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Perspectives on the Pandemic: VII
A Conversation with Investigative Journalist Sam Husseini
Interviewed by John Kirby and Libby Handros
The Press & The Public Project
Riverdale, Maryland, May 7th, 2020
video, mp3 (59:54)
Sam Husseini is an exemplar of what is profoundly needed in this age of the Politics of Thought Manipulation. Self-described as an indepedent journalist, Husseini asks tough, intelligent, vital questions concerning the life-and-death issues confronting The Human Project.
“That [Feb 2020] letter [to the Lancet] was ostensibly to show solidarity with the workers in Wuhan, but it also had a phrase denouncing the conspiracy theories as to the non-natural origin of the pandemic. And again, it was an attempt to shut down debate. To me, that’s totally antithetical to the scientific process. The scientific process should welcome scrutiny and debate on serious questions like this, and then you have a hypothesis, and you break the hypothesis, and you produce evidence and reasonable argument. They attempted to short-circuit all of that by saying, ‘This is conspiracy stuff.’”
[00:13.27]  JOHN: So, Sam, you have a very rich CV. Please, take us quickly through your background, starting with your name, and tell us how you arrived at sounding the alarm about biological research which culminated in your piece in Salon [“Did this virus come from a lab? Maybe not – but it exposes the threat of a biowarfare arms race. Dangerous pathogens are captured in the wild and made deadlier in government biowarfare labs. Did that happen here?” 24 Apr 2020].
[00:27.05]  HUSSEINI: My name is Sam Husseini. I’m an independent journalist. A lot of my writing is at I did a lot of work regarding claims about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction before the invasion of Iraq and, indeed, throughout the 1990’s about false claims, demanizing Iraq, and false claims about the existence of Iraq WMDs. And I occasionally go to news conferences and ask tough questions. In 2011, when the Arab uprisings happened and the desire for change was being perverted by Saudi Arabia and by other governments, I questioned a Saudi official at the Press Club, asking him what the legitimacy of the Saudi regime was. I got suspended from the Press Club for that. That was later overturned by the Ethics Committee there. In 2018, I attempted to question Trump and Putin at their summit in Helsinki about the nuclear weapons ban treaty, and got dragged out.
[01:45.10]  PLAYBACK:
MALE: Here’s it looks like there is some sort of skirmish; someone was holding up a sign
FEMALE: What is this? Fisticuffs? Oh my! What the heck?
[01:51.26]  HUSSEINI: Last year, I covered the Plowshares Trial in Georgia, of the activists who went on a US Maine Trident military nuclear base. So I followed nuclear issues, other weapons of mass destruction issues, politics in general, but especially foreign policy.
[02:14.20]  JOHN: How did you get to the article that you wrote in Salon? What inspired you to write it?
[02:19.01]  HUSSEINI: On February 11th, the CDC had a news conference, or the [National] Press Club had a news conference with a CDC official. And I try to go to these things and try to ask what, as best I can, a tough question. Sort of the question that’s the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. And I asked about the lab in Wuhan.
[02:43.17]  Nat’l Press Club: Sam Husseini from Consortium News. Obviously the main concern is how to stop the virus and death and so on. But I think that we should look into the origins of this. Is it the CDC’s contention that there’s absolutely no relation to the BSL-4 lab in Wuhan? It’s my understanding this is the only place in China with a BSL-4 lab.
[03:10.17]  HUSSEINI: BSL-4, that’s the highest level lab with the most deadly pathogens and allegedly the most stringent safety requirements.
[03:18.10]  Nat’l Press Club:
HUSSEINI: We in the United States have, I think, 2 dozen or so. And there have been problems and incidents. Some of them have been shut down out of concerns of leakage of potential pathogens. And it’s an ethical struggle in the United States about gain-of-function research. That is, research that actually attempts to make pathogens more lethal. And China is a very opaque society, a totalitarian regime. We have no idea—or, I don’t know, you tell me—Do you have any idea what kind of research could potentially be done? I’m not contending that this was intentional in any way. I’m just asking, is it a complete coincidence that this outbreak happened in the one city in China with a BSL-4 lab, and shouldn’t we be having at least some of the discussion about the ethics of some of the research that happens here? Thank you.
Centre for Disease Control and Prevention’s Principal Deputy Director ANNE SCHUCHAT: Yeah, thank you for those comments. Based on everything that I know about what is going on with this outbreak and the research that’s being conducted, as well as the genomic sequences that have been posted and the comparison with animal strains, the pattern that we’re seeing is quite consistent with emergence from animal to human acquisition.
[04:42.09]  HUSSEINI: I followed up and I said, “Being of ’natural origin’ doesn’t necessarily preclude that it didn’t come from a lab.” That is, they could have collected it in nature, the caves, the bat caves that people point to are over a thousand miles away from Wuhan. And she had the most striking response to me, which I’ve heard elsewhere.
[05:06.04]  Nat’l Press Club:
Dr. SCHUCHAT: In the midst of new infections, it is very common for rumors to emerge that can take on a life of their own. So, as you mention a laboratory in the center of what else is happening in that province, I’m reminded of concerns we heard when I was in Sierra Leone in 2014 with the Ebola response. There was a concern that there was a hemorrhagic virus research center in Sierra Leone and maybe that’s where the virus had come from. It was a key rumor that had to be overcome in order to help control the outbreak. So, based on everything that I know right now, I can tell you the circumstances of the origin really look like animal to human, but your question, I heard.
