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Wednesday, we told you that the Biden administration is funding a number of secretive biolabs in Ukraine, labs that are conducting experiments on highly dangerous pathogens. Now, that’s not a story as we told you, that we wanted to do. In fact, we didn’t think it could be true. It’s so over-the-top and bizarre and in any case, the administration had repeatedly and very aggressively denied that they were doing anything like this and then they attacked anyone who has questions about it as a tool of Russia.
We foolishly assumed that in this one instance, they might be telling the truth and then out of nowhere, the Biden official in charge of Ukraine confirmed the story. Toria Nuland, the Under Secretary of State, casually mentioned in a Senate hearing on Tuesday that actually, yes, the Biden administration does fund a series of biolabs in Ukraine and whatever is in these labs is so dangerous that she is deeply concerned these materials will fall into the hands of the Russian military.
Now, that struck us as a shocking development. Once again, not for the first time, what had seemed like a nutty conspiracy theory turned out to be true. Toria Nuland’s testimony raised at least two immediate questions. What exactly are these labs doing with our money and in our name? And why didn’t the Biden administration secure the contents of these labs before the Russians invaded?
So far, we haven’t received any answer at all to the second question. We think we’re the only ones who have even asked it. Whoever decided to leave deadly biological materials sitting in Ukraine as Russian troops massed on the border has not yet been identified. We hope that person will be identified. We’ll keep asking.
As for the first question, what exactly is going on in these labs? We’ve gotten several answers, all of them insulting. Initially, the administration claimed the labs were designed to help the Ukrainians fight tuberculosis, as well as various livestock diseases. That’s what officials told members of Congress. It didn’t seem plausible and, in fact, it’s not plausible. And then after our show last night, the Pentagon released what it non-ironically called a fact sheet designed to make the biolab story seem small and ridiculous. Virtually every news organization in America, with almost no exceptions, repeated the administration’s claim verbatim with no verification of any kind.
Foreign Policy Magazine ran this version of it, which was identical to many other versions you saw if you follow the news today. “FACT CHECK: DoD has worked with Ukraine to ELIMATE (in all caps) bioweapons left behind by the Soviet Union since 2005,” said a senior U.S. defense intelligence official, “but these are NOT (again, in all caps) weapons labs as Russians falsely claim,” the official said.
The Washington Post assured us of the same thing, so did countless other so-called news organizations. OK, so no big deal. This is not actually a story. The Pentagon’s been doing it since 2005, working with Ukrainians to “eliminate biological weapons left behind by the Soviets.” That makes sense, but wait. 2005 was 17 years ago. How long does it take to eliminate Soviet bioweapons? Seventeen years seems like a long time. If you had 17 years and ample funding from Congress, you could probably remove and catalog every grain of sand on Waikiki Beach and yet somehow, over that same period 17 years, the Pentagon has not finished removing test tubes from Soviet-era freezers.
How does that work exactly? How heavy are these bioweapons? Do we lack the transportation capacity to get them out of Ukraine and bury them in the desert in Nevada? When was the Pentagon planning to finish this important job? In 20 years? In 50 years? Those all seem like very obvious questions, but not a single reporter asked any of those questions.
Meanwhile, over at CNN, perhaps where the first explanation didn’t make sense once you thought about it, offered a new alibi. According to CNN’s site, the labs in Ukraine exist to “secure old Soviet weapons.” Ok, secure, not eliminate, which raises the question: what does it mean to secure a bioweapon? And again, why has it taken 17 years to do it? And by the way, if these are really just old Soviet weapons, why is Toria Nuland so worried they will wind up in the hands of old Soviets who presumably already have these very same weapons—probably don’t need more. It’s absurd when you think about it. So, don’t think about it and that was the point of today’s coverage of the Biden administration’s secret Ukrainian biolabs. Stop thinking about it. Start accepting what they tell you at face value. Otherwise, you are an agent of Russia. Here’s CNN:
KATIE POLGLASE, CNN INVESTIGATIVE RESEARCHER: The foreboding music, biohazard warnings. This Russian state media footage from 2015 claims to show America running facilities in Ukraine and Georgia that caused deadly outbreaks of disease and killed local livestock. This story is false, but that has not stopped it continuing to circulate, evolving from biological hazards to biological weapons and becoming a key part of Russia’s disinformation campaign justifying the invasion of Ukraine. The claims were debunked several years ago, when in 2020, the United States issued a statement to “set the record straight,” explaining the facilities are in fact for vaccine development and to report outbreaks caused by dangerous pathogens before they pose security or stability threats.
