President Joe Biden has received a classified intelligence report revealing that the origins of the novel coronavirus are still unknown, as the intelligence community works to determine whether COVID was released from a lab or spread naturally from animals to humans.
Unnamed sources told the Washington Post that the president had received the report on Tuesday, 90 days after he tasked American intelligence agencies to produce a report ‘that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion’ into the origins of the viral disease.
But the report was inconclusive, the Post reports, with intelligence agents saying they would seek to declassify certain elements of the report in the coming days.
On Tuesday, President Joe Biden received a report from intelligence communities saying they were still unsure how COVID-19 began, 90 days after the president directed them to produce a report into the virus’ origins
Director of National Intelligence Avril Hines (pictured) helped oversee the efforts to determine the origins of the virus, but cautioned in June that agencies may not be able to solve the mystery
Biden’s directive to create a report about the origins of the virus came after he received a report from the agencies saying that they had ‘coalesced around two likely scenarios’ – that the coronavirus spread to humans naturally from diseased animals at a wet market in Wuhan, China or that it was leaked from the nearby Wuhan Institute of Virology, where Chinese scientists were experimenting on the virus.
Two agencies leaned toward the theory that the virus emerged from human contact with an infected animal, while a third agency leaned toward the lab leak accident theory, according to Yahoo News.
Director of National Intelligence Avril Hines cautioned in June that the agencies may not be able to solve the mystery.
‘We’re hoping to find a smoking gun,’ she told Yahoo News. But, she said, ‘it’s challenging to do that’ adding ‘it might happen, but it might not.’
She said she had been closely overseeing the review – which involved dozens of analysts and intelligence officials across multiple agencies – and was regularly briefed by analysts who backed the rival theories.
She deployed ‘red cells’ or contrarian groups to test analyst assumptions and ensure the intelligence is scrutinized from every angle, she said.
‘I don’t know between these two plausible theories which one is the right answer,’ Hines admitted. ‘But I’ve listened to the analysts, and I really see why it is that they perceive these two theories as being in contest with each other and why it’s very challenging for them to assess one over the other.’
Hines had tried to tap into resources across the intelligence community ‘to ensure we have as much information and any information that they might have on the table.’
She said her agencies ‘are trying to get as much information as possible, new information that could be applied against the challenge, but also just brainstorming about different ways to approach the problem that might reveal new information that you hadn’t thought could be relevant might be useful,’ but her efforts were stymied by Chinese officials.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology is one of only a handful in the world that is cleared to handle Class 4 pathogens — dangerous viruses that pose a high risk of person-to-person transmission
Hines said efforts to find out about the origins of the virus were stymied by Chinese officials
Three researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology reported COVID-like symptoms in November 2019, before the virus began to spread around the world
Another official said the intelligence community is ‘not necessarily best equipped to sole this problem,’ which is fundamentally an issue of science.
Although spy services are ‘positioned to collect on a range of foreign actors’ they are not necessarily poised to dive into global health datasets.
The president said so himself in July, the Post reports, when he said: ‘You’re going to have to increase your ranks with people with significant scientific capacity relative to pathogens.’
Many scientists familiar with the origin debate had been skeptical of the 90-day deadline, saying it would take years of research to reach a conclusion about the origins of the virus.
Others have said its true origins may never be known, amid widespread speculation of a huge Chinese government cover-up.
‘We should not even be thinking about closing the book or backing off, but rather ratcheting up the effort,’ said David Relman, a Stanford University microbiologist who has pushed for a broad investigation of all origin hypotheses.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology kept live bats in cages, Sky News reported
Shi Zhengli, known as China’s “bat woman” for her virus-hunting expeditions in bat caves, releases a fruit bat after taking blood and swab samples from it in 2004
The lab leak theory has gained traction since May, with NIAID head Dr. Anthony Fauci suggesting it is possible and President Joseph Biden joining other world leaders in calling for an investigation into the origins of the virus.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology is one of only a handful in the world that is cleared to handle Class 4 pathogens — dangerous viruses that pose a high risk of person-to-person transmission.
It is located only a few miles from the Huanan wet market, where scientists say the first cluster of infections were officially reported, and scientists in the lab were reportedly conducting experiments on bats before the pandemic began.
Three researchers from the institute sought medical care in November 2019, before the virus began to spread, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.
The newspaper said the report – which provides fresh details on the number of researchers affected, the timing of their illnesses, and their hospital visits – may add weight to calls for a broader probe of whether the COVID-19 virus could have escaped from the laboratory.
It reported that current and former officials familiar with the intelligence about the lab researchers expressed a range of views about the strength of the report’s supporting evidence, with one unnamed person saying it needed ‘further investigation and additional corroboration.’
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has since said he was ‘not convinced’ that COVID-19 developed naturally and called for an open investigation.
‘I think we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we continue to find out to the best of our ability what happened,’ he said at a PolitiFact event on May 11 entitled: United Facts of America: A Festival of Fact-Checking.
