US Intelligence: Bio-Weapons Being Made That Target People's Unique DNA
WASHINGTON - A U.S. House Intelligence Committee member has put out a warning to Americans not to so easily share their genetic information to websites like the biotechnology company 23andMe, as there are bio-weapons being developed that can target an individual's DNA and potentially kill them.
While 23andMe has stated many times that they do not sell their customer's medical information, they are known to freely give out that information to the authorities when it was requested of them.
While speaking at the Aspen Security Forum Friday, U.S. Representative Jason Crow, of Colorado said that Americans give up their genetic information too easily. This not only includes information, or blood samples but DNA can be extracted from saliva, hair, and other body fluids.
"You can actually take someone's DNA, take, you know, their medical profile and you can target a biological weapon that will kill that person or take them off the battlefield or make them inoperable," Crow said.
"You can't have a discussion about this without talking about privacy and the protection of commercial data because expectations of privacy have degraded over the last 20 years. Young folks actually have very little expectation of privacy, that's what the polling and the data show." he continued.
"People will very rapidly spit into a cup and send it to 23andMe and get really interesting data about their background," he continued. "And guess what? Their DNA is now owned by a private company. It can be sold off with very little intellectual property protection or privacy protection and we don't have legal and regulatory regimes to deal with that."
Army General Richard Clark, who is commander of the United States Special Operations pointed out that Russia has already targeted political opponents with nerve agents, indicating that they would have no problem using bio-weapons that target a person's specific DNA.
"Russia is willing to use those against political opponents. They're willing to use them on their own soil, but then to go in on the soil of a NATO ally in the UK and use those ... and as we go into the future, we have to be prepared for that eventualities."
"And I don't think we talk about it as much as we should and look for methods to continue to combat," he added.
There have been reports for years that China's communist party has been collecting DNA samples, not just from people from China, but also from Americans.
In 2021 Senator Marco Rubio, of Florida introduced two bills that were aimed at stopping China from collecting DNA samples from Americans. Although some of the ways they were using to collect data on the genome of Americans were illegal, such as cyberattacks, some were perfectly legal, even using the U.S. healthcare system to collect data on unsuspecting Americans through investing in U.S. biotech companies and partnerships with hospitals or universities who had collected the data legally.
Rubio said that "There is no reason for American taxpayers to be funding Beijing’s research or for our policies to enable access to American’s genomic data," and added that "It’s imperative that Congress take steps to confront this growing national security and privacy threat."
Again in 2021, after COVID cases began to increase across the globe, a Chinese firm called Beijing Genomics Institute contacted several U.S. states, according to NPR News, and offered to set up labs for testing.
Mike Orlando, head of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center said that U.S. national security officials urged the states that were contacted by China to reject the offer due to concerns regarding just how China might use the information they collected on Americans.
"We certainly reached out to our partners and the community to make sure people were aware that the Chinese were pushing out these tests, informing them of what the risks were and really asking them not to take these tests," Orlando stated. "As far as I know, they all turned them down".
And yet again in 2021, a Chinese genetic company began to sell prenatal tests developed by the CCP military and used them to collect genetic data from 'millions' of women around the world in order to research the traits of populations, according to a Reuters report July 7th, 2021.
Reuters had reported that a "vast bank of genomic data" was being amassed by the Chinese BGI Group, which was analyzing the data collected using artificial intelligence (AI) software, with the intention to give China both 'economic and military advantage', according to the report.
The news agency reported that BGI stored and analyzed NIFTY, or "Non-Invasive Fetal TrisomY" prenatal tests taken from over 52 countries around the globe in order to 'detect abnormalities in the fetus, such as down syndrome.
The tests also recorded information about the mother, such as nationality, height and weight, but did not record names, according to Reuters who reportedly analyzed the programming code for BGI's algorithms.
Reuters also reported that over 8 million women had taken prenatal tests around the world.
A statement by BGI however, said that the company "has never been asked to provide – nor provided – data from its NIFTY tests to Chinese authorities for national security or national defense security purposes."
