Dark Winter Pandemic Exercise

In late June 2001, the U.S. military was preparing for a “Dark Winter.” At Andrews Air Force Base in Camp Springs, Maryland, several Congressmen, a former CIA director, a former FBI director, government insiders and privileged members of the press met to conduct a biowarfare simulation that would precede both the September 11 attacks and the 2001 Anthrax attacks by a matter of months. It specifically simulated the deliberate introduction of smallpox to the American public by a hostile actor.

The simulation was a collaborative effort led by the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies (part of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security) in collaboration with the Center for Strategic and International Studies CSIS, the Analytic Services ANSER Institute for Homeland Security and the Oklahoma National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism. The concept, design and script of the simulation were created by Tara O’Toole and Thomas Inglesby of the Johns Hopkins Center along with Randy Larsen and Mark DeMier of ANSER. The full script of the exercise can be read here.

The name for the exercise derives from a statement made by Robert Kadlec, who participated in the script created for the exercise, when he states that the lack of smallpox vaccines for the U.S. populace means that “it could be a very dark winter for America.” Kadlec, a veteran of the George W. Bush administration and a former lobbyist for military intelligence/intelligence contractors, is now leading HHS’ Covid-19 response and led the Trump administration’s 2019 “Crimson Contagion” exercises, which simulated a crippling pandemic influenza outbreak in the U.S. that had first originated in China. Kadlec’s professional history, his decades-old obsession with apocalyptic bioweapon attack scenarios and the Crimson Contagion exercises themselves are the subject of Part III of this series.

Dark Winter was largely written by Tara O’Toole, Thomas Inglesby, and Randall Larsen, all three of whom played integral roles in the founding or operations of UPMC’s Center for Biosecurity, along with O’Toole’s mentor, D. A. Henderson. UPMC’s Center for Biosecurity was launched in September 2003, just days before the NIAID announced it would fund the RBL lab that would later become the UPMC’s Center for Vaccine Research.

Notably, just days after the attacks on September 11, 2001, O’Toole, Inglesby, and Larsen personally briefed Vice President Dick Cheney on Dark Winter. Simultaneously, Cheney’s office at the White House began taking the antibiotic Ciprofloxacin to prevent anthrax infection. In the weeks between that briefing and the 2001 anthrax attacks, Dark Winter participants and several associates of Cheney, namely members of the Project for a New American Century PNAC like Donald Kagan and Richard Perle, asserted that a bioterror attack involving anthrax would soon take place.

In the aftermath of the 2001 anthrax attacks, Henderson “was tapped by the federal government to vastly increase the number of [biodefense] labs, both to detect suspected pathogens like anthrax and to conduct bio-defense research, such as developing vaccines,” with the announcement of UPMC’s RBL being part of the launch of the O’Toole-led Center for Biosecurity at UPMC, where Henderson was named senior adviser.

In 2003, the Center for Biosecurity was set up at UPMC partially at the request of Jeffrey Romoff to be “the country’s only think tank and research center devoted to the prevention and handling of biological attacks,” with UPMC’s Center for Vaccine Research being the hub of a new “biodefense research” lab network Henderson was setting up and managing at the time. That network remains technically managed by the Fauci-led NIAID.

Since this exercise occurred in June 2001, the heavy hinting that Saddam Hussein-led Iraq and Al Qaeda are the main suspects is notable. Indeed, at one point in one of the fictional news reports used in the exercise, the reporter states that “Iraq might have provided the technology behind the attacks to terrorist groups based in Afghanistan.”

Such claims that Iraq’s government was linked to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan would re-emerge months later in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, and would be heavily promoted by several Dark Winter participants such as former CIA Director James Woolsey, who would later swear under oath that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11. It would, of course, later emerge that Iraq’s connections to Al Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks were nonexistent as well as the fact that Iraq did not possess biological weapons or other “weapons of mass destruction.”