[05:51.09]  HUSSEINI: It struck me as an incredibly defensive answer meant to shut down a legitimate line of inquiry, rather than a forthright answer.
[06:02.10]  Nat’l Press Club:
Dr. SCHUCHAT: In terms of the question about gain-of-function research and laboratory issues, very important for us as a scientific community to have practices that protect researchers and their laboratory workers as well as the community around them. And that we use science for the benefit of people. So, I am closely involved in this response and everything that I’ve seen so far is very consistent with the animal to human spread that we’ve seen in other zoonotic origins.
[06:38.05]  HUSSEINI: I was still focusing on the narrow questions about the election at that point, but I started digging further and further into it. It culminated, ultimately, with my first Salon piece.
[06:48.25]  JOHN: We are being generally assured from many quarters that there is no reason to believe this virus is anything other than a “zoonotic” pathogen from a food market in China. Others, including US administration officials, recently, have hinted at the possibility that this was an accidental release from a lab in Wuhan. Is there any reason to be confident that these are the only two explanations?
[07:11.19]  HUSSEINI: I don’t think those are the only two explanations. I think that there are three plausible explanations and I think that people making claims on different sides might have ulterior motives. And I wouldn’t believe the Wuhan lab explanation simply because government officials say so. That, to me, does not necessarily increase the veracity of that explantion.
[07:40.29]  JOHN: You don’t have a particular interest in pinning this on China, right? You don’t think this is an actionable thing, we should be going to war with China. You’re not arguing that.
[07:52.14]  HUSSEINI: Not at all. I think that part—many people who are saying things like that, primarily in the US, right, like Tom Cotton. But also Democrats as well. Chris Murphy put out a letter, basically fingering the lab in Wuhan. And when Cotton does it, it’s particularly vociferous, in talking about the secrecy of these Chinese labs and how dangerous they are, and explicitly saying how in contrast to our labs, which are open, and trying to create vaccines to benefit humanity and so on. And I think that that’s totally wrong. The lab work that’s done, this kind of lab work, is dangerous whether it is done in a Chinese lab or a US lab. And indeed the US policy has driven this arms race.
[08:45.14]  I mean, it’s possible that China, the Chinese lab, slipped on a banana peel here. But in part, they slipped on a banana peel in a race that was orchestrated by US Policy. As I see it, there are three explanations. One is, it had noting to do with a lab, which I hesitate to say came from nature because that could mean that ultimately the causes are animal farming, deforestation and so on. But, just broadly say that had nothing to do with any lab. The other is that it was an accidental release from one of the labs; there are actually two—I didn’t know that when I questioned the CDC, initially—there are two labs in Wuhan. An accidental release there, and those accidents happen, including at US labs. [There is] a long and documented history that I at least give a rough outline of in my recent articles. [“Averting our Gaze from Biowarfare: Pandemics and Self-fulfilling Prophecies” (30 Apr 2020), “Contrary to claims, the pandemic may have come from a lab—and regardless, it exposes the threat of biowarfare arms race,” (24 Apr 2020), “Questioning the CDC: Is it a Complete Coincidence That China's Only BSL4 Is in Wuhan? -- Audio and Video,” (16 Apr 2020)]
[09:41.12]  And the third one is that it was designed to, in effect, frame the labs in Wuhan. This would be akin to what happened with the Anthrax attacks. People might remember after 9/11, letters were sent in the mail with “Death to America, Praise to Allah” written on them to members of Congress, to members of the media. It sent a wave of panic throughout the United States. People were afraid to open their mail. It made people incapable, in many cases, of rational thought as to what threats did or didn’t exist. And they ultimately were traced—to the extent that they were fully traced—to US or US-allied labs. That is, the Anthrax, the ‘terrorists,’ came from within the US government. So, that’s what you would call an example of a false flag attack. It’s a very prominent one. It was never meaningfully resolved. Even Leahy, Senator Leahy one of the targets of it—Muller was head of the FBI in 2008 when they finally said, ‘Okay, we pinned it on this guy, Bruce Ivins,’ after they tried to pin it on several other lone wolves, and had to pay one of them off, millions of dollars for their conduct—Leahy told Muller, ‘I’m not buying this story, that it was all one guy who did this.’ And there’s a substantial body of work, [a] substantial amount of evidence that it wasn’t simply one guy.
[The book that details this: THE 2001 ANTHRAX DECEPTION - The Case for a Domestic Conspiracy, Graeme MacQueen, Clarity Press, 2014; See Also: “The 2001 Anthrax Deception - An Overview of the Book by Graeme MacQueen,” Antony C. Black, Off-Guardian, 20 Jul 2019]
[11:38.12]  JOHN: While we’re on that topic of the Anthrax attacks, what resulted from the Anthrax attacks?
[11:45.07]  HUSSEINI: Yes, that’s critical. After the 9/11 attacks, a lot of people felt very—in the United States—felt besieged and traumatized and this was very adroitly exploited by the Bush-Cheney administration, including the Anthrax attacks. People were beside themselves, afraid to open their mail—similar to the dynamic that you have here, of people being on edge in a different sort of way, but it’s the closest parallel, in many respects. Congress was suspended for a time and the Bush-Cheney administration rammed the Patriot Act, so-called Patriot Act, with draconian restrictions on civil liberties and so on, during that time, and they also built up their wars against Afghanistan, as well as against Iraq.
