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US intelligence agencies divided over coronavirus origins
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 28 - 08 - 2021

US Intelligence Community (IC) reports are still unclear where the COVID-19 virus originated from following 90-days of investigations.
"After examining all available intelligence reporting and other information ... All agencies assess that two hypotheses are plausible: natural exposure to an infected animal and a laboratory-associated incident," reads a summary of the classified reported compiled by 18 intelligence agencies.
The classified reports were put together by the nation's 18 intelligence agencies during a 90-day period that was put into effect by a presidential order in May.
US President Joe Biden said earlier that China withholds critical information about the origins indicating that the People's Republic of China has been avoiding international investigators and members of the global public health community to further investigate without obstruction.
"To this day the PRC continues to reject call for transparency, ... The World deserves answers and I will not rest until we get them" the US President affirmed.
One intelligence agency said it assessed with moderate confidence that the virus infected humans after an incident related to a lab, according to a report released Friday afternoon. Four agencies said they reached low-confidence assessments that the virus had a natural origin. The report did not name the agencies.
"After examining all available intelligence reporting and other information, though, the IC remains divided on the most likely origin of COVID-19. All agencies assess that two hypotheses are plausible: natural exposure to an infected animal and a laboratory-associated incident," the nation's 18 intelligence agencies wrote in the report.
The report, compiled by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, found that the virus was not developed as a biological weapon. The intelligence community also assessed that Chinese officials did not have foreknowledge of the virus before the initial outbreak that triggered a global pandemic.
The report said the intelligence community wouldn't be able to reach a more definitive conclusion unless it receives more information. Biden, in a statement following the report's release, said the US and its allies would continue to pressure China to reveal more about what happened when COVID first started to spread.
Officials said in a declassified summary: "The US intelligence community is still unable to resolve the differences regarding the exact origin of the virus that causes the disease (COVID-19), leaving the debate without any resolution as to whether an incident in a Chinese laboratory is related to this matter."
The report stated that three elements in the intelligence community were unable to reach an assessment, with some analysts suggesting that the origin of the virus is natural, and others saying that its origin is from the laboratory.
In July, China rejected a WHO proposal for a second-phase investigation into the origin of the coronavirus, which would include audits of laboratories and markets in the city of Wuhan.
"We will not accept such an origins-tracing plan, as it, in some aspects, disregards common sense and defies science," Zeng Yixin, vice minister of the National Health Commission, told reporters July 22.
"We hope the WHO would seriously review the considerations and suggestions made by Chinese experts and truly treat the origin tracing of the COVID-19 virus as a scientific matter, and get rid of political interference," Zeng said. — Agencies

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