Marion Bae, FISM News
A declassified assessment regarding the origins COVID-19 was released last Friday, reigniting the conversation on who holds responsibility for the worldwide pandemic. The assessment considered information up to August 2021, and was a result of President Joe Biden’s request in May for an Intelligence Community (IC) update on the issue.
The “Key Takeaways” are the same as those presented in the unclassified assessment released in August, and report that all agencies in the IC agree that either of the two existing theories, natural exposure or a “laboratory-associated incident,” could be possible, though they cannot agree on which is the most likely.
Four agencies in the IC, as well as the National Intelligence Council, are reported to have found with low confidence that natural exposure is the most likely. The document notes that particular weight was given to “China’s officials’ lack of foreknowledge, the numerous vectors for natural exposure, and other factors” for those coming to this conclusion. It is also noted in the assessment that though all IC agencies agree the lab leak hypothesis is a possibility, they also agree that COVID-19 was not developed by the Chinese as a biological weapon.
Three agencies were reported to have not come to a conclusion, citing a need for further information. The IC as a whole will not be able to come to a full conclusion without further information emerging, the assessment states, which would most likely require cooperation from China.
However, one agency did assess with moderate confidence that a “laboratory-associated incident” was the most likely origin of COVID-19. The assessment states, “One IC element assesses with moderate confidence that the first human infection with SARS-CoV-2 most likely was the result of a laboratory-associated incident, probably involving experimentation, animal handling, or sampling by the Wuhan Institute of Virology. These analysts give weight to the inherently risky nature of work on coronaviruses.”
Though the agency that holds this belief was not officially named in the assessment, the New York Times identified them as the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The release of this declassified assessment quickly received a response from China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Webin, who wrote in his remarks posted to the ministry’s website, “A lie repeated a thousand times is still a lie. No matter how many times the report is published or how many versions it comes in, it will not change the fact that this report is in essence a political and false one, with no scientific basis or credibility.”
He also stated that, “The US intelligence services have a deplorable track record, with their falsification and deception tactics known by the world.”
The theory that COVID-19 was unnaturally caused has been circulating since the early days of the virus, but has been gaining traction recently as more evidence has been revealed and further witnesses have come forward, including the experts who testified to a House subcommittee in June.
As it stands, it is uncertain when or if the true origins of the virus will be confirmed.