[12:39.25]  JOHN: You’ve worked for a number of progressive media outlets and media watchdog outlets like Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting. But it seems there’s a kind of a new sort of myopia from traditionally progressive venues where a number of issues related to the pandemic are concerned. One of these, in particular, is the possibly laboratory origin of the coronavirus. What do you—what explains this attitude? How has this been politicized?
[13:06.04]  HUSSEINI: I think part of the answer to that is the sort of dwindling of independent thought in left-of-center circles, coming out of the Russia gate and then Ukraine gate situations, where a lot of people just are so compulsively “anti-Trump” that they aren’t sorting out facts and seeing where stories are coming from and who is pushing them. And I think we saw significant sectors of liberal and progressive media become, in effect, implements of the DNC as a result of that process. And I think that it’s been, in different quarters, and in different ways, but similar, you have a process now where people are reflexively saying ‘We don’t want to do anything that will damage US-China relations or that will be used by the pro-war sections, especially of the US right, in terms of China relations.’
[14:16.09]  So, I think there has been a tremendous—and it doesn’t make sense to me, because it’s an empirical question to me, and I think that in certain quarters in the mainstream, there has been a hysterical attempt to squash the possibility that it had something to do with a lab. Again, that something could be either it came out of the labs or they’re being framed. I think that there’s been an incredible lack of inquisitiveness and honest inquiry on those questions across the political spectrum.
[14:51.11]  JOHN: So, let’s just get down to some of the basics. What is gain-of-function research? And what is a Biosafety Level 3 or Level 4 lab? Who runs them, where are they?
[15:03.02]  HUSSEINI: Gain-of-function research is something of a technical euphemism. It means that you are trying to make it more deadly. So, you take a virus, for example, that is deadly but isn’t airborne, and you make it so that it becomes airborne. So you have increased its functionality, you have increased its deadliness and this is presumably a scientific accomplishment. The person who wrote the US implementing legislation for the Biological Weapons Convention, Francis Boyle, calls this criminal, a criminal enterprise. It’s similarly derided by an imminent scientist, Richard Ebright at Rutgers University.
[15:49.21]  There has been periodic concern, even in the mainstream literature. When a scientist in the Netherlands and another one at the University of Wisconsin in 2001 managed to use animal passages—that is, they took a virus and then forced it through several ferrets—ferrets have a respiratory system that’s similar to humans—the New York Times had an editorial called, “An Engineered Doomsday.” Their concern was that it shouldn’t be published because then, either through lab accident or the terrorists can get ahold of it. Again, they ignore the other option, which is what happened with Anthrax, that it came out of the government. So, gain-of-function increases the lethality of pathogens, such as these viruses.
[16:43.04]  JOHN: And what are Biosafety Level 2-3-4 labs? What do they do and where are they located?
[16:51.11]  HUSSEINI: There are probably hundreds of them. I believe that there are at least 70 BSL-3 and BSL-4 labs in the United States; they are the highest, with allegedly the most stringent requirements, in terms of airflow, suits that are worn, and so on. They are extremely expensive facilities that deal with deadly pathogens and do this kind of research. They exist increasingly all around the world. I don’t think that there exists a definitive list of them. I don’t think that there exists completely definitive requirements as to the conduct, although there’s certainly some guidelines. The ones that we know of are government ones—Fort Detrick had an accident just last year—they have a new facility coming online that’s apparently the most expensive and largest in the world. But they’re also corporate. I’m sure governments have some that are undeclared.
[18:00.10]  JOHN: Are there connections between the different labs throughout the world?
[18:05.25]  HUSSEINI: There are. And sometimes it’s a cause for concern. After there was some publicity to accidental releases at the CDC facilities and other facilities in 2014, and after the Ebola outbreak in 2014, the US stopped funding this gain-of-function work, the NIH did. But they made exceptions. One of the exceptions that they made involved work done by the University of North Carolina and the center, the virology center in Wuhan, as well as Harvard University. And so—
[18:46.13]  JOHN: Gain-of-function—gain-of-function studies continued in those places?
[18:50.29]  HUSSEINI: Gain-of-function studies continued—and there was never a ban on gain-of-function work. There was simply a pause in funding by the NIH of gain-of-function work but there were even exceptions to that. And the funding of the lab in Wuhan done also with a USAID—
[19:12.11]  JOHN: But isn’t NIAID [National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases], isn’t Fauci’s lab involved?
[19:15.07]  HUSSEINI: Yes. They granted the exemption for the funding but the actual money was through USAID, which is basically the State Department as well as a group called EcoHealth Alliance. And this work was that kind of work, gain-of-function work. So they worked with viruses, with the labs in Wuhan, with US Universities in order to make deadly pathogens potentially more deadly. Ostensibly to protect, to say, ‘What are the curveballs that nature can throw at us so that we can be better prepared, so that we can fight against them? What are the curve balls that the terrorists can throw at us so that we can be better prepared?’ That’s the ostensible reason, but they’ve, as we’ve seen, totally failed in their ostensible purpose. They’ve succeeded in creating more deadly pathogens, but they haven’t succeeded in protecting us.
