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Intel Community: Chinese Virus Likely Originated at Wuhan Lab

The U.S. intelligence community conceded Wednesday that China is still keeping America in the dark about the true origins of the novel coronavirus, stressing that it may have accidentally leaked out from a lab in Wuhan, China.

American diplomats cited the Wuhan lab for subpar safety standards in 2019. The lab specializes in modifying bat coronavirus to create synthetic viruses that can make human beings ill.

During a hearing Wednesday on worldwide threats to U.S. national security, Marco Rubio from Florida, the top Republican on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hosting the event, grilled the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Avril Haines, the CIA Director William Burns, and the National Security Agency (NSA) Director Gen. Paul Nakasone on the origins and true source of the coronavirus.

Rubio noted that there were two competing hypotheses for the origins of the virus, telling the witnesses:

The official answer for why it’s happened — and it is a possible answer — is that this was a new zoonotic transmission; it crossed over from an animal into a human. But there’s another hypothesis which is plausible. And that is that there was an accident at a laboratory that ended up impacting the world the way we’ve seen. And there’s reason to believe that’s plausible.

In highlighting the plausibility that COVID-19 may have originated from a lab accident at the Wuhan Institute of Virology known for modifying bat coronavirus to create synthetic viruses known to make human beings ill, Rubio declared:

Number one, researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology have demonstrated from their publication record that they were skilled at techniques in which they genetically modified bat coronaviruses in order to create new man-made viruses that were highly capable of creating disease in human beings,” Rubio pointed out in highlighting the hypothesis that COVID-19 may have originated from a lab accident.

Second, there have been several lab leaks documented that have occurred in China, including one involving the original SARS virus. And third, U.S. diplomats who visited the Wuhan Institute of Virology in 2019 warned of the risk of the subpar safety standards that they observed.

He then went on to grill the witnesses, asking them a two-part question. Rubio asked:

We can’t conclude definitively that the virus that causes COVID-19 emerged naturally until there’s a transmission chain [that identifies] how the virus evolved and transmitted between species. And to date, no such path of zoonotic transmission has been definitively identified. Are those two things accurate?”

DNI Haines, the head of the U.S. intelligence community, responded:

It is absolutely accurate the Intelligence Community does not know exactly where, when, or how COVID-19 virus was transmitted initially. And basically, components have coalesced around two alternative theories.

The scenarios are it emerged naturally from human contact with infected animals, or it was a laboratory accident as you identified. And that is where we are right now, but we’re continuing to work on this issue and collect information, and, to the best we can, essentially to give you greater confidence in what the scenario is.

Echoing complaints from the Trump administration, President Joe Biden’s CIA Director Burns conceded that Communist China has been reluctant to provide the U.S. with the information it needs to determine the origins of the virus on its own.

Director Burns testified:

The one thing that’s clear to us and to our analysts is that the Chinese leadership has not been fully forthcoming or fully transparent in working with the W.H.O. or in providing the kind of original, complete data that would help answer those questions. So we’re doing everything we can using all the sources available to all of us on this panel to try to get to the bottom of it.

Gen. Paul Nakasone, the NSA director, added that his agency is working with the international community and academia to gather and analyze information about the origins of the coronavirus.

President Joe Biden reversed his predecessor’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the World Health Organization (W.H.O.), a U.N. agency, for helping China hide the extent of the virus at the beginning stages, allowing the deadly and contagious disease to spread across the world.

Still, even the Biden administration has expressed skepticism of the W.H.O’s investigation into the virus’s origins.

Like its predecessor, the Biden Administration wants to deploy experts from America to judge the origins of the virus, particularly after a joint study from the W.H.O. and China determined it is “extremely unlikely” the pandemic virus occurred through a laboratory leak.

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