US intelligence agencies have been unable to reach consensus on how the COVID-19 pandemic began after a 90-day investigation ordered by US President Joe Biden, an unclassified summary of the results of that inquiry released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence says.
Made public Friday, the summary says that four elements of the intelligence community assess with “low confidence” that the initial SARS-CoV-2 infection was most likely caused by natural exposure to an animal infected with it or a close progenitor virus.
One agency found with “moderate confidence that the first human infection with SARS-CoV-2 most likely was the result of a laboratory-associated incident, probably involving experimentation, animal handling, or sampling by the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” the summary says. A New York Times’ report on the summary suggests that agency is the FBI.
And three other elements of the intelligence community were unable to decide between those two possible origins for the pandemic, “with some analysts favoring natural origin, others a laboratory origin, and some seeing the hypotheses as equally likely,” the summary says.
The summary also says that the intelligence and scientific communities lack the clinical samples and other data from the earliest COVID-19 cases needed to make a conclusive assessment of the origins of COVID-19. China’s cooperation would be needed to gain that information, the assessment asserts, and Beijing has refused to cooperate because of its “own uncertainty about where an investigation could lead as well as its frustration the international community is using the issue to exert political pressure on China.”
In a statement also issued Friday, President Biden criticized China for withholding information and vowed to do everything possible “to trace the roots of this outbreak that has caused so much pain and death around the world, so that we can take every necessary precaution to prevent it from happening again.”
“The world deserves answers, and I will not rest until we get them,” Biden’s statement said. “Responsible nations do not shirk these kinds of responsibilities to the rest of the world. Pandemics do not respect international borders, and we all must better understand how COVID-19 came to be in order to prevent further pandemics.”
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