[20:04.08]  JOHN: What is the EcoHealth Alliance? It sounds very nice. It sounds very crunchy.
[20:08.13]  HUSSEINI: Right, exactly. That’s the problem with these things. EcoHealth Alliance funded, among other things, this work in Wuhan. For example, they go to these bat caves, collect pathogens, collect deadly things, and then take them to study them, and then they tinker with them. Again, this is ostensibly to prevent a pandemic. But if the labs themselves become transmission sights through which they enter the human population, then they become an accelerant. They become the source of the problem.
[20:48.23]  EcoHealth Alliance funded lab work in Wuhan and elsewhere. They have on their board, on their scientific advisory board, former long-time people, top people, at Fort Detrick, for example, the US main bio “defense” bioweapons facility. They get major funding from Colgate Palmolive and Johnson & Johnson which have various interests in deforestation as well as other factors that could be part of the threat here. And, in a way, by trying to find this lab solution to deforestation and animal farming posing some threats, instead of scaling back those things, they are accelerating another thing, this lab work, which could itself become—is, regardless of the cause of this pandemic, that work is a total threat.
[21:57.16]  JOHN: What is NIAID’s role? What is Tony Fauci’s role in this?
[22:03.23]  HUSSEINI: Well, to the extent that I’ve been able to determine it, there have been alarms raised by scientists for years. There was a letter in 2005 signed by over 700 scientists to the NIH basically saying ‘You’re perverting our field here, with all of this funding of all of this so-called bio-defense work.’ [“UCSF scientists protest NIH biodefense spending,” Daniel Levine, SF Business Times, 4 Mar 2005; “NIH scientists criticize agency - Microbiologists echo earlier claims that funding priorities are skewed against basic science,”, John Dudley Miller, The Scientist, 29 Mar 2005] And biodefense is largely indistinguishable in many cases from biowarfare, because you have to create the weapon in order to figure out how to defend against it, is the logic as it goes. They have in effect tried to find this loophole, which we can get into, around the legal constraints that should be preventing them from doing this kind of work.
[22:56.14]  So, these 700 scientists put out this statement saying, ‘especially since 9/11, since the Anthrax attacks, you’re perverting our field with all of this funding,’ and it was Fauci who responded to that at the time. He basically said, ‘The American people through their political leadership,” that’s the Bush-Cheney administration he’s talking about, “have told us that they want this work done. Now, it can either be done completely through the Pentagon, and other US Government agencies, or we can have a seat at the table. So, we’re going to have a seat’—
[23:38.10]  JOHN: US military agencies, right?
[23:40.09]  HUSSEINI: Correct. Or even—the other possibilities are either the CIA, or the black budget, or the nuclear weapons labs are probably involved in this, or are almost certainly involved in this as well. So, Fauci basically told these 700 scientists to put up or shut up and this was the direction that this scientific field was increasingly going to move into. Every year, there has been, since 9/11, there has been at least 5 billion dollars spent on this “biodefense” generally. Now, I don’t know how much of that is gain-of-function work, but biodefense, generally, there has been, at minimum, 5 billion dollars a year. Cardinal rule is stated goals are not actual goals in the political realm. They say that they want to do one set of things—protect the American public against the bad terrorists—when in fact, their goals are geopolitical domination and so on. So, I think that this is another instance of that.
[24:49.03]  JOHN: It’s not hard to imagine that this would have created a kind of bioweapons arms race.
[24:54.26]  HUSSEINI: Absolutely. And that’s totally key. The US got around, allegedly got around the bioweapons convention by saying ‘we’re doing this for defensive purposes.’ There are exemptions in the US law that Francis Boyle wrote, and the Bioweapons Convention, but the word defensive isn’t in there. It says “for peaceful purposes,” as professor Boyle will be very happy to emphasize—that the law that he wrote does not have an exemption for “defensive work” for exactly this reason. So they are quite arguably violating it. But the US did so brazenly, and of course, every other country including China, including Russia, including the UK, France are the main the other countries doing it—Israel as well. But Israel never even signed the Bioweapons Convention, so they all got the message that, okay we can do this exception to the Bioweapons Convention. So we can get around it by just simply claiming that it’s for defensive purposes.
[26:06.24]  There’s sort of a scientific failure and there’s been a media failure. For example, the president of EcoHealth Alliance was on Democracy Now not too long ago [on] April 16th, and this was the first time that Democracy Now, ostensibly the premiere flagship of progressive thought in the United States, shared with their audience that there was a lab in Wuhan that could conceivably have been the cause of the pandemic. They had made one reference to it, I think on April 6th that said, that credited the lab with discovering the coronavirus, but not ever saying—and the notion that the lab was the source was dismissed by USA Today, by the Washington Post, by all these outlets in very snarky, dismissive ways that just simply revolved—that even predated, but then echoed off a very narrow set of scientists, who themselves are largely, like EcoHealth Alliance, involved with this work and that want to dismiss any scrutiny in this area as rumors or a conspiracy theory. And that to me, it goes against science, and legitimate inquiry, and it goes against journalism.
[27:30.04]  JOHN: You mention a February 2020 letter to the medical journal, Lancet. Can you describe its contents and who some of its authors were?
