The Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) has requested a partnering lab in the United States destroy all record of their work, a document obtained by the U.S. Right to Know indicated.
The document, a "Memorandum of Understanding of Cooperation Between Wuhan Institutue of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences and the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galeveston," says that each lab can ask the other to destory any so-called "secret files" or any documents, communications, data or equipment resulting from their collaboration — along with any such copies.
"The party is entitled to ask the other to destroy and/or return the secret files, materials, and equipment without any backups," a "Memorandum of Understanding" states.
The memorandum, signed in 2017, "shall be applicable ... after it has been terminated," which, as the five-year agreement indicates, would be in Oct. 2022.
But the clause in question, which allows the two labs to delete data in perpetuity, essentially, raises questions about what sort of investigation is necessary to absolve the WIV from suspicions its research did not spark the COVID-19 pandemic — given the growing unfalsifiability of such an investigation if relevant data were deleted.
According to Reuben Guttman, who works in ensuring the integrity of government programs at Guttman, Buschner & Brooks PLLC, the clause raises a number of red flags.
"The clause is quite frankly explosive," Guttman says. "Anytime I see a public entity, I would be very concerned about destroying records."
Adding that private entities are expected to abide by certain internal records retention and destruction policies, Guttman says, "you can't just willy nilly say, Well, you know, the Chinese can tell us when to destroy a document. It doesn't work like that. There has to be a whole protocol."
But according to Vanity Fair, when an evolutionary biologist named Jesse D. Bloom sent a draft of an unpublished scientific paper he'd written to Dr. Anthony Fauci, about how records of SARS-CoV-2 genomic sequences published paper from China vanished without a trace, Bloom established that the National Institute of Health (NIH) itself had deleted the sequences from its own archive at the request of researchers in Wuhan.
These "sequences," Vanity Fair notes, "map the nucleotides that give a virus its unique genetic identity," and "are key to tracking when the virus emerged and how it might have evolved."
Deleting data on SARS-CoV-2 could mean the true origins of the virus might never be known.
After Bloom submitted his paper to Fauci, the head of the NIH, Dr. Francis Collins, organized a meeting with him. Bloom went on to describe the meeting between himself, Fauci, Collins and at least four other scientists as extremely contentious.
Bloom recalls that the meeting began with the National Center for Biotechnology Information's acting director, Steve Sherry giving a "verbal explanation of how Wuhan University had requested these sequences be deleted which was allowable under NCBI policy. He also again indicated that the NCBI was in the process of assembling a list of deleted datasets for transparency. Bloom added, "I then started to give a summary of what I had found when I analyzed the deleted sequences.
"At that point, the meeting became extremely contentious."
At one point, Fauci weighed in, objecting to the paper's description of Chinese scientists "surreptitiously" deleting sequences. The word was loaded, Fauci said, adding that the reason they'd asked for the deletions was unknown.
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