Lt. Col. Philip Zack in 2001, was working for the U.S. biotechnology company Gilead Sciences. Though he first began working for Gilead in 1999, he was “handpicked” in 2001 to lead the establishment of “a new Project Management Department in conjunction with a complete restructure of R&D Research and Development.” Donald Rumsfeld, another member of PNAC, became the chairman of Gilead Sciences in 1997 and he served as chairman of that company up until he became George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense in early 2001. 1)

Engineering Contagion- UPMC, Corona-thrax and “the Darkest Winter”

The Last American Vagabond by Whitney Webb - September 25, 2020

Researchers at a BSL-3 lab tied to the organizers of the 2001 Dark Winter simulation, DARPA, and the post-9/11 biodefense industrial complex are genetically modifying anthrax to express Covid-19 components, according to FOIA documents.

Soon after having been fired from his post as secretary of the treasury in December 2002, after a policy clash with the president, Paul O’Neill became a trustee of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Despite having just worked under and clashed with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, it wasn’t until O’Neill began answering to UPMC CEO Jeffrey Romoff as a member of the Center’s board that he chose to publicly denounce a superior as “evil.”

“He wants to destroy competition. He wants to be the only game in town,” O’Neill would later state of Romoff, adding that “after 18 months I quit [the UPMC board] in disgust” due to Romoff’s “absolute control” over the board’s actions. O’Neill subsequently noted that UPMC “board members who have wealth of hundreds of millions of dollars are not willing to take this guy on.” When pressed by a local reporter, O’Neill further elaborated that he had been told by other board members that they were “afraid” of Romoff because Romoff might “harm them in some way.”

Romoff took over stating at one 1995 UPMC meeting that his “vision” for the future of American health care was “the conversion of health care from social good to a commodity.” Motivated by profit above all else, Romoff aggressively expanded UPMC, gobbling up community hospitals, surgery centers, and private practices to create a “health-care network” that has expanded throughout much of Pennsylvania and even abroad to other countries, including China.

Under Romoff, UPMC has also expanded into the health-insurance business, with 40 percent of the medical claims it pays out going straight back into places of care that are owned by UPMC—meaning UPMC is essentially paying itself.

In addition, since UPMC is officially a “charitable nonprofit corporation,” it is exempt from property taxes and has special access to the tax-exempt municipal bond market. UPMC can also solicit tax-deductible grants from private individuals and organizations, as well as governments. These grants totaled over $1 billion dollars between 2005 and 2017.

before the state of Pennsylvania had a single case of Covid-19, UPMC formed a “coronavirus task force,” which was initially focused on lobbying the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC to obtain samples of live SARS-CoV-2 for research purposes. That research was to be conducted at the Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) Regional Biocontainment Laboratory (RBL) housed within UPMC’s Center for Vaccine Research.

The Corona-thrax experiment is being conducted at the Center for Vaccine Research’s Regional Biocontainment Laboratory (RBL), where the center’s work with pathogenic agents, such as anthrax and SARS-CoV-2, is conducted.

The creation of UPMC’s RBL was first announced in 2003, when the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIAID, then and currently led by Anthony Fauci stated it would fund the laboratory’s construction with an $18 million grant. It was originally planned to be mainly “dedicated to research on agents that cause naturally occurring and emerging infections, as well as potential agents of bioterrorism.” The plan to create the lab was part of the US government decision to dramatically ramp up “biodefense” research in the wake of the 2001 anthrax attacks.

The lab was also intended to work on “developing a vaccine program focusing on basic and translational research” related to viruses of pandemic potential that are at risk of being “weaponized,” including SARS. After the creation of the lab was initially announced, the project expanded, eventually becoming UPMC’s Center for Vaccine Research, which was launched in 2007. The Center for Vaccine Research was the second such institution to be officially added to the NIAID’s “biodefense” RBL network.

