Intelligence agencies don’t believe the case of three workers at a Wuhan, China laboratory who fell ill in 2019 can help shed light on whether the Covid-19 pandemic originated from an accidental escape from the lab, according to a report made public on Friday.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a long-awaited declassified report, which included intelligence agency findings on the so-called lab leak theory, but the material is unlikely to satisfy many people who have struggled with unanswered questions. on the origins of the Covid epidemic.
The 10 page report he said that scientists from the Wuhan Institute of Virology have been conducting research on coronaviruses, in some cases they had inadequate safety measures and had genetically modified coronaviruses. But intelligence agencies said they have found nothing that tells them work at the lab caused the pandemic.
« The IC has no information, however, indicating that any WIV genetic engineering work has involved SARS-CoV-2, a close ancestor, or a backbone virus that is closely related enough to have been the source of the pandemic, » states the report. , referring to the conclusions of intelligence agencies.
The country’s intelligence community, which includes more than a dozen organizations across the government, has been divided over the origins of Covid: two agencies believe a laboratory leak was more likely, while five others are in favor of the natural transmission from an animal market as the most likely cause of the original covid epidemic. The CIA and another agency are still unable to determine the precise origin of the pandemic, given conflicting information, the report said.
“All agencies continue to evaluate that both natural and laboratory-associated origin remain plausible hypotheses to explain early human infection,” the report said.
The illnesses of the three workers, first made public by the State Department at the end of the Trump administration, have been the focus of attention of researchers, journalists and intelligence agencies.
In August last year, intelligence agencies concluded that the workers’ case could not help analysts determine whether laboratory leaks or natural transmission were more likely.
However, the case of the three workers has received further attention in recent days. A Chinese scientist from the Wuhan Institute of Virology worked on US government-funded coronavirus projects and was one of three researchers who fell ill in November 2019. However, US intelligence agencies have not determined whether the researchers had Covid or another disease with symptoms similar.
The report released on Friday strengthened intelligence agencies’ view that workers’ illness could not help shed light on the origins of the pandemic.
Workers got mildly ill, but the report raised some questions about Covid as the cause. The report cites findings from the World Health Organization that investigators from China’s National Security Commission reported that blood samples from workers ill with Covid were negative. It’s not clear from the report whether intelligence agencies believe the work of Chinese investigators, but spy agencies don’t believe the workers’ illness will help resolve questions about the origins of the pandemic.
« The IC continues to assess that this information neither supports nor refutes any hypothesis about the origins of the pandemic because the researchers’ symptoms may have been caused by a number of diseases and some of the symptoms were not consistent with Covid-19, » the report said. .
Both the Trump and Biden administrations have ordered investigations into the origins of Covid, and intelligence agencies have generated hundreds of pages of material. But
After a three-year study, some senior US officials have said spy agencies are unlikely to reach any satisfactory conclusions, largely because China has not cooperated with international investigations and some Beijing officials are uninterested in digging deeper. in the lawsuit. of the pandemic.
The new report is the result of a bipartisan law that ordered intelligence agencies to release a declassified version of what they know about whether Covid may have been created inside the Wuhan Institute of Virology and then accidentally escaped. from the laboratory.
The report was released on a Friday evening, traditionally a time for governments to publish news they want to bury or ignore. Conservatives had criticized the government for missing its deadline to start the week, though few congressional-mandated reports are delivered exactly on time.
While Biden administration officials said they ordered investigations without favoring one theory over another, Republicans have sharply criticized the way the White House and its intelligence agencies have been investigating the origins of Covid.
« The lab leak is the only theory supported by science, intelligence and common sense, » said John Ratcliffe, who served as director of national intelligence in the Trump administration, when the report was released on Friday . « The Biden administration’s politicization of the origins of Covid is a disservice to the intelligence community. »