"U.S. intelligence shows that China has even conducted human testing on members of the People’s Liberation Army in hope of developing soldiers with biologically enhanced capabilities."
John Ratcliffe, the U.S. director of national intelligence, says that China is using CRISPR technology to try and gene-hack members of the military into supersoldiers.
It's a provocative claim, and just one of many topics Ratcliffe breezed through in a Wall Street Journal op-ed he penned to argue that China is the greatest threat to the U.S. and the world. It's certainly possible that human experimentation happened — the Chinese government likely supported the "CRISPR Baby" debacle from 2018, or at least tolerated it — but NBC reports that the ability to use CRISPR to augment human abilities likely still eludes even top labs.
Ratcliffe wrote that he found the alleged supersoldier CRISPR research reprehensible.
"U.S. intelligence shows that China has even conducted human testing on members of the People’s Liberation Army in hope of developing soldiers with biologically enhanced capabilities," Ratcliffe wrote. "There are no ethical boundaries to Beijing’s pursuit of power."
But neither Ratcliffe nor the CIA — nor the Chinese government — responded to NBC's request for details. And the U.S. military has done plenty of supersoldier research of its own — albeit without trying to create superpowers through CRISPR, as far as we know.
Chinese military leaders have said that biotechnology has incredible potential for military applications, NBC reports. But experts in the field are less concerned about CRISPR supersoldiers than they are about CRISPR doing damage when misused — such as in the pursuit of supersoldiers.
"When we start playing around with genetic organisms, there could be unforeseen consequences," former Navy officer Wilson VornDick told NBC.
READ MORE: China has done human testing to create biologically enhanced super soldiers, says top U.S. official [NBC News]
More on gene-hacking: George Church Told Us Why He's Listing Superhuman Gene Hacks