The opening of both this lab and UPMC’s Center for Vaccine Research was made reality thanks to the efforts of the main authors of the June 2001 Dark Winter bioterror simulation, a controversial exercise that eerily predicted the 2001 anthrax attacks as well as the initial, yet bogus, narrative that Iraq and Islamic extremist terror groups were responsible for those attacks. However, the anthrax used in the attacks was later revealed to be of US military origin.2)


University of Pittsburgh To Begin Work on Novel Coronavirus Vaccine PittWire Thursday, February 13, 2020 The University of Pittsburgh, whose legacy of medical breakthroughs includes the polio vaccine, is in the process of obtaining samples of the novel coronavirus, called SARS-CoV-2, that will allow its researchers to begin work toward developing a vaccine against the disease. As of Feb. 13, the outbreak has killed more than 1,300 people and sickened more than 60,000 worldwide, including 13 cases in the U.S.

Duprex said the Pitt center formed a coronavirus task force a few weeks ago and is pursuing the live virus from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop disease models that will support vaccine development. Pitt’s Center for Vaccine Research is one of the few labs nationwide qualified to handle pathogens like SARS-CoV-2, which stands for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus. The virus was recently found to be related to the species that caused the 2002-03 SARS outbreak. 3)

==== TLAV FOIA - University of Pittsburgh Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) Meeting Minutes 4)

p 5 The investigator has also proposed work with CRISPR/Cas9 and gRNA either by transfection or use of AAV. Clarification is requiredto determine if CRISPR and gRNA will be expressed via the same viral vector. Viral vectors thatencode CRISPR/Cas together with one or more sgRNAs must be generated and used at BSL-2+ containment.

If CRISPR/Cas and the sgRNA(s) are expressed using separate viral vectors, BSL-2is appropriate. The biosafety level will need to be determined based on the investigator's responses. This is a new protocol submitted by a new investigator studying retinal development.In the proposed work the investigator is using an hiPSC line to generate organoids. These organoids will be genetically manipulated by CRISPR/Cas9 technology by use of AAV. The useof AAV and CAS9 technology should be considered for biosafety containment levels and should be clarified.

Wayback pdf p. 300 - original document p 48/54 Minutes for IBC Page 48 of 54 Protocol; MOD202000043 Title; Amendment for IBC201600015 Investigator; REDACTED Highest BSL; RBL ABSL-3

  • NIH Guidelines- • NIH Section III-D-1
  • • NIH Section III-D-2
  • • NIH Section III-D-3
  • • NIH Section III-D-4
  • • NIH Exempt: Sections III-E or III-F
  • Additional Documents; • Appendix 1C
  • • Appendix 5
  • • Appendix 4
  • • Appendix 2
  • • Appendix 3A3B
  • • Appendix 1A
  • • Appendix 1B
  • • SINV chimeric viruses safety test
  • • Appendix 1D

Determination: Approved - Last day of continuing review period; 2/12/2021 Required modifications;

  • 1) Recombinant or Synthetic Nucleic Acid Work Description, Question 3e; The response in
  • question 1 states, “Use of CRISPR/Cas9 DNA plasmid vectors purchased f rom commercial
  • sources that contain both the Cas9 and guide RNA on the same vector.” Here it is stated that
  • CRISPR/Cas9 and guide RNA will be on separate vectors. Clarify the discrepancy.
  • 2) Exposure Assessment and Protective Equipment, Question 4; Include Coronavirus in the
  • response.
  • 3) Supporting Documents; The laboratory's Biosafety Operations Manual needs to be uploaded for
  • IBC review.
  • 4) Supporting Documents; Attached documents do not display properly; upload as PDFs.
  • 5) Supporting Documents; Appendix 3; Section 3B - Propose an appropriate biosafety level for
  • work with “pathogen immunogens”.

Comments; This is a modification of an existing protocol to update personnel, change the title, and add the following; a) RNA viruses expressing Coronavirus (SARS, MERS, 2019 nCoV) spike proteins; b)2019 nCoV (not recombinant) to be used for challenge experiments in mice c) rabbits and rats that will be immunized with the RNA viruses expressing Coronavirus spike proteins.

