Intelligence services in the United States have concluded that the new coronavirus is neither human-made nor genetically modified, but say they are still investigating whether the origins of the pandemic can be traced to contact with infected animals or an accident in a Chinese laboratory.
Thursday’s statement from the office of the director of national intelligence, the clearinghouse for the network of American spy agencies, comes as President Donald Trump and his allies touted the as yet unproven theory that a Infectious Disease Laboratory in Wuhan, the epicenter of the Chinese epidemic, was the source of the global pandemic which killed more than 220,000 people worldwide.
The intelligence community also agrees with the broad scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not created by humans or genetically modified, the statement said. The IC will continue to scrutinize emerging information and intelligence to determine if the epidemic started through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident in a Wuhan laboratory.
The statement was released the same day. The New York Times reported that Trump administration officials were pressuring intelligence analysts to more definitively link the virus to laboratories in China as part of a broader political effort to divert the blame from the fleeing epidemic. until the presidential election in November.
Intelligence analysts fear that pressure will cause agencies to skew their assessments for political reasons.
Relations between the intelligence community and Trump have been difficult since the start of his administration, after the president repeatedly said that a “deep state” cabal had tried to derail his 2016 campaign and undermine his presidency.
Trump touched on accidental release theory earlier this month, saying: More and more people are hearing the story. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo added: The simple fact that we don’t know the answers – that China hasn’t shared the answers – I think is very, very revealing.
Pompeo also urged China to let outside experts into the lab so that we can pinpoint where it started.
Scientists say the virus appeared naturally in bats. Despite this, Pompeo and others pointed to an institute run by the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He did groundbreaking research tracing the likely origins of the SARS virus, finding new bat viruses and finding out how they could get through to people.
U.S. officials say U.S. Embassy in Beijing has raised concerns about potential security concerns at the Wuhan laboratory in 2018, but has yet to find evidence that the virus was born there nearly two years ago late.
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The Chinese government said on Thursday that any allegation that the coronavirus had been released from a laboratory was unfounded and made out of thin air.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang quoted the director of the institute, Yuan Zhiming, as saying that the laboratory strictly applies biosecurity procedures that would prevent the release of any pathogen.
I would like to emphasize again that the origin of the virus is a complex scientific problem, and that it should be studied by scientists and professionals, said Geng.
Geng also criticized American politicians who suggested that China should be held responsible for the global pandemic, saying that they should devote their time to better control the epidemic situation at home.
But a spokesman for the Chinese government, Zhao Lijian, has shown that China is not above confusing the pandemic. He tweeted in March the lie that the virus could come from the United States military.
Al Jazeera and news agencies
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