Report: The intelligence community is divided on whether COVID originated naturally or from laboratory leaks

An untrusted version of the intelligence community’s assessment of the origin of COVID-19, released on Friday afternoon, shows that various agencies still disagree on whether the pandemic began with a laboratory incident in Wuhan, China, or was caused by a natural transition. animals. people.

In the spring, President Biden ordered the intelligence community to conduct a 90-day review examining the origins of the pandemic in China, amid growing debate and questions about the issue. The virus has killed about 5 million people worldwide and infected nearly a quarter of a billion, while disrupting global economies.

Wuhan Institute of Virology

Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China. (Hector Retamal / AFP via Getty Images)

“However, after examining all available intelligence reports and other information, the IC remains divided as to the most likely origin of COVID-19,” the report, released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, reads. “All agencies estimate that two hypotheses are plausible: natural exposure to an infected animal and a laboratory-related incident.”

However, the report seems to reject the idea that the virus was made in a laboratory as a weapon. “Most low-confidence IC analysts estimate that SARS-CoV-2 has not been genetically modified,” the report said.

The intelligence community also seems largely skeptical that the virus, even if it escaped the lab, is the result of so-called “acquisition of function” research, in which scientists increase the virus’s ability to study its behavior. . But even in this regard, analysts at various agencies find it uncertain.

“No IC analyst estimates that SARS-CoV-2 was the result of laboratory adjustment, although some analysts do not have enough information to make that decision,” the report said.

In recent months, dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s Best Scientific Adviser on Coronavirus, faced Republican criticism on funding provided to the Chinese laboratory in Wuhan by the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, which it runs. A Republican claim like Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has argued that the NIH has helped enable research into the acquisition of office that could trigger a pandemic. Fauci argued that the work done by the laboratory with these funds did not meet the criteria for function acquisition research.

Anthony Fauci

Infectious disease expert dr. Anthony Fauci. (J. Scott Applewhite / Pool / Getty Images)

While noting a lack of consensus among intelligence professionals, the report is likely to give new life to those who have long argued that laboratory coronavirus leakage should be considered an option. This theory, once rejected by some as marginal, seems to have strong support among one unknown section of the intelligence community.

“One element of the IC estimates with moderate reliability that the first human infection with SARS-CoV-2 was most likely due to a laboratory incident,” the report said, “probably involving experimentation, animal treatment or sampling by the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”

Yahoo News was the first to report April 2020 that the intelligence community was investigating the possibility of the virus escaping from a Chinese laboratory.

Analysts in the U.S. intelligence community use so-called “confidence ratings” to tell policymakers and others in the national security bureaucracy how confident they are in their conclusions.

Judgments with a high level of confidence are generally considered to be based on high-quality information or intelligence. ‘Moderate trust’ judgments mean that information is credibly obtained and credible, but not of sufficiently high quality to justify a highly confidential assessment, says Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Finally, judgments with a “low level of confidence” are based on evidence that is “questionable,” “too fragmented, or poorly substantiated,” the office says.

The carefully crafted language of the intelligence community is likely to solve a few debates. And those hoping to have a more definitive statement on the origin of the virus are likely to be disappointed with the report, especially since the intelligence community says it “will not be able to provide a more definitive explanation of the origin of COVID-19 unless new information is available.” come to light.

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