[27:37.18]  HUSSEINI: That letter was ostensibly to show solidarity with the workers in Wuhan, but it also had a phrase denouncing the conspiracy theories as to the non-natural origin of the pandemic. And again, it was an attempt to shut down debate. To me, that’s totally antithetical to the scientific process. The scientific process should welcome scrutiny and debate on serious questions like this, and then you have a hypothesis, and you break the hypothesis, and you produce evidence and reasonable argument. They attempted to short-circuit all of that by saying, ‘This is conspiracy stuff.’
[28:34.12]  One of the signers of the Lancet letter, Charles Calisher, the first one listed, they’re listed alphabetically, several of them have questionable ties to the government. His is perhaps the most notable. He’s been accused by the Cuban government of having spread bio warfare agents in Cuba.
[28:57.22]  JOHN: Dengue fever was it?
[28:59.23]  HUSSEINI: Correct. He denies the charge, of course, but it’s remarkable that that’s out there. Others have more subtle ties. Peter Daszak who is the president of the EcoHealth Alliance was one of the signatures. Other people who are involved in biodefense, “biodefense” work were among the signers. It’s quite notable that you have, among the loudest voices, people who have some level of US government connection or other questionable things in their background along these lines trying to shut down this debate—
[29:40.12]  JOHN: —among the loudest voices denying the possible lab origin—
[29:43.25]  HUSSEINI: —denying the possibility that this had anything to do with any kind of lab work.
[29:48.06]  JOHN: You wrote about a piece in the journal Nature Medicine. Who is Robert Garry?
[29:54.06]  HUSSEINI: Robert Garry’s a very interesting character. He seems to keep popping up at politically convenient locations. He happened to be in West Africa doing lab work when the Ebola outbreak happened there. I found an interview with him with James Carville, the democratic party operative, about the Ebola outbreak that was just remarkable—for one, given by a sceintist. It was basically talking about how we really needed to take care of this Ebola situation because the government most effected by it was an ally of the United States, and therefore, we needed to back them up, because if this continued, then they might be destabilized. It was just a remarkable set of perspectives for a scientist.
[30:55.11]  JOHN: I mean, as opposed to just saying, ‘We should be dealing with this no matter what.’
[30:57.17]  HUSSEINI: Right. It wasn’t dealing in the realm of caring for regular people, or that seemed secondary, at best. Or, just from a scientific perspective. He’s also been noted in his assorted roles, by Doctor Meryl Nass, who’s done leading work on the Anthrax vaccines where she’s noted that he keeps popping up in all these situations that don’t seem connected by a scientific interest. They all seem to be politically charged issues. Ed Hooper, who wrote The River, a book that alleges that the outbreak of HIV was because of a polio vaccine that had gone wrong in Africa—that was well-reviewed in the New York Times when it came out in 1999, I think—he says that Robert Garry acted in completely bizarre fashion with him that seemed more akin to spook work when Hooper was trying to study the origins of the AIDS epidemic. So, several people have raised substantial questions about his role as a scientist.
[32:22.08]  JOHN: And what did he—was he a part of this article? What was the article in the Nature Medicine journal?
[32:29.04]  HUSSEINI: It purported to say that this was not a laboratory—that the novel coronavirus is not a laboratory construct. But it seemed to have done so simply by saying that it wasn’t technically genetically engineered. But as many people have noted, those two things are not the same. It can come out of a lab without necessarily being genetically engineered. So, it was a very disingenuous, at best, article. If not outright false. Then it was immediately picked up by all of these media outlets—USA Today, ABC, Washington Post, so on and so forth, with the snarkiest headlines, ‘These Scientists are Getting Tired of Debunking this Crazy Conspiracy Theory,’ that entire tone.
[33:23.15]  JOHN: Wasn’t ABC News headline, “Sorry, conspiracy theorists.” There’s no lab origin, okay?
[33:28.24]  HUSSEINI: Right. ABC had that snarky headline and then I can’t remember—some other outlet said ‘The Scientists are tired of debunking these theories.’
[33:40.17]  JOHN: And you mentioned someone named Laurie Garrett. Who is Laurie Garrett and what did she write?
[33:44.21]  HUSSEINI: She’s very prominent on this issue. She has written several books about potential pandemics; she used to be with the Council on Foreign Relations.
[33:53.19]  JOHN: Is she a scientist?
[33:54.29]  HUSSEINI: She is not a scientist. She’s a journalist. She’s a writer. She repeatedly, and one time, she did this outright, wants to blame “exotic animals” for the outbreak, and at one point—
[34:15.19]  JOHN: Like, the consumption of exotic animals?
[34:18.03]  HUSSEINI: Correct. As that being the way that it went from bats to humans. So, it just seemed very odd to me that that’s the constant refrain in these quarters. She’s associated with Ian Lipkin, from Columbia University. They were both special technical advisors to the movie Contagion that millions, if not tens of millions, of people have viewed, especially lately. The movie depicts unregulated lab work at a BSL-3 as a heroic enterprise that helps to stop the contagion, and it depicts the CDC as led by very caring, although flawed, individuals. It depicts the Army fairly positively, and indeed, it gives thanks to the Pentagon, as well as the CDC. And it was funded by the state of Georgia, which is where the CDC is located.
[35:31.14]  JOHN: What’s the overall impression one gets from Contagion?
