VOA News By Jeff Seldin
WASHINGTON – U.S. intelligence agencies are dismissing at least one theory about the origins of the coronavirus, saying evidence shows the virus was not engineered in a Chinese laboratory.
But officials say they are still looking into whether the outbreak, which originated in China, was triggered by human contact with animals or whether it began as the result of some scientific accident.
The U.S. intelligence community “concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a rare public statement on an ongoing investigation Thursday.
“As we do in all crises, the Community’s experts respond by surging resources and producing critical intelligence on issues vital to U.S. national security,” the statement said. “The IC (intelligence community) will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.”
The White House has been demanding a more thorough investigation into the origins of COVID-19. U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on statements from both China and the World Health Organization.
On Wednesday, Trump told reporters he had already seen some of the findings from the intelligence community’s probe.
“It’s coming in, and I’m getting pieces already. And we’re not happy about it,” he said. “We are by far the largest contributor to WHO, world health, and they misled us.”
“Right now, they’re literally a pipe organ for China. That’s the way I view it,” Trump added.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Wednesday also questioned China’s transparency, and hinted Beijing may be continuing to put the world at risk.
“We don’t know precisely where this virus originated from. There are multiple labs that are continuing to conduct work,” he said. “We don’t know if they are operating at a level of security to prevent this from happening again.”
Talk that the COVID-19 virus was created in a Chinese lab, or escaped from a lab, has persisted for weeks, as have other theories, many of which have been discredited as rumors or as part of disinformation campaigns.
But Thursday’s statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence would appear to indicate U.S. intelligence officials have come to a better understanding of the pandemic’s origins.
Two weeks ago, a U.S. intelligence official told VOA that while agencies were “actively and vigorously tracking down every piece of information,” the community had “not collectively agreed on any one theory.”