World

REPORT: Intelligence divided over whether COVID-19 originated naturally or from lab

Amid various investigations over the origin of the Covid-19 virus, members of the intelligence community are not in agreement over different origin theories.

Between people believing that the virus was manufactured as a biological weapon, leaked from a lab, or transmitted from animal to human, there is a lot of confusion and division over the origin. Scientists from different agencies and institutions have been investigating, but have yet to come to widespread agreement.

A report from the Director of National Intelligence was released last week, which gave an “updated assessment of Covid-19 origins”. The report was requested by President Joe Biden earlier this year and uses information that was obtained before September 2021. It claims that ​​”All agencies assess that two hypotheses are plausible: natural exposure to an infected animal and a laboratory-associated incident.” 

The director alleges in the report that the Natural Intelligence Council and four Intelligence Community elements believe, with low confidence, that the virus was probably caused naturally through exposure to an animal infected with it or a virus that has 99% similarity. The reason for this conclusion is because of Chinese officials’ inability to foresee the virus and pandemic and the multiple opportunities for natural exposure, among other reasons.

One IC element concluded, with moderate confidence, that the virus was originally caused by a lab-related incident, first appearing in a human. This incident could have been during an experiment or animal handling, or through exposure to the virus in a sample from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The reasoning behind this conclusion is that working with coronaviruses is risky in nature.

Analysts among three IC elements were unable to come to a conclusion without having access to more information. Among these, some agreed with one theory or the other, or saw both as equally likely. Each agency interprets intelligence reporting and scientific publications differently, causing the variation.

The World Health Organization has also investigated the origin of the virus, and has been able to do so with more depth than the NIC. WHO scientists concluded that the natural exposure theory was more plausible than the lab leak theory. They found little to no evidence that the virus had ever existed in the Wuhan lab. However, after testing 80,000 animals from 31 different regions across the country, they found no positive Covid-19 cases.

ARTICLE: RITA VOGT

MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

PHOTO CREDITS: WALL STREET JOURNAL

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