The attachments do not open and should be uploaded as PDFs. A few minor form issues should be corrected. Recommend approval pending modifications. The modification describes changes of personnel, addition of RNA viral vaccine candidates expressing proteins from Corona Viruses (MERS, SARS, and 2019-nCoV) as well as challenge experiments to expose vaccinated animals to 2019-nCoV and MERS.

The investigator is well-established, approved for work with MERS CoV at BSL-3/ABSL-3 in the RBL and will work with infectious 2019-nCoV in the RBL using practices approved for work with MERS. The attachments were reviewed and there was a comment provided regarding the attachments.

Due to the meeting deadline, initial review comments were not able to be provided to the investigator in advance of the meeting. The application was placed on the February agenda, as it was received by the office. Modifications Required; Additional comments were provided by the committee, which will need to be addressed by the investigator prior to final IBC approval.

This is a modification to include expression of Coronavirus Spike proteins and T-cell epitomes in Alpha- and/or Flavivirus-based viral vectors to be used as vaccine candidates.

Members in Attendance

University of Pittsburgh - Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) Meeting Minutes

March 9, 2020 10:00 AM Every name REDACTED wayback pdf p 307.. original report 1/29 The Biosafety Officer was in attendance at a meeting of the Pandemic Preparedness Working Group for the University and has made the committee aware of a Preparedness Guide for Researchers.

March 23, 2020 3:00 PM Meeting; ZOOM teleconference meeting SARS-CoV-2 protocols only

No report, as this was an “emergency” meeting outside of the regularly scheduled meetings to discuss specific protocols involving research with the Corona Virus

The investigator has submitted this modification for either a bacterial expression plasmid expressing COVID-19 Spike protein or the COVID-19 Spike protein itself for structural biology experiments. Bacteria will be used at BSL-2. This is technically BSL-1 work and low-risk. The amendment describes addition of expression of Corona Virus Spike protein in E. coli for purification and subsequent structural studies using NMR. The work will be performed at BSL-2, is low risk, and seems to be appropriate. The protocol application was placed onto the March 23rd Emergency meeting agenda for review.

April 2, 2020 3:00 PM Meeting; ZOOM teleconference meeting SARS-CoV-2 protocols only wayback p 343

This modification adds work with transgenic hamsters expressing the human ACE2 receptor gene, work with SARS-CoV-2 in NHPs, ferrets, and hamsters, as well as work with SARS-CoV-2 viruses tagged with reporter genes (e.g. GFP). The work is proposed at the appropriate biosafetylevels with all work with infectious SARS-CoV-2 viruses to be done in the RBL. The investigator’s RBL biosafety manual is up-to-date and EH&S is aware of this new work. Minor clarifications are requested. This is a modification for an existing protocol to include use of transgenic hamsters, work with SARS-Cov-2 in non-human primates, ferrets and hamsters, and SARS-CoV-2 reporter expressing viruses (GFP and luciferase).

Due to the mandate for fast-track processing of protocols for work with the CoViD-19 agents, there was no time to provide the reviewer comments to the investigator prior to the emergency meeting. The protocol application was placed onto the April 2nd emergency meeting for review.

Determination; Approved Last day of continuing review period; 4/2/2021 Required modifications; None wayback p.346

This is an amendment to a protocol previously approved to study pulmonary hypertension in the context of HIV. The investigator requests to add SARS-CoV-2 Spike proteins to the study tocharacterize cell entry mechanisms, using a tagged GFP construct, in cell culture on relevant pulmonary primary cell lines. No animal work is being proposed. The amendment application is well-explained, but the information is not translated into the main protocol.

Hence, most of the information for the proposed work is not listed in the protocol itself. Specifically, the cell lineusage and the viral information. It should be clear why “pseudovirus” is being used to describe the replication incompetent Lentivirus. The current description seems to disregard the potential biohazard of the Lentivirus and perhaps should be removed throughout. (https://www.thelastamericanvagabond.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/UPitt-IBC-Minutes-from-July-2019-to-June-20201_Redacted.pdf))