In March 2023, when President Biden declassified all documents related to the origins of Covid, he added a caveat about the need “to protect against the disclosure of information that would harm national security.” What could the origins of Covid have to do with national security?

An important but largely overlooked book by Andrew Huff—the former vice president of EcoHealth Alliance, the nonprofit that helped fund bat coronavirus modification at the Wuhan Institute of Virology—argues that the pandemic’s origins track back to research linked to the US government’s biodefense program. Huff’s story helps expose the danger posed by defensive biological research conducted by unscrupulous and incompetent subcontractors.

Note the term here is biodefense, not bioweapons. The United States terminated offensive biological-weapons research in 1972 when it signed the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. Offensive biological-weapons development is now illegal. However, biodefense— research into pathogens that America’s enemies might use—remains legal.

Biodefense funding has ballooned since the anthrax attacks of 2001. Whereas the old bioweapons research developed an offensive biological arsenal, newer biodefense research focuses on producing so-called medical countermeasures. Prominent among these are vaccines. Indeed, the theory of biodefense rests heavily on population-wide acceptance of whatever medical countermeasure is offered.

A quick Google search on “biodefense” will immediately reveal a vast array of government entities, academic units, university doctoral programs, and private businesses all very openly dedicated to this enterprise. In other words, the field isn’t a secret.

“Dangerous research on deadly pathogens is being farmed out to mercenaries.”

The US biodefense program is headquartered at Fort Detrick, an Army base in Maryland, but it leans heavily on subcontractors at universities, private companies, and nonprofits. Often work goes to the lowest bidder. In other words, research on deadly pathogens is being farmed out to mercenaries.

The insanity of all this should be obvious. Niccolò Machiavelli nailed the problem 500 years ago when he described mercenaries as “useless and dangerous.” He wrote: “If you are counting on mercenaries to defend your state, you will never be stable or secure, because mercenaries are ambitious, undisciplined, disloyal, and they quarrel among themselves. Courageous with friends and cowardly with enemies, they have no fear of God and keep no promises.” If Huff’s account is to be believed, Machiavelli could have been describing EcoHealth Alliance.

According to Huff, EcoHealth Alliance’s offices are dingy, and the computers are out of date. Of the EHA president Peter Daszak, Huff writes: “I would sit back and watch him make countless leadership errors [on issues ranging] from the safety of my own projects and sources of funding.” As for money: “Finances were tight … the organization ran the risk of running out of cash.” When there were budgetary issues, the accountant “would shuffle office to office, striking deals with staff to move money between accounts.” Of the in-house quantitative computer guy, Huff writes that his work was the sort that gives “statisticians and modelers a bad name,” because he used “computer software to generate the bullshit ‘right answers’ camouflaged in mathematical language relatively few people can understand.”

The place may have been a mess, but Daszak did know how to shake the money tree. According to Huff, Daszak “created a system to influence the entire field of emerging infectious disease and scientific discourse.” He managed to get on numerous influential organizational boards, in part by creating and editing his own scientific journal, EcoHealth. As Huff puts it, “being a journal editor … enables you to control what the official narrative is within the journal and, if successful, across the entire field. Simply, Peter would only select or approve peer-reviewed articles to be published if they supported his motives and agenda.”

Huff’s descriptions indict not just EcoHealth Alliance, but all of modern science as increasingly mercenary: “Once the manuscript is accepted, have your co-authors and subordinates repeat the thesis of the article in other forms of media and other peer-review journals. This is how scientific consensus and ‘fact’ is [sic] established.” As with metastasized cancer, the same necrotic logic replicates at different levels: The mission is ill-conceived, the institutions are corrupt, the personnel lack character, and the science is bogus. The vector of the necrosis is always, at bottom, the same: money and the struggle to obtain more of it.


Huff attended the University of Minnesota, joined the National Guard after 9/11, and in 2004 volunteered for deployment to Iraq, even though he had opposed the invasion. In Iraq, he “witnessed and participated in many terrible things.” His time in the armed forces also introduced him to the “useless and dangerous” mercenaries to whom much of America’s war effort was being outsourced. Careless contractors almost killed a group of his friends, while another out-of-control contractor physically attacked Huff.

After Iraq, Huff studied infectious-disease epidemiology at the University of Minnesota, where his doctoral advisor was Michael T. Osterholm, who later became Biden’s chief Covid advisor. Huff then worked at Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico, until ending up at EcoHealth Alliance in 2014. At the time, the New York-based nonprofit was nominally dedicated to using conservation to prevent “spillover” events, in which animal diseases cross over to infect humans. (According to Huff, EcoHealth Alliance’s actual budget for conservation was zero.) The same year Huff joined its staff, EcoHealth Alliance received $3.7 million in funding from Anthony Fauci’s National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Disease to collect viruses and subcontract out gain-of-function research on some of the gathered bat viruses.

“The entire program amounted to pseudoscience.”

Huff did well at Eco Health Alliance, winning a large Department of Defense grant and quickly moving up the ranks to become vice president. In that senior post, he was involved with a USAID-funded program called PREDICT that attempts to project where the next pandemic might emerge. According to Huff, “the entire program amounted to pseudoscience” based on badly flawed modeling.