[35:33.26]  HUSSEINI: The overall impression that one gets from Contagion is that unregulated lab work can be heroic and that the threat is deforestation and animal farming, and animals. That bats—that’s how the movie ends—it’s transmitted from a bat to a pig that a chef touches and then he shakes hands with an American woman who jumps on a plane and heads to the United States, and that’s how the outbreak fundamentally begins.
[36:08.08]  JOHN: But interestingly, what we’ve been learning from virologists, and what I’m sure you’ve been seeing in your work, to actually make the leap, from just a pig to a bat to a human, it requires much more gain-of-function than just that. To do that sort of thing, we’ve discovered, might take hundreds of years for it to happen naturally. But it’s just the sort of work that’s being done in these labs to artificially create that situation which may not even ever happen ordinarily.
[36:45.01]  HUSSEINI: The thing that we can’t avert our eyes from is that it effectively accelerates the existence and the proximity to humans of the threat.
[36:58.10]  JOHN: In other words, some of the threats that they developed might never have naturally occurred, had they not done the work?
[37:04.21]  HUSSEINI: Correct. That’s my understanding. They are out to look for enemies, ostensibly, for the purpose of figuring out how to defeat them.
[37:14.25]  JOHN: Sounds like a common refrain.
[37:17.04]  HUSSEINI: That’s, at best, a very dangerous thing. I mean, you have Richard Ebright, an imminent scientist, and he calls this kind work that they do, going to these caves—he says “It’s not science. it’s Indiana Jones adventurism. It’s the Definition of insanity,” he calls it. And you hear that phrase quite a bit. A former head of the Royal Scientific Society in 2014 called this kind of work “incredibly dangerous and crazy,” this gain-of-function work.
[37:49.05]  JOHN: You quote Lord May, who’s the former president of the Royal Society as saying, “The work they are doing is absolutely crazy. The whole thing is exceedingly dangerous. Yes, there is a danger, but it’s not arising from the viruses out there in the animals, it’s arising from the labs of grossly ambitious people.”
[38:06.28]  HUSSEINI: Specifically, he was talking, there, about the work that was done in Holland and the work that was done at the University of Wisconsin on the making the bird flu more easily transmissible. But I think that that same charge applies to the work that we’re seeing in Wuhan, and the associated work in the United States by these people who are incredibly well-funded. EcoHealth Alliance gets a lot of money from corporations and through the US Government [...] although they just recently got cut off from some US Government funding. But they had a full spread in the New York Times basically saying, ‘We are the solution. Fund us more.’ I think grossly ambitious people fits the bill here.
[39:10.05]  JOHN: Who is Ron Fouchier?
[39:12.18]  HUSSEINI: Ron Fouchier is a scientist in the Netherlands who used NIH funding to make the bird flu more deadly, to make it transmissible through the air, and this caused a furor—not a furor, but it got some notice in 2011. [...] He proudly said that [his team] created [“probably one of the most dangerous viruses you can make”]. A lot of people said that he shouldn’t publish the results. They eventually were published—
[40:02.01]  JOHN: Does this essentially provide some sort of road map to people about how to make something like this?
[40:07.17]  HUSSEINI: Right. The work that he did was using ferrets to passage a virus through a series of ferrets, in this case, the bird flu, until it become transmissible by air, so that it would mutate until it acquired that capacity, and it would be able to infect humans. So he made something that was deadly, far more transmissible and therefore far, far deadlier. This caused some concern in various quarters, but not enough to actually stop this work from being done. Francis Boyle would call him and many of these other people “death scientists.”
[40:54.05]  JOHN: Who are Marc Lipsitch and Alison P. Galvani, and what did they write regarding Fouchier’s work in 2014? I can actually give you, I’ll just give you this quote: “We argue that the two main benefits claimed for these experiments—improved vaccine design, and improved interpretation of surveillance, are unlikely to be achieved by the creation of potential pandemic pathogens (PPP), often termed ‘gain-of-function’ experiments.” Who are these guys and what were they trying to accomplish?
[41:20.08]  HUSSEINI: They’re scientists at Yale and Harvard and they have been some of the people who are sometimes vocal on this issue and cautioning against this kind of extremely dangerous lab work. I believe that I’ve seen some media by at least one of them since our current pandemic, but not on this issue. There’s the loud crowd of people who are part of doing this dangerous work, and they’re very loudly denouncing any effort to scrutinize it. But you have, I think, a lot of scientists, who are very careful people, for whatever reason, either they are cautious by nature or they don’t want to go against where a lot of government funding is being done, and they are remarkably quiet on this very question. So the media mantra that there’s scientific consensus that this didn’t come out of a lab is not true. A lot of the most prominent scientists, people who we talked about at Harvard and Yale, as well as, for example, Jonathan King at MIT, have been notably silent as to what the cause for the current pandemic is.
[42:49.02]  JOHN: But prior to this, they had been sounding the warning.
[42:53.10]  HUSSEINI: To some extent. It’s periodic. The only person really sounding the warning on a regular basis is Francis Boyle. And to some extent, Richard Ebright, and a few others. But a lot of these names at more prestigious institutions for, again, whatever reasons, have denounced the work in some set of circumstances, but not nearly as regularly, and less and less frequently as the years go by. Whether that’s because the field is changing because of the funding priorities, as implemented by Fauci and others, or for other reasons, is somewhat speculative. But that’s certainly the dynamic.
