There is no direct evidence that COVID-19 broke out from a Chinese laboratory in Wuhan, says an intelligence report that was released by U.S. officials on Friday. The report comes after lawmakers in the U.S. pressured intelligence officials to declassify information related to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), in China. The Congress, in a bill passed in March, had given U.S. intelligence an ultimatum of 90 days to declassify the information about Wuhan Lab.
The 10-page report stated that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been unable to establish the precise origin of the COVID-19 pandemic. The agencies agreed that the coronavirus was not genetically engineered. But the Energy Department and the FBI continue to believe that the deadly virus, that claimed millions of lives across the world, leaked from a lab.
The report says the Wuhan Lab and Chinese army were working in a joint effort on coronaviruses for public health needs, and not on any infections that could have triggered the spread of COVID-19. But it also highlighted that WIV’s scientists engineered chimeras (combination of coronaviruses), and used reverse genetic cloning techniques that potentially hid intentional changes. The virus was not manufactured as a biological weapon to wipeout populations.
But it added that the U.S. intelligence has no information that any WIV genetic engineering work involved SARS-CoV-2, the main virus that is closely-related enough to have been the source of the pandemic. The report said reports of several lab researchers fall ill with respiratory symptoms in late 2019 are inconclusive. Moreover, Alina Chan, a molecular biologist, pointed out that the report failed to include the names of researchers who fell sick and other details that were being pushed by the Congress.
The latest report has angered Republicans and researchers who accused the Biden administration of wrongfully withholding classified information. John Ratcliffe, former U.S. Director of National Intelligence under the Trump administration, accused the Joe Biden-led government of continued obfuscation. He believes the lab-leak is the only theory supported by science, intelligence, and common sense.
The Republican chairs of the House of Intelligence Committee and a select subcommittee jointly said they had collected information in favor of the lab leak hypothesis. Reps. Mike Turner and Brad Wenstrup called for further investigation into the origins of the COVID-19. Mark Warner, Intelligence Committee chair, blamed Beijing for the mystery and uncertainty that still surrounds the early days of the COVID-19. He said accountability and transparency are totally anathema to China’s ruling party. Warner said the world may never unravel the true origins of the global pandemic.
But Liu Pengyu, spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said the U.S. should stop pushing the lab leak narrative, stop its smear campaign against China and stop politicizing COVID origins-tracing issue.
Beijing reiterated that it’s always been open and transparent about COVID.