U.S. Intelligence Community Review Does Not Determine Origin of Covid-19

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The intelligence community is still divided on which of the two theories – that the virus originated from a lab leak or that it passed naturally from animals to humans – is likely to be correct, the intelligence community. There is a consensus among intelligence agencies that the two dominant theories are plausible, according to the summary released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

“All agencies assess that two hypotheses are plausible: natural exposure to an infected animal and an incident associated with the laboratory,” the intelligence community wrote.

The unclassified report, a two-page report, was released by the intelligence community on Friday after Biden asked intelligence agencies to “redouble” their efforts to determine how the Covid-19 pandemic began. Biden, who instructed them to declassify the report as much as possible, was briefed on the investigation earlier this week.

“While this review is complete, our efforts to understand the origins of this pandemic will not stop,” Biden said in a statement after the summary was released on Friday. “We will do all we can to trace the roots of this epidemic which has caused so much suffering and death around the world, so that we can take all necessary precautions to prevent it from happening again.”

In the statement, Biden criticized China for not being more transparent in its assistance with the investigation, and the intelligence community said China’s cooperation would likely be needed to reach a more final conclusion.

“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. “Biden said.

Although the investigation did not result in a conclusive assessment of the origin of the virus, it overturned some theories. The intelligence community, for example, ruled that the Covid-19 had not been developed as a biological weapon, as some Republicans had suggested last year. The report says most agencies have assessed with low confidence that Covid-19 is unlikely to have been genetically modified either.

Agencies divided on theories of origin

Four intelligence community agencies and the National Intelligence Council assessed, with low confidence, that Covid was likely caused by natural exposure to an animal, the summary says. One agency assessed with moderate confidence, however, that the first human infection was most likely the result of a laboratory-related incident that “likely involved experimentation, handling of animals or sampling by the Wuhan Institute.” .

And three agencies said they were unable to rally around either explanation without additional information.

One of the agencies that did not take a firm stand one way or the other was the CIA, according to a source who was made aware of the contents of the classified report.

The intelligence report says the virus likely emerged and infected humans in a first small-scale exposure that occurred no later than November 2019.

Exclusive: Intel agencies scan reams of DNA data from Wuhan lab in hunt for Covid origins
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But the summary says the intelligence community would need more information from the early days of the pandemic to provide “a more definitive explanation for the origin of Covid-19.”

“The IC – and the global scientific community – lack clinical samples or a full understanding of epidemiological data from early cases of Covid-19,” the intelligence community wrote.

China’s reluctance to cooperate has hampered the intelligence community’s ability to elicit answers on the origins of the virus. “China’s cooperation would most likely be necessary to reach a conclusive assessment of the origins of Covid-19,” the intelligence community said. “Beijing, however, continues to hamper the global investigation, resist information sharing and blame other countries, including the United States.”

Although the report blames China, it says Chinese officials “had no prior knowledge of the virus before the initial outbreak.”

The window to understand the origins closes

Earlier this month, CNN reported that intelligence agencies were examining a wealth of DNA data from virus samples at the Wuhan lab that some officials say may have been behind the outbreak.

Officials told CNN this week that intelligence agencies were switching sides on the most likely theory as recently as last week.

Biden launched the examination of the origins of Covid-19 earlier this year amid growing calls for a deep dive after a US intelligence report found that several researchers at the Chinese Institute of Virology in Wuhan fell sick in November 2019 and had to be hospitalized.

Last month, a bipartisan group of lawmakers said they wanted Biden to continue investigating the origins of the virus even after the 90-day review ended.

The window for finding an answer to the origins of the pandemic, however, may be blurring. A team of experts commissioned by the World Health Organization said on Wednesday the opportunity to find out where the pandemic started was fading as people’s immune responses waned and all evidence in the bodies of animals wore off. .

This story has been updated with additional reports.

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