[43:43.08]  JOHN: Now, there have been journalists who’ve covered this. Who is Alison Young and what was her beat?
[43:49.16]  HUSSEINI: Alison Young worked at USA Today and from, I believe 2014 to 2017, she wrote a series of articles about lab accidents in the United States at the CDC, at how they are shrouded in secrecy, at Tulane, at facilities in Tulane, I believe at Fort Detrick—at dozens of facilities around the United States. She would go through the government reports, she would do other investigative work. It prompted some level of congressional inquiry at the time, she really performed a substantial service. She’s no longer on that beat. She stopped around 2017, and she’s off doing something else now at some university and she’s not—I’ve touched base with her, but she’s not doing anything on this.
[44:45.08]  JOHN: Who is Meryl Nass [M.D.], and what has her role been and what has her work been, prior to this?
[44:49.29]  HUSSEINI: Meryl Nass [M.D.], as far as I know, documented, did the first work documenting a case of biowarfare in recent decades. It involved Rhodesia and the use of Anthrax there by the white minority government or elements associated with it against black farmers. She’s the first person who I heard from about the problems with the Nature Medicine article. She pointed out that it was an incredibly disingenuous article and there were a whole series of ways that, besides genetic engineering, that the current pandemic could have resulted. That was shared with Richard Ebright at Rutgers, and he said, “Yeah.” He totally backed that up and said, for example, you could do animal passage, as they did in Holland, and the University of Wisconsin.
[45:49.16]  JOHN: So, we’ve been talking about gain-of-function and how that possibility has been minimized, but Luc Montagnier made a very startling claim recently. Tell us who Luc Montagnier is, what he discovered, and what is he now suggesting is the case about the novel coronavirus?
[46:09.19]  HUSSEINI: Luc Montagnier won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering the HIV virus. He recently has said that he believes that the current novel coronavirus is bio—is genetically engineered and that it has elements of HIV and other elements in it that are recognizable. This is remarkably similar to what Francis Boyle has been saying since late January or early February.
[46:47.06]  JOHN: But Montegnier actually says, he’s looked at it.
[46:50.02]  HUSSEINI: He says that he’s looked at it. I believe that he’s basing some of his assessment on some work done by some Indian scientists who pulled back their work. He says that it was done for political reasons, under pressure. Which also has been alleged about some Chinese scientists who put out some statements early on saying that the lab in Wuhan was responsible. They also withdrew their statements. Montegnier says, ‘I’m a Nobel winner, they can’t intimidate me, and this is my assessment.’ I don’t believe that he’s published a clear scientific paper, as to the methodology behind his assessments.
[47:40.23]  JOHN: And he’s not saying it necessarily came from Wuhan. He’s just saying, ‘Look, I found HIV edited into this.’
[47:47.07]  HUSSEINI: Yes. My understanding is that he is adamant in not drawing any kind of conclusions other than, ‘I believe that this was a human creation.’
[47:59.21]  JOHN: How many lab accidents did you run across? Was there a long list of them?
[48:07.05]  HUSSEINI: There’s a very long list of them. There was a paper, a version of which was published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 2014, that went back in time; lab accidents in England, of foot and mouth disease, that happened 4 kilometers away from a biosafety lab; assorted other things that happened throughout the years [“Threatened pandemics and laboratory escapes: Self-fulfilling prophecies,” Martin Furmanski, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 31 Mar 2014]—and again, through the reporting of USA Today. We’re talking about hundreds of accidents.
[48:47.23]  JOHN: That we know about.
[48:49.07]  HUSSEINI: That we know about. And the literature says that, that this could well be the tip of the iceberg. These are the things that get reported. These are the things that see the light of day. So, we don’t know what else is out there that has happened, and that has been either ignored or hushed up. I mean, a lot of lab accidents, they might not even know. I mean, the lab accident in Wuhan—if it came out of a lab in Wuhan—somebody didn’t take quite the proper precaution they could have, and they wouldn’t know that they made a mistake, and somehow a pathogen got out of the lab. That’s perfectly plausible.
[49:30.08]  JOHN: Is the answer—given the safety problems and given that their research seems to be spurring a kind of arms race, a biodefense, bioweapons arms race, and given that we are artificially accelerating dangers that we might not ever need to face—is your answer in looking at all of this to really dismantle these biodefense labs? I mean, is that what we as a people should be agitating for?
[50:09.09]  HUSSEINI: I think at minimum, there should be a stop on the gain-of-function work. And there was a pause in funding, from 2014 to 2017. It was lifted in 2017. But that was just a pause in funding. I think what needs stop is the actual gain-of-function work, at least until a proper assessment is made. And again, it presumably violates the Bioweapons Convention. So those conventions need to have genuine teeth put into them. Now, I don’t know what other portions of biodefense work are good and relevant. I think that there needs to be a much broader inquiry about that. But at least, in dealing with these potentially pandemic pathogens, what’s euphemistically known as gain-of-function work, I think that that work should be stopped. Francis Boyle would probably go further and say that people involved in that need to be prosecuted. And I think a broader assessment needs to be done about what, if any, elements of biodefense work are legitimate.
[51:30.13]  LIBBY HANDROS: Once the cat is out of the bag, could you ever even stuff it back in? You were talking about regulation, you were talking about ‘We need to know more.’ But we could stop this all, theoretically say it has to stop, but people know how to do it. So, can you ever really stop it?
