State Dept. says China, Russia, and Iran are spreading conspiracy theories that US released coronavirus as a bio-weapon

US intelligence officials have claimed that Chinese agents attempted to stoke panic and social unrest in the US by spreading text messages in March warning of coming curfews and martial law with troops on the streets.

The New York Times highlighted the claims from six intelligence officials from different agencies that people acting on behalf of the Chinese communist government worked to spread the rumours, with advice to take as much money out of bank accounts as possible and fill up on gas.

Many of the messages claimed to have knowledge from people inside the Pentagon, National Security Council or FBI, with one specifically warning that nationwide curfews would be announced “as soon as they have troops in place to help prevent looters and rioters.”

Another text referred to a military source as saying “he got the call last night and was told to pack and be prepared for the call today with his dispatch orders.”

The texts also appear to have been designed to promote panic buying, with one claiming a government source “said things are going to be crazy tomorrow, and its [sic] probably best to get some serious groceries before the afternoon announcement tomorrow.”

When the messages went viral in mid-March, The National Security Council labelled them “FAKE.”

NSC on Twitter

Text message rumors of a national #quarantine are FAKE. There is no national lockdown. @CDCgov has and will continue to post the latest guidance on #COVID19. #coronavirus

US officials believe that while the Chinese agents did not create the messages, they used WhatsApp and similar encrypted messaging platforms to ensure they spread quickly.

The Times report also notes that intelligence officers are investigating whether Chinese diplomats inside the US were responsible for spreading the panic.

The Chinese government has, of course, denied the claims as “complete nonsense and not worth refuting.”

Meanwhile, the State Department has also warned that China, Russia, and Iran are actively spreading anti-American theories about the origin of the virus, including that the disease is an US bioweapon.

Politico reports that the countries are pushing various conspiracy theories including “that the novel coronavirus is an American bioweapon, that the US is scoring political points off the crisis, that the virus didn’t come from China, that U.S. troops spread it, that America’s sanctions are killing Iranians, that China’s response was great while the US’ was negligent, that [Russian, Iranian and Chinese] governments are managing the crisis well, and that the US economy can’t bear the toll of the virus.”

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