Intelligence review gives no firm conclusion on the origins of the coronavirus

WASHINGTON – U.S. intelligence agencies have been unable to determine whether the coronavirus pandemic was the result of an accidental l...


WASHINGTON – U.S. intelligence agencies have been unable to determine whether the coronavirus pandemic was the result of an accidental lab leak or whether it arose more naturally, according to declassified parts of a report to the White House that were released on Friday.

The country’s spy agencies, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said, are unlikely to come to a conclusion without more cooperation from China or new sources of information.

In a statement, President Biden said the United States will continue to work to understand the origins of the virus and called on China to be more transparent about what led to its emergence there at the end of 2019 before quickly spreading across the world.

“We will do all we can to trace the roots of this epidemic that has caused so much pain and death around the world, so that we can take all necessary precautions to prevent it from happening again,” Biden said. “Critical information about the origins of this pandemic exists in the People’s Republic of China, but from the start Chinese government officials have worked to prevent international investigators and members of the global public health community from accessing it. . “

As debates over the origins of the pandemic and China’s role intensified, Mr. Biden ordered the nation’s intelligence agencies three months ago to write a report on the source of the virus.

After the review, the National Intelligence Council and four other intelligence agencies said they believed the virus that causes Covid-19 was most likely created by “natural exposure to an infected animal through an animal infected with it, or a close progenitor virus “.

Prior to the review, only two organizations supported the natural exposure theory. But the new report said the intelligence council and other agencies favoring natural theory had little confidence in their conclusions – a sign that the intelligence behind the determination was not strong and that the assessments could change.

On the other side of the debate, an agency said it concluded, with moderate confidence, that the pandemic was the result of a “laboratory-related incident” in China. According to the declassified report, analysts at that agency gave weight to the risky nature of the coronavirus work. The agency also said the accident most likely involved “experimentation, animal handling or sampling by the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”

There were two labs in Wuhan that were working on the coronavirus before the pandemic, but intelligence agencies have mainly focused on work being done at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The announcement by the director of national intelligence did not identify the agency that promoted the theory of laboratory leaks. But current and former officials said the FBI believed the virus was created in the lab. A former official said the office believed the virus was likely leaked to the public through lab technicians.

An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment.

Intelligence agencies have all agreed that the virus was unlikely to have been created as a biological weapon, the same position the US government has maintained for over a year. The agencies also agreed that the initial exposures that triggered the outbreak occurred “no later than November 2019,” according to the declassified findings.

Critical of the debate over the origins of the virus, U.S. intelligence officials do not believe Chinese officials were aware of it at the time of the outbreak, according to the report.

“The IC assesses that Chinese officials had no prior knowledge of the virus before the onset of the initial Covid-19 outbreak,” the declassified report said, using the initials for the intelligence community.

The three-month review ordered by Mr Biden was carried out to bring more scientific expertise into examining the origins of the pandemic. Intelligence agencies used this period to examine a wealth of data that had not been fully examined.

The data, taken from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, provided no additional information to persuade other agencies that a lab leak was possible.

The main missing data, according to intelligence officials, is clinical virus samples from early cases in China.

Neither US intelligence agents nor scientists around the world have samples of the virus from the first known cases. This includes samples from a group of three Wuhan lab workers who were hospitalized with flu-like symptoms last January.

Obtaining virus samples from the earliest cases in China could help identify “a place of interest” or “occupational exposure,” according to the declassified report.

Some U.S. officials believe China has more access to such samples than it has been willing to share. The reluctance to cooperate has raised suspicion among some analysts.

U.S. intelligence officials don’t think the Chinese government necessarily knows how the virus was created, but some believe officials in Beijing are worried about what a real investigation would find out and have decided to block the World Organization from health and others from a full investigation.

“These actions reflect, in part, the Chinese government’s own uncertainty as to where an investigation might lead as well as its frustration that the international community is using the matter to exert political pressure on China,” the declassified report said. .

The investigation into the theory that the virus was accidentally created in the lab has made some people uncomfortable, especially those who believe the accusation is racist.

Sonal Shah, chairman of the Asian American Foundation, questioned the intelligence community’s overall efforts to examine the origins of the pandemic, and said it could increase the risk of violence against native Americans. Asian and Pacific Islanders.

“Even if today’s administration’s report does not contain clear conclusions, it will likely breed disinformation,” she said.

Others have defended the review and said neither of the two theories is inherently racist. They argued that a better understanding of the origins of the pandemic can help prevent a future global health crisis.

Mr Biden said the United States will continue to work with other countries and the World Health Organization to gain access to more information from China.

“We need to have a full and transparent account of this global tragedy,” he said. “Anything less is acceptable.”

Adam goldman contributed reports.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Intelligence review gives no firm conclusion on the origins of the coronavirus
Intelligence review gives no firm conclusion on the origins of the coronavirus
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