[51:45.03]  HUSSEINI: Well, it’s funny that you say that, because people used to talk about biological and chemical weapons as the examples of people having succeeded in putting the cat back in the bag. And it seems that that didn’t happen. That it just simply morphed into a whole set of pretexts. So, ultimately, the problems are questions of, partially of science, and partially of media, and getting information out, but largely of global governance, of what meaningful implements you can use to stop these sorts of dynamics, of these governments accelerating these weapons arms race.
[52:37.05]  And sometimes, it’s a mutually-beneficial thing. I mean, when I got kicked out, in Helsinki, my question was about the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty. This is a treaty backed by 122 countries, the group behind it won the Nobel Peace Prize. Trump was never asked about it, to my knowledge, Putin was never asked about it, about ‘Why are you stopping this?’ And they’re stopping it because that’s how they derive their power, by having these weapons. That’s how the United States derives, government derives a great deal of geopolitical power, and that’s how Russia derives a great deal of geopolitical power. So they enter in to this dance of death that effectively pushes down other people. You could have a very similar dynamic now with bioweapons.
[53:21.15]  JOHN: Okay. My final question: given all the happy outcomes for state and monopoly power all over the world, including massive wealth transfer upwards, shuttering of small business, the repression of dissent, etc., etc., and given, I have to say, what appears to be the foreknowledge on display and oddly precient international exercises like Event 201
[53:45.02]  PLAYBACK:
NARRATOR: It began in healthy looking pigs, months, perhaps years ago. A new coronavirus spread silently within herds. Infected people got a respiratory illness with symptoms ranging from mild flu-like signs to severe pneumonia.
STEPHEN REDD, US CDC: Governments need to be willing to do things that are out of their historical perspective. For the most part, it’s really a war footing that we need to be on.
GEORGE GAO, CHINA CDC: So, at the moment, we want the funds, right? You need the money. So where’s the money? But now you need really coordinated, centralized efforts.
[54:26.19]  JOHN: Is it not probable that this virus was indeed, I won’t say, use the word, “engineered,” but was released, not necessarily by any one country, but really for the mutual benefit of powerful groups in every country?
[54:43.04]  HUSSEINI: Whitney Webb, a journalist at Last American Vagabond—who, her work, as well as other interesting work on this, has been either de-platformed or demonized by the internet giants—has done some interesting work on this, laying out that there were wargames or some kind of preparatory games before the current pandemic that were eerily similar to Dark Winter, which was immediately before and foreshadowed the Anthrax attacks in 2001.
[55:19.20]  It’s very difficult for me to assess probabilities in something like this. I think that what we do know is that a lot of very powerful institutions benefitted tremendously from this pandemic. And that a lot of agendas around remaking society in various ways benefitted. This so-called social distancing, which shouldn’t—it’s physical distancing, presumably—but it’s been a boon to internet companies, to other powerful forces, to nationalistic forces. To some extent, they could be simply Fortune favors the prepared, or that it was actually planned by one or more interests involved. I think that it’s disingenuous for people to say, as I’ve heard many people say, ‘Oh, this isn’t what a bioweapon looks like, so that can’t be right.’ Well, you don’t know what a bioweapon looks like. It’s something that hurts people and is used for strategic purpose. That could be—
[56:34.12]  JOHN: Are they saying that because this is too weak, somehow?
[56:37.02]  HUSSEINI: This is either too weak, or too unpredictable. Some of these things have merit. I mean, Boris Johnson allegedly got it, so you’d think that whoever did this might have wanted to give him a heads-up. I’m not seeing clear delineations on these issues. But I think that the notion that this is either too weak, or that it’s too unpredictable and therefore it can’t possibly be an intentionally created bioweapon, I don’t think that’s a really rigorous statement.
[57:15.02]  You don’t know what the intended goals are of a given bioweapon until it benefits certain parties. I think that all three of those three options are still possible. And I would challenge people who want to dismiss this, to go back and wonder why you didn’t ask the questions about the Anthrax attacks. Why didn’t you ask the questions at the time, and why didn’t you ask the questions, as the so-called investigations went forward and Robert Muller, effectively, had a hand in covering it up and then he’s brought back to guide the direction of the Democratic Party for three years. There is such an insular clique of individuals involved in this, and such a lack of scrutiny, by a lot of parties that I seriously question attempts to dismiss such possibilities.
[58:20.29]  JOHN: What about—what’s this whole idea about trying to blame nature for these things? What are your thoughts on that?
[58:26.11]  HUSSEINI: I think that it’s part of a whole search for enemies. It’s “Iraq is the problem,” “Al Qaeda’s the problem.” Well, you created Al Qaeda by funding the Mujahadeen, to fight against the Soviets. “Well, this is the problem,” “Well, it’s North Korea,” “It’s this and that.” Well, North Korea voted for the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty, you voted against it. There’s a search for enemies, and in some respects, the final enemy is nature—or culture—saying ‘it’s these weird people eating weird meats, and that therefore that’s the problem, or, nature and we have to control nature.’ That it has to succumb to our will. That views humanity not as a creation of nature that needs to play off of it, and build off of it, and learn from it, and work in harmony with it, but rather needs to control and manipulate it for geostrategic, for profit, for gain, for things and only maybe tangentially for genuine benefit of humanity.
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