The former head of the Food and Drug Administration also said that the likelihood COVID-19 originated in a lab is growing while the odds that the coronavirus was transmitted from animals to humans grow longer.
‘The challenge is that the side of the ledger that suggests that this could have come out of a lab has continued to expand,’ Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who served as then-President Trump’s FDA commission from 2017 until 2019, told CBS News.
‘And a side of the ledger that suggests that this could have come from a zoonotic source, come out of nature, really hasn’t budged.’
Gottlieb said that there is enough evidence to rule out the earlier theory that coronavirus originated from a ‘wet market’ in Wuhan.
Gottlieb added: ‘And if anything, you can argue that that side of the ledger has contracted because we’ve done an exhaustive search for the so-called intermediate host, the animal that could have been exposed to this virus before it spread to humans.
Daily Mail has been asking if the virus stemmed from a Wuhan lab since April 2020
The Daily Mail has consistently questioned the early consensus that COVID-19 was transmitted to humans from animals.
Our reporters have dug into the details and challenged the assumptions about how the pandemic originated.
APRIL 4, 2020:
Ministers fear that the coronavirus pandemic might have been caused by a leak from a Chinese laboratory, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
Senior Government sources say that while ‘the balance of scientific advice’ is still that the deadly virus was first transmitted to humans from a live animal market in Wuhan, a leak from a laboratory in the Chinese city is ‘no longer being discounted’.
One member of Cobra, the emergency committee led by Boris Johnson, said last night that while the latest intelligence did not dispute the virus was ‘zoonotic’ – originating in animals – it did not rule out that the virus first spread to humans after leaking from a Wuhan laboratory.
APRIL 15, 2020:
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has demanded that China ‘come clean’ following reports that coronavirus originated in a Chinese laboratory, not as a bioweapon, but as part of bungling experiments to prove that Chinese scientists were superior to Americans in identifying emerging virus threats.
It comes after President Donald Trump said on Wednesday the U.S. is trying to determine whether the coronavirus first crossed to humans accidentally during experiments with bats at the Wuhan Institute of Virology Lab.
After word of the outbreak finally became public, Chinese leaders were quick to blame Wuhan’s ‘wet market’ where wild animals — though not bats — are sold for consumption, leading one source to tell Fox News the debacle is the ‘costliest government coverup of all time.’
MAY 2, 2020:
Wuhan virus lab ‘cover-up’: Startling photos of scientists wearing little protection as they handle deadly bat samples vanish from website of Chinese institute at the centre of global suspicion over pandemic
Pictures which appear to show slack safety standards at the Chinese laboratory at the centre of international suspicion over Covid-19 have been systematically deleted from its website – as Donald Trump continues to ramp up the pressure on Beijing over its potential role in the outbreak.
During the past month, Wuhan’s Institute of Virology has removed photographs of scientists working in its laboratories and edited out references to visits by US diplomats who subsequently raised the alarm about the laboratory’s work on bats.
US President Donald Trump announced on Thursday that he had seen intelligence that gave him a ‘high degree of confidence’ that the global crisis had its origins in the institute – a month after The Mail on Sunday first revealed that British Cabinet Ministers had received classified briefings raising the possibility of a leak from the institute.
MAY 30, 2020:
China has become used to public confessions on television. But this time the words came from one of the nation’s top officials and had seismic global implications.
‘At first, we assumed the seafood market might have the virus, but now the market is more like a victim,’ said Gao Fu, director of the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
Gao’s initial analysis had made sense after previous outbreaks of zoonotic viruses (diseases that jump from animals to humans). Yet suspicion grew over the Chinese government’s failure to share data from animals sampled in the market following its early cover-ups.
JANUARY 2, 2021:
Matthew Pottinger, who is President Donald Trump‘s respected Deputy National Security Adviser, told politicians from around the world that even China’s leaders now openly admit their previous claims that the virus originated in a Wuhan market are false.
Mr Pottinger said that the latest intelligence points to the virus leaking from the top-secret Wuhan Institute of Virology, 11 miles from the market, saying: ‘There is a growing body of evidence that the lab is likely the most credible source of the virus.’
JANUARY 9, 2021:
The Chinese government is facing fresh accusations of a cover-up after officials deleted crucial online data about the laboratory suspected of being the source of Covid-19.
The Mail on Sunday can reveal that hundreds of pages of information relating to studies carried out by the top-secret Wuhan Institute of Virology have been wiped.
Details of more than 300 studies, including many investigating diseases that pass from animals to humans, published online by the state-run National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) are no longer available.
APRIL 24, 2021:
Scientists studying bat diseases at China‘s maximum-security laboratory in Wuhan were engaged in a massive project to investigate animal viruses alongside leading military officials – despite their denials of any such links.
Documents obtained by The Mail on Sunday reveal that a nationwide scheme, directed by a leading state body, was launched nine years ago to discover new viruses and detect the ‘dark matter’ of biology involved in spreading diseases.