On June 17th, 2020 the Australian Strategic Policy Institute reported that Chinese police have been collecting DNA samples of 'tens of millions' of men and boys in China who do have a "history of serious criminal activity" in order to populate their growing genetic database on their own citizens.
The report said that the boys and men, which include pre-school-aged children whose samples have been collected "have no control over how their samples are collected, stored and used."
The institute said that earlier DNA data collection by the Chinese had focused on Tibet and Xinjian, but starting in 2017, the communist party began sweeping across China in order to collect DNA samples on males in the country which would allow them to track down a man's relatives using his blood, saliva or other 'genetic material'.
The aim, according to the report was to "comprehensively improve public security organs", "solve cases" and "manage and control society". The institute said that the mass DNA data collection "violates Chinese domestic law" as well as "global human rights norms".
The report had said that an American company, Thermo Fisher based in Massachusetts had been aiding China's efforts, selling testing kits to China's police force that was specifically 'tailored to their specifications'. The company was then criticized by lawmakers, prompting the company to defend its actions.
It also said that China's police force responded to criticism saying that they needed the database in order to catch criminals and that they had obtained consent from the boys and men, who they claim freely gave their DNA to CCP authorities.
There is a question, however, if pre-school-aged children are even capable of making an informed decision regarding giving their genetic data to the government to be stored in a database.
The report also said that while collecting genetic data can be helpful in solving crimes, and can even save lives, "since 2013, Chinese authorities have collected DNA samples from entire ethnic minority communities and ordinary citizens outside any criminal investigations and without proper informed consent."
The genetic code for nearly the whole population of the Tibetan Autonomous Region which had a population of about 3 million people had been filed away in China's DNA database, the report said. Another program was launched in Xinjiang, China, it said, where the DNA of almost all of Xinjiang's 23 million residents was collected.
The 2020 report said that the Chinese Government's genetic database likely contains '100 million profiles' with possibly more than 140 million, "making it the world's largest DNA database", which continues to expand.
As far as China's efforts to collect DNA data globally, April Falcon Doss, who worked at the National Security Agency stated in 2021 that "Most Americans have probably had their data compromised by the cyber intelligence units of the Chinese government and Chinese military intelligence".
Falcon Doss listed three reasons China was collecting genetic data on people globally: To boost China's economy, to advance its technology, and to support its espionage efforts.
"China has really set as one of its strategic goals, trying to achieve dominance in artificial intelligence. What you need to feed artificial intelligence algorithms is lots and lots and lots of data," she said.
In 2014, China began to be blamed for a number of data thefts involving hundreds of millions of records on American citizens. Data from a number of companies were allegedly stolen by China.
Some of the companies affected by the data breaches were Equifax, the Marriott hotel chain, Anthem which is a health insurer, and the United States office of Personnel Management which stores the information of government employees such as fingerprint data and security clearance information. Equifax: 145 million records were stolen. Marriott: 400 million records. Anthem: 78 million records.
NPR news reported that while the Justice Department filed charges against the Chinese citizens involved in the data theft, most "remain in China" beyond the reach of U.S. law enforcement, while some that were accused of the crimes are currently serving in the Chinese military.
While China denies that it was involved in the attacks, it has admitted that it wants to lead the world in data gathering and using artificial intelligence as a means of searching through the information it has gathered.
Retired Army General Keith Alexander, who served as director of the National Security Agency said, "If you look at the cyber hacks of our credit information, our travel information, and then you layer in the DNA information, it creates an incredible targeting tool for how the Chinese could surveil us, manipulate us and extort us," Orlando said. "It gives them tremendous access into who we are." according to a report by NPR.
Although in 2015, the United States and China had signed an agreement that neither government would be seeking to steal intellectual property from private companies of the other country, the data theft allegedly carried out by China has allowed the country to gain access to American technology and data they otherwise wouldn't have had access to, greatly boosting China economically.
"The Chinese need access to intellectual property to fuel that economic engine, That theft is the greatest transfer of wealth in history." NPR quoted Alexander as saying.
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