wuhan Labs,” it obviously should have been “Spies Investigating Virus Origin Proceeding Slowly and Grudgingly.” Because those were by far the most important alleged revelations it contained.
I say “alleged,” of course, because nearly all the new information the Times reporter team spotlighted is based on unnamed sources – which means it shouldn’t yet even be considered “information.” That doesn’t mean it’s not newsworthy. It simply means that this material amounts to what some intelligence officials, or other individuals who convinced the authors that they know the real story, for some (undisclosed reasons), want the reporters to make public. Sometimes this material turns out to be true and important, and sometimes it doesn’t qualify for either description. So we’ll just have to wait and see.
But even if the Times‘ findings are judged to be credible, it’s mind-boggling that the authors missed the real significance of what they were told – or at least it’s mind-boggling if you still consider the Mainstream Media as a reliable watchdog of democracy, rather than an appendage of the bipartisan, cross-institutional “Blob” that even a top Obama administration official complained had dominated both American implementation and even discussion of foreign policy matters for way too long.
For the bulk of the piece clearly shows that the Times‘ sources have real problems with the idea of the intelligence agencies spending much time and effort probing China’s responsibility for releasing an historic pandemic on Americans and the rest of the world.
Skeptical? Recall that this is a disease that’s now killed hundreds of thousands worldwide and, as widely noted recently, caused more fatalities than the Vietnam War – or soon will, as even those wondering about counting methodologies have to acknowledge. The official reaction has thrown 30 million Americans out of work already and almost certainly plunged the economy into a genuine depression that will reduce its growth and wealth- and opportunity-creating capacity for years.
In other words, the virus has inflicted far more damage on Americans than Islamic terrorists, Vladimir Putin, or whatever other threats the intelligence community is supposed to be monitoring.
Yet here’s what the article reported:
>”Senior Trump administration officials have pushed American spy agencies to hunt for evidence to support an unsubstantiated theory that a government laboratory in Wuhan….”
>”NBC News reported earlier that administration officials had directed intelligence agencies to try to determine whether China and the World Health Organization hid information early on about the outbreak.”
>”Richard Grenell, the acting director of national intelligence, has told his agencies to make a priority of determining the virus’s origin.”
In other words, despite the human and economic devastation wrought by the virus, readers are being told that the intelligence agencies weren’t exactly foaming at the mouth to figure out why these disasters happened. That’s tantamount to learning in early 1942 that the intelligence agencies needed to be directed to determine why Pearl Harbor happened. This is a situation the reporters are OK with? And believe has no major news value?
And the Times‘ unintentional revelations about blasé intelligence attitudes don’t stop there. For example, the article claims that “Most intelligence agencies remain skeptical that conclusive evidence of a link to a lab can be found….” and that “The C.I.A.’s judgment was based in part on the fact that no signs had emerged that the Chinese government believed the outbreak came from a lab.”
In addition, “Intelligence officials have repeatedly pointed out to the White House that determining the origins of the outbreak is fundamentally a scientific question that cannot be solved easily by spycraft” and “the agency has told policymakers it lacks enough information to either affirm or refute it. Only getting access to the lab itself and the virus samples it contains could provide definitive proof, if it exists….”
But the authors don’t even note that China has denied outside analysts of any kind access to the two Wuhan labs in question. Indeed, they simply treat is as a claim by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is maybe not-so-coincidentally portrayed as “the administration’s most vocal hard-liner on China” who “in particular has tried to hammer China over the lab.” In other words, a zealot.
Perhaps more important, what these passages indicate is that the intelligence agencies have no access to the labs because the Chinese have placed them off limits and America’s spies are…shrugging their shoulders? Patiently waiting for Beijing to open the doors? It’s like none of the spies, or other sources on which the Times relied, knows the definition of “spycraft.” Or is especially interested in its practice.
On the one hand, it should go without saying that if the nation’s intelligence agencies are trying to penetrate the labs surreptitiously, no one connected with them, and especially no one who knows the inside story, would breathe a syllable about such efforts, even on background. On the other hand, the lips who spoke to the Times seem pretty loose. Moreover, it’s odd that these Times reporters, who deal with these agencies and their practices all the time, didn’t themselves even mention a cover story as a possibility.
And regardless of what appears in the U.S. press, you need to assume that the Chinese are on the lookout for such espionage. Unless they’re feeling pretty confident in their ability to keep their secrets because, during the Obama administration, they “dismantled C.I.A. spying operations in the country starting in 2010, killing or imprisoning more than a dozen sources over two years and crippling intelligence gathering there for years afterward”?
Where did I read this contention, strongly indicating that U.S. intelligence agencies couldn’t penetrate the labs even if they wanted to? I read it in a 2017 story in The New York Times – written in part by two of the same reporters responsible for yesterday’s article. Yet somehow, this possibility never made it into yesterday’s piece.
Which raises the possibility that intelligence officials or their friends and well-wishers are pushing this tale of improper Trump administration pressure in order to hide their inability to reconstruct adequate China capabilities.
Yet there’s another possibility, and one that’s even more troubling: The Times‘ sources are really most concerned that, as the article conspicuously notes:
“Any American intelligence report blaming a Chinese institution and officials for the outbreak could significantly harm relations with China for years to come. And Trump administration officials could use it to try to prod other nations to publicly hold China accountable for coronavirus deaths even when the pandemic’s exact origins cannot be determined.”
In other words, these sources are first and foremost concerned with preserving what’s left of a pre-Trump China policy status quo with which virtually the entire American foreign policy establishment was entirely comfortable. And by the way – the Mainstream Media was entirely comfortable with that China policy, too.