Deep Background
April 1, 2021

Code and Dagger: Ex-CIA Man in Beijing: WHO Report on COVID Origins ‘Not Too Surprising’

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Mintz Group’s Managing Partner Randal Phillips is quoted in a Code and Dagger Article by Lee Ferran titled, ‘Ex-CIA Man in Beijing: WHO Report on COVID Origins ‘Not Too Surprising.’

A much-anticipated report from a joint investigation by World Health Organization and Chinese scientists into the origins of the novel coronavirus reportedly leaves many questions unanswered and has reignited others about the Chinese government’s influence on the probe. It’s one reason a former senior CIA official in China told Code and Dagger it’s unlikely the world will ever have a “consensus” on the origins of the deadly microbe.

“Indeed the WHO report is not too surprising, given the very significant pressure the Chinese have employed to get their narrative into the mix, particularly trying to sow some element of doubt that COVID-19 even originated in China,” said Randal Phillips, who was CIA station chief in Beijing from 2009 to 2011, the last posting of a 28-year CIA career in Asia.

Phillips, who lived in Beijing for years after leaving the CIA, appeared to reference a part of the report, which was obtained by several news organizations, that says it was a possibility that the virus was imported into China from another country via frozen foods and that it may have been circulating in other countries before it was first identified in Wuhan.

Those sections, Phillips said, “are all intended to muddy the waters.”

The draft findings have also come under criticism for not fully investigating whether the virus may have escaped from a Chinese virology lab in Wuhan that was reportedly studying coronaviruses and had been the subject of concern by U.S. State Department officials prior to the outbreak.

U.S. officials, from the Trump administration through the Biden administration, have been highly critical of China’s efforts to downplay its role in the outbreak and the government’s failure to fully cooperate with international investigators.

“We’ve got real concerns about the methodology and the process that went into that report, including the fact that the government in Beijing apparently helped to write it,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a CNN interview.

Chinese officials have denied the allegations, and in turn accused the U.S. of trying to influence the scientists through their own public criticism.

The WHO report did call for further investigations into just where the coronavirus came from, including the theories discouraged by the Chinese government. But Phillips suggested that based on his experience in the country, he’s not overly optimistic.

“It’s not particularly likely that there will ever be a consensus on the origins of COVID,” he said.

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