Coronavirus News Asia

CIA should know if China lied on Covid-19

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Washington blames Beijing for the coronavirus. Beijing denies it and claims the virus was brewed up elsewhere, maybe in America. It’s a “he said, she said” sort of dispute.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has reportedly been ordered to find out where the Covid-19 virus came from and whether Chinese leaders purposely seeded the infection around the world.

It is good the CIA is on the job, but shouldn’t it already know the answers? That is the CIA’s job after all – to know what’s going on in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and what President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party of China leadership are thinking and doing.  

Presumably the CIA prioritizes China over, say, Slovenia. It could, of course, be that Langley already has the intelligence and that the Donald Trump administration is masterfully feigning ignorance. 

Perhaps. But there are reasons to believe that the CIA is not very good at spying. The agency’s principal duty is to obtain secrets by persuading foreigners to betray their countries or organizations for America’s interests.

This isn’t always easy. Nonetheless, it is what the CIA is supposed to do.

It’s often argued – or, more accurately, used as an excuse – that China is a “hard target.” And it is. The PRC’s Ministry of State Security’s successes in rolling up CIA Chinese agent networks in recent times have been intelligence disasters for the ages.

But being hard is still not much of an excuse. The intelligence targets most important to the US usually are the most difficult. Imagine an airline pilot suggesting he should not be expected to land in a 30-knot crosswind because it would be hard.

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