CIA Official Questioned Over Wuhan Cover-Up Took Job at U.S.-China Consulting Firm
The claim that the CIA used bribes to bury findings supporting a COVID lab leak brings scrutiny of an influential D.C. consulting firm filled with former intelligence officials.
Last week, lawmakers in Congress probing the origins of the coronavirus pandemic revealed that they had heard testimony from a new whistleblower, reportedly “presents as a highly credible senior-level CIA officer,” who claimed that CIA leadership had suppressed an assessment that COVID-19 came from a laboratory in Wuhan, China.
According to the whistleblower, six of seven CIA officers researching the outbreak of COVID-19 found evidence to make a "low confidence assessment" of origin from the Wuhan lab. But a senior official allegedly helped muddy the waters and used financial incentives to persuade the officers against the lab assessment, ensuring that the CIA did not blame China.
The lawmakers requested that CIA chief operating officer Andrew Makridis, who coordinated the agency’s response to the pandemic until retiring last year, participate in a voluntary interview with congressional investigators. Makridis, the whistleblower claimed, “played a central role in its formation and eventual conclusion that the CIA was unable to determine" the origins of COVID-19. The congressional letter makes clear that Makridis could soon face a subpoena.
While the source of the virus is still unclear, growing evidence suggests that COVID-19 first emerged at the Wuhan lab and escaped under subpar biosafety standards. Many fear that such a conclusion will further harm U.S. ties to China, and potentially disrupt the $800 billion in trade relations between the two countries.
Makridis, notably, left the CIA to pass through the revolving door into a Washington, D.C. business that monetizes the nexus of U.S.-China relations. He now serves as a senior advisor to Beacon Global Strategies, a firm that helps corporate clients navigate delicate national security concerns, particularly surrounding China.
Beacon Global Strategies, founded by a bipartisan group of officials from the CIA, Defense Department, and House Intelligence Committee, maintains high-level contacts throughout the U.S. government and regularly speaks with national security agencies, information that it uses to help clients understand the geopolitical and regulatory landscape.
The firm, now in its tenth year of operation, was founded with seed investment money from Claude Fontheim, a lobbyist who spent two decades representing the U.S.-China Exchange Foundation, a pro-China influence group. Beacon Global Strategies has grown rapidly by advertising its unique insight into U.S. and China policy.
Although the company is not registered as a lobbying firm, officials at Beacon Global Strategies have worked to influence China-related policy.
In 2019, Jeffrey Kupfer, while serving as an adviser to Beacon Global Strategies, directly pressed the Trump administration against a “proposed plan to once again increase tariffs up to 25 percent on Chinese products,” arguing that such tariffs would result in retaliatory trade penalties on American liquified natural gas exports.
That year, Beacon Global Strategies was also hired by Advanced Micro Devices Inc. to push back against a Trump administration plan to unwind a partnership that AMD had forged with a Chinese firm to produce state-of-the-art computer chip technology. The administration raised national security concerns over the fact that AMD’s partner worked closely with the Chinese military. The efforts by Beacon Global Strategies to “make peace,” as the Wall Street Journal reported, between AMD and the Trump administration, failed. The U.S. Commerce Department eventually sanctioned AMD’s partner, effectively killing the deal, but not before vital technology had already been transferred to the Chinese.