Fresh testing has concluded that vials of supposed smallpox medicines that belonged to a defunct research facility but were found in a lab at the Central Intelligence Agency’s Maryland headquarters in June were not, in fact, smallpox and are not infectious, the intelligence agency has confirmed.
“The United States intelligence community continues to determine the current status of the vials of materials with a history of Ebola (Lassa Fever) and smallpox found in the laboratory at the Intelligence Community Center for Advanced Technology and Research (ITC-AER),” the agency said in a statement Saturday, two days after President Donald Trump publicly said the vials were actually smallpox.
“The White House’s earlier statement was based on incomplete information,” the statement said.
In an interview with Fox News on Monday, Trump said, “After the hospital’s experts — with the FBI — ascertained it was not smallpox, because what they had was Ebola instead,” and added, “There’s no chance of any possible spread, because again, it was the CDC. It was the FBI. They were the ones who did the tests.”
The CIA’s statement on Saturday said that “NASA and additional independent expert laboratories continue to concur that the materials contained in the vials were not smallpox” and “do not present a public health risk.”
“The CIA previously corrected that information given during an interview with the media,” the statement said.
The statement did not explain how the space-age specimens, created for a smallpox project no longer employed at the CIA, could be Ebola without being smallpox.
In June, the CIA acknowledged that the vials — which were designed for future smallpox experiments — were gone. The CIA said they were found in an old lab, and on June 24 referred to them as “smallpox-like pathogens.”
In its statement Saturday, the agency said, “The laboratory had previously been cleared for use as a facility for storing and processing biological materials.”
President Barack Obama’s administration transferred smallpox from an old U.S. government laboratory in Rockville, Maryland, to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda in October 2014.