In December, John Ratcliffe, outgoing Director of National Intelligence, echoed previous warnings by the-then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and FBI chief Christopher Wray, to insist that Beijing was planning to “dominate the US and the rest of the planet economically, militarily and technologically”.
Chinese biotech giant BGI Group sought to expand its reach and offered to build COVID testing labs in at least six US states after the first major outbreak of the respiratory disease, prompting intelligence officials to warn against sharing health data with the genetics firm, reports CBS.
BGI, China’s leading genetics company, had reportedly offered to construct and run coronavirus testing labs in Washington, contacting its governor over the proposal, while also reaching out to at least five other states, including New York and California, according to news broadcast, 60 Minutes.
Formerly known as Beijing Genomics Institute, BGI is based in the Chinese city of Shenzhen and specializes in gene sequencing. It administers the China National Gene Bank – a genomic database funded by the Chinese government.
However, the moves by BGI ignited the concerns of Bill Evanina, Director of the US government’s National Counterintelligence and Security Center, who went on record as warning that “foreign powers can collect, store and exploit biometric information from COVID tests”.
Race to ‘Control Global Biodata’
According to Bill Evanina, who was previously the chief of the Counterespionage Group for the Central Intelligence Agency, the Chinese are covertly out to harvest Americans’ DNA in the global race to wield control over the world’s biodata.
The host of the show, set to be broadcast on Sunday, spoke to Evanina and other experts to highlight how biodata is becoming a valuable commodity, and might potentially pose a threat to national security.
“We put out an advisory to not only every American, but to hospitals, associations, and clinics. Knowing that BGI is a Chinese company, do we understand where that data’s going?” Bill Evanina is quoted as saying.
According to the former chief of a joint FBI and CIA Counterintelligence Division/ Counterespionage Group, he had joined efforts at the outset of the health crisis with other intelligence officials to stop the states from accepting the offer of the BGI Group, ostensibly has close ties to China’s military and ruling Communist Party.
“This shows the nefarious mindset of the Communist Party of China, to take advantage of a worldwide crisis like COVID,” Evanina said on the show.
Control over biodata, knowledge of the medical conditions of citizens and, accordingly, the medicines they use to treat them, is fraught with dangers, believes the ex-FBI official. This might offer a foreign entity the ability to exercise complete control over health care.