Pine Gap and Five Eyes: what did they know about COVID-19?

By KIERAN FINNANE

Last updated 22 April 2020, 9.47am. Link added.

 

 

Should the performance of intelligence agencies be part of an independent review of who knew what and when about the threat of the novel coronavirus?

 

Foreign Minister Marise Payne (at right, the official portrait) has called for such a review, mentioning in particular the role of China and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

 

“I think the key to going forward in the context of these issues is transparency,” she told the ABC’s Insiders on Sunday.

 

“Transparency from China most certainly, transparency from all of the key countries across the world who will be part of any review that takes place. I think it’s fundamental that we identify, we determine an independent review mechanism to examine the development of this epidemic, its development into a pandemic, the crisis that is occurring internationally.”

 

And, the review would identify ”the genesis of the virus, about the approaches to dealing with it, and addressing it, about the openness with which information was shared, about interaction with the World Health Organization, interaction with other international leaders.”

 

So what about the role of intelligence agencies, including those in the Five Eyes network of which Australia is a part, with the Pine Gap facility in our backyard (below, in a photograph by Kristian Laemmle-Ruff) one of the most powerful surveillance facilities in the world?

 

What did they know and when and with whom was it shared?

 

The Australian interviewed a former director of US national intelligence, Jim Clapper, who spoke of the work of intelligence agencies in managing the Ebola crisis in 2014.

 

He referred particularly to their work in “forecasting the movement of the disease”.

 

The article also cited a warning in January 2019 by the US Office of the Director of Intelligence about international vulnerability to a “large-scale outbreak of a contagious disease”, causing massive deaths and severely impacting the world economy.

 

And yet even the US stayed catastrophically under-prepared.

 

An article in The American Conservative lays part of the blame for this on failures within the intelligence community, which cost the US some $63b annually. In particular the article questions the role of National Center for Medical Intelligence (NCMI), which operates as part of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

 

It points to the positive work done by the NCMI in relation to the outbreak of Swine Flu (H1N1), predicting that it would become a pandemic two months prior to the declaration of a pandemic in June 2009 by WHO and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

 

So what happened this time and why?

 

The Alice Springs News put the following questions to Senator Payne:-

 

In her view, we asked, is it important that an independent review – apart from looking at China and the WHO – also look at the flow of information to the US administration and its response, including the sharing of information with its allies?

 

Should the performance of intelligence agencies and the sharing of information be under scrutiny?

  

In particular, in the Australian context, given the Australian Government’s agreement with the US, would she consider it important to understand if and whether early intelligence about the threat of the virus could have been shared by the JDF Pine Gap?

 

If an independent review gets off the ground, it would surely be inconceivable that the intelligence failures not be examined like they were in relation to 9/11.

 

But all Senator Payne would say to our legitimate enquiry was the usual mantra via a spokesperson: “As a matter of longstanding practice, the Department does not comment on intelligence matters.”

 

 

 

 

 

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12 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Hal Duell
    Posted April 24, 2020 at 10:46 pm

    Charlie, Did you see the Donald on tonight’s news? If I’m not mistaken he’s suggesting people inject ultraviolet light (is that possible?) and/or a cleaning fluid.
    Clearly the man is as mad as a meat axe, but he does have the world hanging on and repeating his every word.
    And you say you are not amused? Chill! At least Putin is (for now?) off the hook.
    China did it.
    And just to clarify, I did say conspiracy theories are, or can be, amusing. That’s because they are.
    I also think the flim flam man is a hoot and good fun. That’s because he is.
    I did not say the death of 50,000 is amusing or fun, and it’s a cheap ad hominum misdirection from you to insinuate I did.

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  2. Charlie Carter
    Posted April 24, 2020 at 4:49 pm

    John: I have no idea of the source for the claims you present, or when they were allegedly made so I can’t really comment.
    However “the Bat Woman of Yunnan” tag does not exactly inspire confidence in the source, it sounds more like a social media post than reliable information.

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  3. John Bell
    Posted April 24, 2020 at 4:17 pm

    @ Charlie Carter: I think we are at an impasse mate. I agree with you.
    Nothing about the Coronavirus is good fun.
    I just pray for Dr Zhengli, a wonderful brilliant research virologist who maintains her objective analytical professionalism quite fearlessly under serious threat from her oppressive government.
    Let’s hope and pray that she can come up with the sequencing of the Wuhan Virus that nails the characteristics of the original three victims.
    What a great woman! And let’s hope and pray that she and her work continues to receive support from the free world.

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  4. Charlie Carter
    Posted April 24, 2020 at 3:12 pm

    Hal: My original post was quoting a peer reviewed paper in a leading scientific journal.
    My latest post was explanatory.
    50,000 deaths in the USA, and you think Trump’s bullshit and conspiracy theories are “good fun”?

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  5. John Bell
    Posted April 24, 2020 at 2:36 pm

    @ Charlie Carter: Thanks for your expertise in this field, mate.
    Dr Zhengli (the Bat Woman of Yunnan) is arguably the foremost authority on any relationship there may or may not be between bats, SARs and Covid-19.
    Her conclusion that the origin of the Wuhan Virus that infected the first three wet market victims suffered is as yet a mystery with unique sequencing characteristics is on the public record.
    Until they are definitively identified, I would imagine that the jury will remain out.
    Is that a logical conclusion to draw?