“These claims were debunked several years ago.” These facilities work on vaccines and reporting outbreak, and then they play Russian propaganda. The point is anyone who asks questions about this is repeating Russian propaganda. Got it? And the truth is, we’re not interested in what Russian propagandists say about these Ukrainian biolabs. We’re not interested in what the propagandists at CNN say about these biolabs. We’re Americans, so we would like, in fact, we think we have a right to demand the Biden administration to answer simple questions, straightforward questions. These are obviously questions important enough to make Toria Nuland very nervous. But why? We don’t know. They won’t answer.
So, instead, we did some digging of ourselves to see what we could find and here’s we came up with. The day after Russia invaded Ukraine, Robert Pope, the man who heads the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program at DOD, sat for an interview with the website Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Pope was the man in charge of securing or eliminating Soviet-era bioweapons, so he knows a lot about the subject, maybe more than anyone else, but it turns out that not all of these Soviet weapons are being destroyed or even secured, and Pope acknowledged that in the interview, which apparently CNN didn’t see.
According to his interview, Pope said the labs “may hold pathogen strains left over from the Soviet bioweapons program preserved in freezers for research purposes.” Pope said that “scientists, being scientists, it wouldn’t surprise me if some of these strange collections and some of these laboratories still have pathogen strains that go all the way back to the origins of that program.”
In other words, because as Pope put it, “scientists are scientists,” they don’t want to destroy all the bioweapons. Instead, they’re using them to conduct new bioweapons research. That’s what he said and not just on strains left over from the Soviet Union. The second lie. In fact, the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv has acknowledged joint American and Ukrainian research on other pathogens such as hemorrhagic fever virus. Apparently, there’s a lot of this going on in Ukraine funded by the United States. Did you know that? Why Ukraine? We don’t know. We can only guess.
We do know that in 2010, the U.S. government helped fund construction of a brand-new level-3 biolab in Odessa, Ukraine. The purpose of that lab was not to eliminate or secure aging Soviet weapons. No. That lab was designed for research a new and “especially dangerous pathogens” in Ukraine, the poorest country in Europe. Again, not a hotbed of biomedical research. Why Ukraine? We don’t know. Someone should find out.
We do know that the Pentagon talking points you saw reported as fact on television today and last night were an utter lie. Did the reporters, who repeated those talking points verbatim, know they were a lie? Maybe they did. On the other hand, how would they know? They didn’t bother to do any reporting whatsoever. They got a text from some Biden administration flack and they just read it on the air like it was true. You shouldn’t be surprised because that’s what they do and it’s possible they’re afraid not to do that. They know if they stray from the script the White House has written for them, they’ll be denounced from the briefing room as tools of Putin. Here’s Biden’s publicist doing the very same thing today:
PRESS SECRETARY JEN PSAKI: The main issue that prompted my Twitter thread yesterday was that Russia has a history also of inventing outright lies like this, which is the suggestion that the United States has a chemical and biological weapons program, or Ukraine does, that they’re operating. Russia is the one, is the country, that has a chemical and biological weapons program. So, the objective was to make clear the inaccuracy of the information, the misinformation they’re trying to put out, and make clear to the world that they not only have the capacity, they have a history of using chemical and biological weapons, and that, in this moment, we should have our eyes open.
Yeah, but no one denies that. That’s the thing. No one denies that Russia has a chem bio program. That’s bad. No one denies that Russia lies, of course, and has for a long time, that Russian propaganda is absolutely real, of course. That’s not for debate. That’s all true.
The question is: Why is the United States funding these biolabs that are not doing anything close to what the Pentagon claims they are doing? Why is the White House press secretary from the podium contradicting what the director of the Pentagon’s bioweapons control program has already admitted is true? Why is she doing that and how should we feel about all of this? Insulted, but also very concerned. There is absolutely a story here, a story that matters, clearly. That’s why they’re lying about it.