The performance in the Rose Garden, in which the government’s senior adviser Dominic Cummins attempted to explain his breaking of quarantine rules and his creative interpretation of the guidance, was absurd. Dominic Cummins attempted to frame his deciding to do his quarantine in Durham rather than in the place where he was living (London) and to visit a beauty spot on his wife’s birthday to “test his eyesight” as “legal and reasonable”. He set out, he said, to clear up the “confusions and misunderstandings”. But the backdrop to this is the article in the Spectator, written by his wife and to which he, apparently, put his name, in which they attempted to give the false impression that they spent the quarantine period in London. His wife wrote how they had “emerged into the London lockdown”. No explanation for his trip to Durham could have been credible unless it had been prefixed with a sincere apology for this attempt to mislead people. It wasn’t. (Apparently he was asked about this article by journalists in the follow-up questions to his statement and, according to John Crace of the Guardian, failed to offer an explanation ). Unless you explain why you lied about something you can’t, meaningfully, clear it up. This should be obvious. To anyone except a phantasist. I didn’t understand this at the time but having read one of Mr Cummin’s articles on his own blog site it transpires that the basic problem here is that Mr Cummins is a teenage phantasist.
The article I looked at is the one which some journalists have claimed was post-edited by Cummins to make it look like he is more prescient than he actually is. According to Nick Cohen in the Guardian the references to coronavirus were added on 14 April and Cummins used this article to claim that he had predicted the coronavirus pandemic. The article was first written a year ago (on 4/3/19).
The article in question is about the risk of a virus escaping from a bio-secure lab and causing a pandemic. It is based on an article which Cummins has read in a specialist magazine The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. (Cummins incorrectly calls the publication The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists). Cummins’ post consists of a large citation from this article and his comments.
The first thing to notice is that the quoted passage from The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is entirely concerned with the accidental release of a pathogen from a bio-secure research lab and the possibility that this could cause a pandemic. This is interesting because it relates to the charge made by the Trump administration that the likely source for Sars-Cov-2 was one of the bio-secure labs in Wuhan, China. In which case kudos for Cummins for having copied and pasted a warning from a specialist journal into his blog. Cummins in his Rose Garden interview said: “Last year I wrote about the possible threat of coronaviruses and the urgent need for planning.”. But, if he is referring to the article I mention above, this isn’t quite true. In this article he wrote about the possibility of a virus escaping from a lab and the need to test the security of such sites – not about coronavirus pandemic planning in general. Possibly he wrote another article on coronavirus? But I used a google site-search on his site for “coronavirus” and couldn’t find any other articles. The blog post in question was edited after 5 March 2020. The new reference to coronavirus was not even in the commentary but was added by extending the extract from the cited article. This is the bit which Cummins added after 5 March 2020 and which (it seems in all likelihood) he used to claim that he had predicted “the possible threat of coronavirus”:
‘Among other things, the GAO report called attention to a well-publicized incident in which a Defense Department laboratory “inadvertently sent live Bacillus anthracis, the bacterium that causes anthrax, to almost 200 laboratories worldwide over the course of 12 years. The laboratory believed that the samples had been inactivated.” The report describes yet another well-publicized incident in China in which “two researchers conducting virus research were exposed to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus samples that were incompletely inactivated. The researchers subsequently transmitted SARS to others, leading to several infections and one death in 2004.”
‘The GAO identified three recent releases of Ebola and Marburg viruses from BSL4 to lower containment labs due to incomplete inactivation.
This is the link to the archived article. Unless there are other articles about coronavirus on Dominic Cummin’s website (and Google cannot find them) this would appear to be evidence that Cummins did indeed, in the very statement in which he was going to clear up “confusions and misunderstandings” tell a new, organized, lie.
There are other points to note in Cummins’ article. I quote a few extracts to give a flavour:
This is why Red Teams are so vital but they cannot solve the problem of broken political institutions.
Also consider that there is a large network of Soviet scientists that participated in the covert Soviet bio-weapons program that the West was almost completely ignorant about until post-1991. Many of these people have scattered to places unknown with who knows what.
How much coverage of the above finding has appeared in newspapers like the FT?
A hypothesis that should be tested: With a) <£1million to play with, b) the ability to recruit a team from among special forces/intel services/specialist criminals/whoever, and c) no rules (so for example they could deploy honey traps on the head of security), a Red Team would break into the most secure UK bio-research facilities and acquire material that could be released publicly in order to cause deaths on the scale of millions.
As I wrote last week, it was clear years ago that a smart teen could take out any world leaders using a drone in Downing Street — they can’t even install decent CCTV and audio — but we should be much more worried about bio-facilities.
“Red Teams” are not explained in the article. Reading it through one can deduce that these are teams which engage in penetration testing of IT systems and possibly conduct other attempts to breach security at secure institutions, in order to test security. This isn’t explained. In Mr Cummin’s world no doubt everyone knows what a ‘Red Team’ is. One is beginning to wonder quite what world he lives in. By the time we get to “specialist criminals” it is becoming clear. This is James Bond stuff. The suggestion about “deploying honey traps on the head of security” as part of penetration testing appears to be a sexual phantasy. It also shows a complete lack of understanding of the law. (Not surprising perhaps). Obviously even in the interests of National Security the government could not arrange for, say, the Head of Security at Porton Down to be seduced by a secret agent as part of a security exercise. There would be significant legal issues here. The reference to drones and smart teens seems unwise. If this is true – is it wise to publish it? One suspects that Mr Cummins himself is thinking like the “smart teen” he posits here.
In the rhetorical question “How much of this is in the FT?” (and in other aspects of the tone of the piece) we can get the impression that Cummins thinks he is playing a rather special role; he, and he alone, is shaking up the staid political and media worlds which miss all these important edgy points. A sort of special forces operative of public policy.
In all, this article reads clearly like the work of a phantasist. Mr Cummins appears to be operating at the level of a teenage phantasist and liar. Perhaps it is no wonder that the UK’s coronavirus response – of which he as the senior government adviser is a key part – has been such an utter disaster.
Just because I want to link to it somewhere this is a nice clear article in the Guardian about Cummins and the UK’s disastrous response to Sars-Cov-2.