An offer from the largest biotech company in the world to build and run coronavirus testing sites in the United States was actually a Chinese scheme to collect Americans’ DNA, according to U.S. intelligence officials.
The covert effort was thwarted thanks to a rare public warning issued by Bill Evanina, the country’s top counterintelligence officer at the time.
“Foreign powers can collect, store and exploit biometric information from COVID tests,” read the statement issued by Evanina.
A CBS report said that the BGI Group made the offer to Washington state, California, New York, and at least 2 other states. The offer was made as soon as the first major coronavirus outbreak appeared in the United States.
Evanina, a veteran of the CIA and the FBI, told CBS that he believed the Chinese government was engaged in a concerted effort to collect DNA in order to gain an edge on medical advancements.
“This shows the nefarious mindset of the Communist Party of China, to take advantage of a worldwide crisis like COVID,” said Evanina.
Evanina said that he believed Chinese companies were investing in U.S. biotech companies as part of their effort to collect American DNA. He said that some people may be submitting their DNA for analysis to genealogical companies that partner with Chinese companies too.
The military has already sent a warning to service members against using direct-to-consumer genealogy companies over similar concerns.
“These genetic tests are largely unregulated and could expose personal and genetic information,” read the warning. “Outside parties are exploiting the use of genetic data.”
Evanina has stepped down from his position but says that the threat from Chinese DNA collection persists.
“We put out an advisory to not only every American, but to hospitals, associations, and clinics,” said Evanina. “Knowing that BGI is a Chinese company, do we understand where that data’s going?”