Sunday, October 17, 2021

Jim Mattis questions accuracy of Theranos blood-testing technology

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Former Defense Secretary James Mattis testified Monday that he received full disclosure of Theranos Inc.’s flawed blood tests when he visited the company’s Palo Alto offices in December 2015.

In testimony at Theranos’ fraud trial in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, the 69-year-old Mattis said that at the time he found the blood tests being done using Theranos’ proprietary technology “a fascinating technology.” However, he said that he later found the results to be flawed, and did not endorse or recommend the tests for or against use by the military.

Mattis’ appearance at the fraud trial, following the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election, came as many political leaders and national security experts have called into question whether Theranos technology is legitimate and raises security concerns about government customers.

Mattis’ testimony came in response to a series of questions posed by federal prosecutor Michael Cutler, who said that the government believes that former Theranos co-founder Elizabeth Holmes had mischaracterized the veracity of the company’s technology and misled investors about that as well as violations of numerous export and fraud laws.

In his testimony, Mattis said he visited the Palo Alto offices after receiving an inquiry from Theranos and watched the blood-sampling process. Asked by Cutler how the process worked, Mattis responded that “like a pincushion” the finger prick was placed on the sample. He said that the blood-sampling process appears to be the same as the method used in primary care.

“I wouldn’t suggest to you that it’s 100 percent accurate,” Mattis said.

In December 2015, the Defense Department signed a 10-year agreement with Theranos worth $6.3 million to use its technology, described at the time as “revolutionary.” The memorandum of understanding was supposed to allow the military to test specific individuals for their risk of exposure to chemical and biological agents. Mattis said he never approved or endorsed the blood tests that were used to run the Pentagon’s tests.

“I never sanctioned the technology. I never gave it official approval,” Mattis said.

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