- Statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence rules out conspiracy theory that coronavirus was man-made
- It says U.S. spy agencies, collectively called the intelligence community, agree with ‘wide scientific consensus that Covid-19 was not man-made’
- They also rule out genetic modification but say that they are still investigating whether it escaped from lab in Wuhan by accident
- Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump’s secretary of state, has said China needs to let U.S. investigators into the Wuhan lab
- ‘We know that there is the Wuhan Institute of Virology just a handful of miles away from where the wet market was,’ Pompeo said two weeks ago
- Chinese government said that any claims that the coronavirus was released from a laboratory are ‘unfounded and purely fabricated out of nothing’
Published: 30 April 2020
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that the new coronavirus was ‘not manmade or genetically modified’ but say they are still examining whether the origins of the pandemic trace to contact with infected animals or an accident at a Chinese lab.
The statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the clearinghouse for the web of U.S. spy agencies, comes as President Donald Trump and his allies have touted the as-yet-unproven theory that an infectious disease lab in Wuhan, the epicenter of the Chinese outbreak, was the source of the global pandemic that has killed more than 220,000 worldwide.
The statement was made shortly after claims surfaced in the New York Times that intelligence analysts were concerned that intelligence could be distorted to fit a pre-determined conclusion.
In recent days the Trump administration has sharpened his rhetoric on China, accusing the geopolitical foe and vital trading partner of failing to do act swiftly enough to stop the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 or sound the alarm to the world about the outbreak.
‘The Intelligence Community also concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified,’ said the statement.
‘The IC will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.’
Trump addressed the theory earlier this month, saying, ‘More and more, we’re hearing the story.’ Secretary of State Mike Pompeo added, ‘The mere fact that we don’t know the answers – that China hasn’t shared the answers – I think is very, very telling.’
Pompeo also pressed China to let outside experts into the lab ‘so that we can determine precisely where this virus began.’
Scientists say the virus arose naturally in bats.
Even so, Pompeo and others have pointed fingers at an institute that is run by the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
It has done groundbreaking research tracing the likely origins of the SARS virus, finding new bat viruses and discovering how they could jump to people.
‘We know that there is the Wuhan Institute of Virology just a handful of miles away from where the wet market was,’ Pompeo said two weeks ago. The institute has an address 8 miles, or 13 kilometers, from the market.
U.S. officials say the American Embassy in Beijing flagged concerns about potential safety issues at the lab in Wuhan in 2018, but have yet to find any evidence the virus originated there nearly two years later.