Coronavirus war: Fears grow that COVID-19 could be weaponized as a biological weapon

They insist that this does not mean intelligence officials believe that the virus was deliberately created as a weapon. There has been much speculation that COVID-19 was developed in a state laboratory near Wuhan in China, where the pandemic originally started. No hard intelligence or scientific evidence currently exists to back up these claims, according to those briefed on the matter.

Given the devastating effects of COVID-19 and the speed at which it spreads, the US intelligence community has started to game out the potential for bad actors to weaponize the virus.

At the same time, the Department of Defense has also begun to monitor the possibility more carefully, sources close to the defence establishment told Politico.

A Defense official said that the risk that the virus could be turned into a weapon was still relatively low, and the current focus was on trying to work out the origins of the virus and establish just what the Chinese government knew about it early on.

Many have accused Beijing of deliberately trying to cover up the initial outbreak and of trying to conceal the true impact it had in China.

However, former senior Pentagon officials said that a coordinated planning effort is normally implemented for any particular threat vector, including the potential deployment of a bioweapon and the threats posed by the coronavirus should not be any different.

Andy Weber, an assistant secretary of Defense under President Obama, told Politico: “A bioweapon isn’t something that looks like a munition – it’s just a pathogen.

“In its natural state, the current virus could be used as a bioweapon by less sophisticated groups.

“Or, for a nation-state with a more advanced biological weapons program, this virus could be given enhanced characteristics.”

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Another former administration official said that a potential hostile actor would not weaponize the virus by manipulating it, as this would leave a clear signature.

The most likely scenario for an attack would involve infecting someone with the natural virus and then have that person spread it in areas frequented by individuals they want to target.

The rapid spread of COVID-19 among the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt highlights the possibility of just such a scenario.

The outbreak of the virus has temporarily taken the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier out of action, after infecting a majority of the crew, including the captain, during a deployment in the Pacific.

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Senior naval officers are still no wiser as to the cause of the outbreak and the incident brings into sharp focus the military’s vulnerability to the asymmetric threat a weaponized virus could pose.

Mr Weber, who is now a senior fellow at the Council on Strategic Risks, argued that the risk of coronavirus being used as biological weapon increases as more is learned about the disease.

He said: “In terms of bioterrorism, Covid is very accessible. Samples are available all over the world.”

He added: “Adversaries only have to observe the havoc that this pandemic is wreaking to know that if they wanted to launch a bio attack, it could do a lot of damage.

“It also provides the added benefit of some plausible deniability.

“There is obviously the potential blowback on your own population — but depending on the adversary, they may just not care.”

The FBI has already issued warnings that terrorist groups are trying to exploit the present outbreak to spread the virus further among target populations.

Last month the agency sent a statement to local police stations around the country.

It was obtained by ABC and said: “Members of extremist groups are encouraging one another to spread the virus, if contracted, through bodily fluids and personal interactions.”

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