The report by U.S. intelligence agencies given to Joe Biden that summarizes what is known about the origins of the coronavirus dismisses the possibility that the virus was manufactured in a lab.
But the two main hypotheses — that the virus jumped from animals to humans in a natural process, or that it escaped from a research laboratory in China — remain on the table.
The case against a man-made origin for the virus was always entirely circumstantial. The connection between the Chinese Red Army and the Wuhan Virology Lab has always raised the question of what China’s military is up to at the lab, but there’s no hard evidence that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus was biologically engineered. Biological markers at the micro-level that would show the virus was manmade are not present, leading the intel agencies to their conclusion that the coronavirus was not manufactured as a weapon.
The disappointing conclusion of the report was that we’ll never get to the bottom of how the pandemic began without assistance from China. And that doesn’t appear to be likely.
The report reflects how the government’s top spies are at a loss to solve the mystery, and their inability to do so raises the prospect that it will remain unsolved for years to come.
Without virus samples from China, said Ian Lipkin, a Columbia University epidemiologist, “it’s highly unlikely that we’re going to get any closer to knowing how this thing originally emerged.”
Biden on Friday vowed to press on, as elusive as determining the origin seems.
“The world deserves answers,” the president said in a statement, “and I will not rest until we get them.”
The world may deserve answers, but unless China is forced to pay a price for their non-cooperation and lack of transparency, nothing will be resolved.
“If the report reveals anything, it is more evidence of how China’s non-transparency and non-cooperation have prevented the world from understanding the origin of the deadliest pandemic in modern history, and how to prevent the next one,” said David Feith, former deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
“Now, the administration and the Congress need to decide whether China will face sanctions for this,” said Feith, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. “Or will international science and technology exchange with China just continue unimpeded?”
Indeed, business as usual with Beijing is exactly what the Communists want. And that’s what they’re likely to get.
One interesting aspect of the report is how the intelligence board weighted the various theories on the coronavirus origin. They assessed with “low confidence” that the virus was “most likely caused by natural exposure” to an infected animal, while assessing “moderate confidence” that the first human infection “most likely was the result of a lab-associated incident, probably involving experimentation, animal handling, or sampling by the Wuhan Institute of Virology.” This would suggest the intelligence board gives more weight to the lab leak theory than the natural origin theory.
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But it’s a long way from anything close to confirmation of the lab leak hypothesis.
“Beijing . . . continues to hinder the global investigation, resist information sharing and blame other countries, including the United States” for the pandemic, the report concludes.
“These actions reflect in part China’s government’s own uncertainty about where an investigation could lead, as well as its frustration that the international community is using the issue to exert political pressure on China,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said.
We can imagine that 50 or 100 years from now a file in some obscure Chinese department will come to light that will solve at least part of the mystery of how the coronavirus pandemic began. But the whole story will probably always be out of reach thanks to Communist secrecy and bureaucracy.