The Director of National Intelligence delivered a report on the origins of the COVID pandemic to President Biden on Tuesday, but the intelligence agencies failed to determine whether the virus emerged naturally or leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China.
The inconclusive report comes 90 days after Biden assigned the intelligence agencies to investigate how the pandemic began, and a redacted version of it is expected to be released publicly in the coming days.
The intelligence community could not ascertain whether the virus was man-made, and escaped during a laboratory accident in Wuhan, China, or leapt from animals to humans via a natural process, two U.S. officials familiar with the matter told the Washington Post. President Biden had said months ago that the intelligence branches narrowed the possibilities to these “two likely scenarios.”
In May, President Biden directed intelligence agencies to generate an analysis “that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion” on the origins of the disease amid renewed debate that a Chinese facility may have unleashed the pathogen by mistake during experimentation.
Long dismissed as a conspiracy and “extremely unlikely” by the World Health Organization, the lab-leak hypothesis gained mainstream traction as circumstantial evidence began to emerge to support the theory and Chinese authorities failed to discover the virus in the wild animal population, despite sampling tens of thousands of animals in and around Wuhan. For instance, it was discovered in May that three researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) were hospitalized with symptoms consistent with COVID in November 2019, around the time of the first outbreak, the Wall Street Journal reported.
After previously harboring skepticism, Dr. Peter Ben Embarek, who led a team of international scientists on a WHO research investigation to China in January, also shared this month that he believes the lab accident theory to be a “probable hypothesis.”
Meeting Biden’s 90-day deadline, intelligence bodies could not arrive at an agreement Wednesday as to COVID’s source, anonymous officials told the New York Post. They added that parts of the document should be released to the public soon.
While the Chinese regime has repeatedly rejected the lab-leak theory, it has also obstructed fact-finding efforts by western nations to reach a definitive answer.
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines reportedly suggested in June that the agencies she presides over may not be able to solve the puzzle, despite a thorough, far-stretching probe.
“We’re hoping to find a smoking gun,” Haines told Yahoo News. “It’s challenging to do that. It might happen, but it might not.”
She noted that dozens of analysts and intelligence officials in multiple agencies participated in the inquiry. As a strategy, she deployed “red cell” research groups to target every outstanding question to ensure that no stone was left unturned.