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The federal government failed to notice an unlicensed bio lab in Reedley, California, which stored numerous diseases and was created by a fugitive Chinese citizen tied to communist China’s government, according to a congressional report.
The House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party in its 42-page report, dubbed “The Reedley Report,” explained that gaps in federal government’s regulatory oversight enabled the clandestine bio lab’s operation, which was first discovered in March.
“A disturbing realization is that no one knows whether there are other unknown biolabs in the United States,” the report said, observing the Reedley lab contained “at least 20 potentially infectious agents.”
The lab was likely a cover for fraud and government-aided economic espionage by Chinese citizen Jiabei “Jesse” Zhu, according to the report.
The Select Committee has obtained evidence indicating that Zhu and his associates at the Reedley Biolab were purchasing counterfeit test kits from the PRC and re-selling them in the United States as “Made in the USA.”The Reedley Biolab contained dozens of large boxes full of PRC-made medical device test kits, shipping manifests for these items from the PRC, and bills indicating the acquisition of these test kits from PRC companies (in some cases, companies affiliated with Zhu)
The report also criticized the CDC for refusing to investigate the clandestine biolab or take biological samples, which allegedly included the deadly Ebola virus and HIV.
“The CDC’s response was inadequate and raises serious questions about its standard practices,” the report noted.
Local officials spent months repeatedly trying to obtain assistance from the CDC, both directly and through CDPH. According to local officials, the CDC refused to speak with them, and, on a number of occasions, it was reported by local officials that CDC hung up on them mid-conversation. Local officials were similarly unable to get any help from other federal agencies that may have concurrent authority to investigate and/or remediate the biohazardous substances found at the Reedley Biolab.
Ultimately, local officials contacted their local Member of Congress, Representative Jim Costa, asking him for help obtaining federal assistance. It was only then, following Congressman Costa’s advocacy on Reedley’s behalf, that the CDC responded to California state government and local officials’ requests.
The CDC had defended its refusal to test the samples, claiming it did not have the authority to do so. That claim was later found to be false.
In its refusal to test, the CDC likewise did not offer to connect local officials with any other federal agency or authorized lab that may be able to test the samples. Based on statements from local officials and briefings the SelectCommittee received from the CDC, the CDC did not contact the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center, the government biodefense laboratory located in Fort Dietrich, Maryland that could potentially have provided greater assistance.According to local official accounts, in a subsequent conversation with theCDC in early September 2023, local officials again pressed the CDC on why they refused to test any potential pathogens.
A CDC official informed the local officials that it was illegal for the CDC to test any samples that were not expressly labeled as a Select Agent.City Manager Nicole Zieba expressed shock at this fact. She asked whether, if that were the case, the CDC had any authority to stop a terrorist in the United States who simply removed the label off a vial of a deadly virus. The CDC official said that the CDC had no authority to test the deadly virus in that hypothetical and that it was a noted gap in its authority.56This characterization of the CDC’s authority appears to be false.
“Despite their limited local budget, local officials then offered to pay the CDC for the entirety of the cost of testing these samples. They still did not [test] and left the site,” the report added.
Because the CDC refused to test the biological samples, the scope of the biolab’s activities will never be fully understood, the report claims.
The CDC’s refusal to test any potential pathogens with the understanding that local officials would otherwise have to destroy the samples through an abatement process makes it impossible for the Select Committee to fully assess the potential risks that this specific facility posed to the community. It is possible that there were other highly dangerous pathogens that were in the coded vials or otherwise unlabeled. Due to government failures, we simply cannot know.
The report called on Congress to address the “significant gaps” in America’s national defense regulations to ensure they won’t be “exploited in the future.”
“At a minimum, the Reedley Biolab shows the profound threat that unlicensed and unknown biolabs pose to our country. At worst, this investigation revealed significant gaps in our nation’s defenses and pathogen-related regulations that present a grave national security risk that could be exploited in the future,” the report concluded.
Read the Reedley Report:
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