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  6. Hal Duell
    Posted April 24, 2020 at 11:39 am

    Fair go, Charlie.
    You use terms like “robust form of evidence”, and “very strong indicator” to advance a theory, and then level suggestions of conspiracy theories on any other interpretation.
    All I’m saying is an open mind is a good mind to have.
    As for conspiracy theories, they’re entertaining. Mostly bullshit, a bit like elections, but good fun. Just watch the Golden Golem of Greatness, the great flim flam man himself. Do you really think he’s not enjoying himself?

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  7. Charlie Carter
    Posted April 24, 2020 at 9:05 am

    Hal and John: Neither of you have addressed the evidence I mentioned.
    I realise it is complicated, so I only covered it briefly.
    My doctorate is in evolutionary biology, so I was able to follow the scientific evidence in the Scripps paper.
    For years biologists have been able to track evolutionary pathways by elucidating the step by step changes in the DNA (or RNA in the case of Coronavirus).
    It is a very robust form of evidence, and to see how the RNA in one form of virus differs from another is a very strong indicator of the evolutionary relationship between the bat virus and the COVID 19 virus.
    To propose a different pathway for the origin of the virus would involve a very complex conspiracy.
    But of course the great thing about a good conspiracy theory is that any evidence against it can be dismissed as part of the conspiracy.

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  8. John Bell
    Posted April 23, 2020 at 4:44 pm

    @ Charlie Carter: Dr Shi Zhengli, the Vat Woman of Yunnan, would have an issue with your assertion that the science is settled that COVID-19 is a “bat-related” virus. All that Dr Zhengli has stated is that COVID-19 has “similarities” with a SARS virus.
    However, the latest news is that while Dr Zhengli has done a due diligence audit clearing her Immunology Institute in Wuhan of causing or leaking the virus, she notes that the first sufferers were in the Wuhan “wet” markets 300 metres from her Institute and the virus they contracted has unique characteristics that are yet to be identified.
    It is also worth noting that the first Wuhan doctor who tried to blow the whistle last year was placed under house arrest and then mysteriously got the virus and died.
    Now Dr Zhengli is under house arrest as the Xi government tries to shut her up. Trump’s America is her source of support.

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  9. Hal Duell
    Posted April 23, 2020 at 9:38 am

    @ Charlie Carter, Posted April 22, 2020 at 2:59 pm: I wish I could share your certainty that the origin of Covid-19 is settled, but I rather think an open mind here might be more useful.
    As this attempt to assign culpability to China progresses, and with the emergence of quite massive legal cases gaining momentum in the US, China will defend herself.
    It will be at least interesting, and possibly informative, to learn what she has to say about how and where this all started.
    And isn’t it true that as new evidence emerges, scientific theses evolve? I doubt if any of this is fully done and dusted just yet.

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  10. Charlie Carter
    Posted April 22, 2020 at 2:59 pm

    Hal, The evolution and emergence of the virus has been tracked at a molecular level. It came from a related virus in bats. It is as certain as science can be.
    In a paper published on March 17, 2020 by scientists from Scripps Research Institute in California: “Summary – An analysis of public genome sequence data from SARS-CoV-2 and related viruses found no evidence that the virus was made in a laboratory or otherwise engineered.”
    Suggestions to the contrary are typical Trump anti-Chinese lies designed to take the focus off his own criminal lack of action.
    The same research paper reported: On December 31 of last year, Chinese authorities alerted the World Health Organization of an outbreak of a novel strain of coronavirus causing severe illness, which was subsequently named SARS-CoV-2.
    WHO made this information available to the world.
    Much has been made of the delay in using the word “pandemic”. However, a bit of inquiry reveals that the use of this word has been carefully limited by the member nations of WHO to tread the fine line between “panic” and timely serious action.
    Payne and the Morrison Government are jumping on Trump’s bandwagon to cover their own “I’m off to the footy tomorrow” tardiness.

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  11. Evelyne
    Posted April 22, 2020 at 1:43 pm

    Hal Duell: “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.” Bob Dylan in 1962.

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  12. Hal Duell
    Posted April 22, 2020 at 11:12 am

    An answer to the leading question in the above story can be found toward the end of an article found here.(When the author speaks of our government and an ABC News story, he is speaking as an American.)
    “But with the horrific consequences of our own later governmental inaction being obvious, sources within our intelligence agencies have sought to demonstrate that they were not the ones asleep at the switch. Earlier this month, an ABC News story cited four separate government sources to reveal that as far back as late November, a special medical intelligence unit within our Defense Intelligence Agency had produced a report revealing than an out-of-control disease epidemic was occurring in the Wuhan area of China, and widely distributed that document throughout the top ranks of our government, warning that steps should be taken to protect US forces based in Asia. After the story aired, a Pentagon spokesman officially denied the existence of that November report, while various other top level government and intelligence officials refused to comment. But a few days later, Israeli television revealed that in November American intelligence had indeed shared such a report on the Wuhan disease outbreak with its NATO and Israeli allies, thus seeming to independently confirm the complete accuracy of the original ABC story and its several government sources.
    It therefore appears that elements of the Defense Intelligence Agency were aware of the deadly viral outbreak in Wuhan more than a month before any officials in the Chinese government itself. Unless our intelligence agencies have pioneered the technology of precognition, I think this may have happened for the same reason that arsonists have the earliest knowledge of future fires.”
    I consider that there have been two, and now three, seminal events over the course of my life:
    1) Was there a second shooter in Dallas?
    2) How did Building Number 7 collapse into its own footprint?
    3) Where did Covid-19 come from

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