The intelligence community is unlikely to come to any definitive conclusions on the origins of COVID-19 as a result of its 90-day probe ordered by President Joe Biden in May, according to multiple reports.
The report is likely to show that officials are still divided over the two theories they started out with at the beginning of the probe, that COVID-19 either entered the human population through an accidental Wuhan lab leak or by jumping naturally from animals to humans, according to reports by CNN and McClatchy citing sources familiar with the assessment.
One source told CNN that the draft report, which is currently being reviewed by outside experts prior to being finalized at the end of August, contains “nothing too earth-shattering.”
The intelligence community’s expected failure to come to a definitive conclusion on the virus’s origins comes after reports that government investigators had gained access to a “treasure trove” of previously hidden virus sequences studied by scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
CNN reported last week that intelligence agencies were struggling to process the data due to the sheer size of the database and the fact that it is all in Mandarin.
“Obviously there are scientists who are (security) cleared,” an intelligence source told CNN. “But Mandarin-speaking ones who are cleared? That’s a very small pool. And not just any scientists, but ones who specialize in bio? So you can see how this quickly becomes difficult.”
Biden ordered the 90-day review in May following reports that his administration shut down a State Department probe launched by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo into the lab leak theory.
While the question of the virus’s origins isn’t likely to be resolved in the report, it is expected to reflect that the intelligence community came to a near consensus that the Chinese government’s suppression of relevant information at the onset of the outbreak, as well as and their handling of the virus during its early stages, “significantly constrained all efforts to examine the pandemic’s true origins,” CNN reported.
“Back in early 2020, when COVID-19 emerged, I called for the CDC to get access to China to learn about the virus so we could fight it more effectively,” Biden said in a press release in May when he announced the probe. “The failure to get our inspectors on the ground in those early months will always hamper any investigation into the origin of COVID-19.”
China has continued to stonewall the international community’s ability to conduct a legitimate investigation into the origins of the virus. In July, China rejected a World Health Organization (WHO) proposal to conduct a second investigation in China into COVID-19’s origins.
The WHO’s first investigation into the virus’s origins in January and February, which concluded the lab leak theory was “extremely unlikely,” was mired in allegations of conflicts of interest and Chinese interference.
The Biden administration will release an unclassified version of the intelligence community’s report after the president and Congress receive classified versions of the report in late August, McClatchy reported.
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