Why Did The First Photos Of The Coronavirus Come From A Former Top-Secret US Bioweapons Hub?

The NIAID facility in Fort Detrick, Maryland gave us SARS-CoV-2 close-ups in early 2020. It’s a biolabs base that Richard Nixon shut down in 1969 following unethical bioweapons testing on Americans
Top view of Fort Detrick in Maryland, US (Google Maps)

Nadim Siraj

January 20, 2023: Three years into the coronavirus pandemic, as the dust begins to settle, more and more disturbing questions are emerging. Critical-thinking people around the world have already been talking about the origins of the virus, the deadly side-effects of the vaccines, and a staggering rise in Big Pharma’s fortunes.

But perhaps the biggest question that still remains unanswered is: Why did the first batch of close-up photographs of the SARS-CoV-2 virus come to us from a military facility in the US state of Maryland that was once infamously the epicentre of biological weapons?

We are talking about little-known Fort Detrick, which is a US Army Futures Command base in the Maryland city of Frederick. Fort Detrick is among half a dozen high-security facilities around the world that gave us the first close-up snapshots of the novel coronavirus, between January and March 2020. 

Within the first three months that year, multiple hi-resolution images of the coronavirus, using a transmission electron microscope, were taken at Fort Detrick’s IRF or Integrated Research Facility, which is part of the US NIAID’s Division of Clinical Research under the NIH (National Institutes of Health). The NIAID or National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is an integral part of the NIH network. The IRF at Fort Detrick is often referred to as IRF-Frederick.

The virus’s close-up images were also taken around the same time at the following other biolab sites: US NIAID’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories in the city of Hamilton in Montana using a transmission electron microscope; India’s NIV (National Institute of Virology) in Pune in collaboration with ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research), also using a transmission electron microscope; Faculty of Physics at Bielefeld University in Germany using a helium ion microscope; and National Resources Bank for Pathogenic Microorganisms at the Chinese CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) in Beijing, also using an electron microscope. There were a few other such instances as well.

Close-up photo of the novel coronavirus as taken using a transmission electron microscope at the NIAID facility in Fort Detrick, Maryland, US, in early 2020 (Credit: NIAID’s Flickr album)
Another close-up image taken using a transmission electron microscope at the NIAID facility in Fort Detrick (Credit: NIAID’s Flickr album)
Another photo of the Covid-19 virus as taken in Fort Detrick (Credit: NIAID’s Flickr album)

Fort Detrick, however, is the odd one out on this list. Why? Because it once used to be the epicentre of America’s heavily-criticised biological weapons programme for 27 long years, starting in 1943 with the go-ahead from US President Franklin Roosevelt.


During that nearly three-decade-long programme, the project controversially stockpiled and weaponised dangerous biological agents, such as for anthrax (Bacillus anthracis), tularemia (Francisella tularensis), brucellosis (Brucella spp), Q-fever (Coxiella burnetii), Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus, botulism (Botulinum toxin), and Staphylococcal enterotoxin B.

In 1969, US President Richard Nixon sensed growing criticism of Fort Detrick’s disturbing bioweapons legacy amid talk of its highly secretive and unethical activities. Nixon was eventually forced to discontinue the national bioweapons programme, presumably in order to be seen as taking firm action.

The White House decided that the biolabs that hosted the manufacture of deadly biological weapons should be turned into a base for peacetime R&D primarily focused on cancer research. Nixon made a speech from Fort Detrick itself on November 25, 1969, declaring the official closure of the biological weapons programme.

“The United States shall renounce the use of lethal biological agents and weapons, and all other methods of biological warfare. The United States will confine its biological research to defensive measures such as immunisation and safety measures,” the US president said.

However, Fort Detrick survived the storm and later emerged as the headquarters of the US biological defence programme. Basically, the original programme was downgraded from ‘bioweapons’ to ‘biodefence’. A few years ago, the national biodefence programme was rebranded as the National Biodefence Strategy.

Isn’t it worth asking and probing why and how the notorious former American bioweapons epicentre is closely associated with research on the Covid-19 virus? Is the link merely coincidental or is there more to it than meets the eye? Perhaps there’s no link, but nevertheless, why is the mainstream media absolutely quiet about this unusual coincidence?

Entrance to the Fort Detrick complex in Maryland, US (Credit: Flickr album of US Army Corps of Engineers)


Here’s another intriguing piece of news about Fort Detrick. In July 2019 – five months before Covid-19 emerged – some of the sensitive and high-security biolabs at Fort Detrick were suddenly shut down following orders from the US CDC officially due to lapses in safety standards.