Soon it became clear to Huff that the nonprofit’s main focus was “sample collection, viral isolation, and storage of genetic information.” According to Huff, the senior team at EcoHealth Alliance talked openly about the fact that their samples would be used in gain-of-function research, in which viruses found among animals are modified to make them more infectious to humans. In fact, a 2014 funding proposal that EHA submitted to Fauci’s NIAID, titled “Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence,” describes the gain-of-function work that, according to Huff, likely led to Covid.

One night while they were working late, Huff recounts, Peter Daszak told him that “someone from the CIA approached me. They are interested in the places we are working, in the people we are working with, in the data we are collecting.” Huff, although shocked that Daszak was speaking openly about a relationship that should have been governed by security clearances, answered as a mercenary would: “Peter, it never hurts to talk with them. There might be money in it.” Based on this and other experiences, Huff concludes that “EcoHealth Alliance was really in the business of collecting intelligence on foreign laboratories and personnel while on the hunt for coronaviruses.”

Another bizarre story in Huff’s book involves Metabiota, a firm partly owned by Hunter Biden’s venture-capital firm Rosemont Seneca. According to Huff, Metabiota and EcoHealth Alliance both worked with US-funded biological labs in Ukraine. Originally denied by the US government, existence of these labs was later confirmed by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland during Senate testimony on March 10, 2022.

Why place biolabs in unstable places like Ukraine? Huff remarks: “The only information that I have seen related to the labs in Ukraine that appears to be worth investigation is the apparent testing of experimental drugs, therapeutics, and vaccines on members of the Ukrainian military, and the** **regional population.” No shock there: Impoverished countries host lots of medical trials.

More notoriously, EcoHealth Alliance worked with and passed funding to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, one of the most secure laboratories in China. This collaboration gave Eco Health Alliance—and thus, if Huff’s supposition is correct, US intelligence—access to the Institute’s huge library of virus samples.

From the perspective of the US biodefense complex, this makes sense: How are you going to develop countermeasures against a rival state’s potential biological weapons if you don’t know what viruses they are experimenting with? The genetic sequence of SARS-CoV-2 matches almost perfectly a bat virus collected from a mine in Yunnan and later experimented on by the now infamous Wuhan virologist Shi Zhengli, nicknamed “Bat Woman.” EcoHealth Alliance helped fund Shi’s work.


In the summer of 2016, Huff left EcoHealth Alliance, disillusioned with the organization’s corruption and incompetence. This poor management had a few upsides, however: Daszak never demanded non-disclosure agreements, intellectual-property restrictions, or noncompete clauses as conditions of employment. Thanks to all that, Huff was legally free to leave and take several profitable ideas with him.

In late 2019, as SARS-CoV-2 was first spreading in Wuhan, Huff received, out of the blue, two job offers. One was from the US military, which asked him to rejoin at the rank of major or even colonel and work in the medical wing. The second was from theDefense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which wanted him to manage a program on “biologics and emerging infections.”

Tempting though these offers were, Huff declined both—and crucially, the restrictive high-level security clearances and secrecy oaths they would have required. At the time, he wanted to make real money, and classified government work would limit his ability to commercialize his ideas.

As the virus continued to spread in and beyond China, Huff’s old boss Peter Daszak showed signs of panic. In January 2020, Daszak organized a letter in The Lancet, signed by 27 prominent scientists, that dismissed the possibility of a lab leak. (The Lancet later acknowledged Daszak’s conflict of interest.) A year later, Daszak was a senior member on the World Health Organization’s investigation into the origins of the pandemic. That research trip to Wuhan bent over backwards to push the idea of a zoonotic origin. So shoddy was the resulting report that the head of WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, distanced himself from it, saying more research was needed.

Toward the end of Huff’s book, a disturbing chapter details a campaign of harassment against him by what appears to be the FBI. Most of this chapter is taken up with an extensive quotation from a legal brief written by Huff’s attorney. The story is so astonishing—it involves a gun fight on Huff’s property—that one is left with only two possible conclusions: Either Huff is out of his mind (but nothing else seems to indicate this), or that parts of the government were determined** **to silence someone with inside knowledge of what is beginning to look like the biggest scandal to ever emerge from the biodefense scene. (It was the campaign of harassment, ironically, that compelled Huff to write his book.)

“Biodefense only works if there is society-wide uptake of medical countermeasures.”

The post-1972 history of biodefense in the United States raises intriguing questions about the pursuit of mass vaccination. The theory of biodefense only works if there is society-wide uptake of medical countermeasures, most of which are vaccines. In the 1970s, vaccines were treated as one useful form of medical intervention among others, that like all such interventions had benefits and costs to be weighed. In more recent years, beginning even prior to the pandemic, vaccines have taken on the quality of a political litmus test for one’s sanity. No dissent whatsoever is tolerated. They have, in short, become a fetish.

In the larger scheme of things, Covid is hardly the worst virus that could have escaped from a lab. According to Sen. Rand Paul, who has access to information denied to the rest of us, some of the viruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology have estimated infection fatality rates of up to 15 percent. In recent months, Congress has held occasional hearings on the origins of Covid, but Huff has not yet been called to testify on the US biodefense program and its networks of low-budget mercenaries. Hopefully that will change.

Christian Parenti is a professor of economics at John Jay College, CUNY. His most recent book is Radical Hamilton.