Later, on March 27, 2020 – 16 days after the WHO (World Health Organisation) declared the coronavirus pandemic – the US CDC gave the Level 3 and Level 4 biolabs under the USAMRIID (US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases) at Fort Detrick the go-ahead to reopen and resume operations.

Empire Diaries dug deep into Fort Detrick’s legacy and found that the American research facility indeed has an extremely dark past, which the mainstream media hardly ever reports on.


A gut-wrenching episode of Fort Detrick’s discontinued bioweapons programme was a secretive project called Operation Sea-Spray. It was a top-secret American Navy project that was carried out back in 1950. Incredible as it may sound now, Operation Sea-Spray was an audacious real-world test in which Serratia marcescens and Bacillus globigii bacteria were sprayed by an undercover US Navy team over the San Francisco Bay Area in the state of California.

The purpose of the experiment was ostensibly to get an idea of how a high-profile city such as San Francisco can handle a sudden bioweapon attack.

Over the course of time, chilling details of the unethical experiment started to emerge. For several days in a row in September in 1950, two types of bacteria were released from either one or two ships near the San Francisco coastline. The bacteria were understood to be harmless to human beings at the time of the undercover experiment.

The results of how the local population reacted to the test were collected from monitoring gadgets placed at 43 locations in San Francisco and analysed. The results showed that San Francisco’s 800,000 or so residents at that time unknowingly inhaled roughly 5,000 particles of the substance containing the bacteria.


America’s secretive bio-testing activities on its own citizens didn’t stop with Operation Sea-Spray. In a clandestine project in June 1966 that we now know about, the disease-causing bacteria Bacillus globigii was released in New York City’s subway network in Manhattan as part of a controlled experiment to simulate an anthrax outbreak in a US city.

Similar anti-animal field tests were also conducted under the US bioweapons programme at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah and at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

Much after the US government finally pulled the plug on its shady bioweapons programme run from Fort Detrick in 1969, another major criticism the facility faced was when it emerged that the deadly AIDS virus was being reproduced there – officially only for research purposes.

Decades later, US-based Tampa Bay Times reported the experiment in a March 21, 1995 article, writing, “A man carrying the bacteria walked to the edge of the platform with the rest of the passengers. When the door to the train opened, the man entered and dropped a light bulb filled with bacteria spores between the train and the platform, bursting the bulb on the tracks. The train left the station, and so did the bacteria. Within 30 minutes, detectors picked up sizable traces 10 blocks away. The bacteria was the harmless bacillus globigii.”

The American newspaper also revealed that bacteria had been test-sprayed at the National Airport in Washington, DC, and in multiple US sites, staying secret for many years until the news leaked amid a congressional probe in 1977.


On October 18, 1984, The Washington Post reported that a crack team of experts at the Frederick Cancer Research Institute was producing 250 litres of a fluid every week that contained the pathogen responsible for AIDS. The sensitive content used to be shipped to the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, in the state of Maryland, for research and analysis.

The newspaper reported, “Providing the AIDS virus for researchers looking for a vaccine or cure for the disease that strikes homosexuals mostly has been a major medical mission of the little-known facility since doctors isolated the virus last spring. There are five private facilities elsewhere in the country licensed by the Public Health Service to produce AIDS virus.”

Dr. Arvind Kushwaha, who is an additional professor at AIIMS Nagpur and an infectious disease expert, believes that bio-agent R&D continues around the world, but it is kept away from the public glare.

“Military establishments across the world work on potential agents of biowarfare in the name of research to develop tools to diagnose, treat and prevent these diseases. There are things that are in official domain, and things done on the quiet, away from public eye. The use of bio-agents has been prohibited under international convention, but research on them is not. No wonder such research continues without much monitoring,” Dr. Kushwaha told Empire Diaries.

A screenshot of the US NIAID’s webpage on IRF-Frederick

Today, the NIAID’s website says IRF-Frederick at Fort Detrick serves as a collaborative resource for research on viruses. The website says, “The Integrated Research Facility at Fort Detrick (IRF-Frederick) is part of the NIAID’s Division of Clinical Research (DCR) within NIH. The mission of the IRF Frederick is to manage, coordinate, and facilitate the conduct of research on emerging infectious disease and biodefence pathogens to develop medical countermeasures and improved medical outcomes for patients.

“The IRF-Frederick serves as a collaborative resource for internal (NIAID) and extramural investigators to conduct research on viruses, such as those causing high-consequence disease (example: Ebola virus and SARS-CoV-2) and those included on the NIAID Priority Pathogens list.”

The words on the website sound reassuring. But if this is the chilling legacy of Fort Detrick as you now know following our investigation, shouldn’t it strike you as odd that the initial photos of the deadly coronavirus emerged from that same controversial location? Is this a crucial missing piece of a puzzle that we will never be allowed to find?

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