The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released declassified intelligence on the Wuhan lab and its likely links to the origins of COVID-19 on Friday night.
The report, released days after Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to China, was drafted by the national intelligence officer for weapons of mass destruction and proliferation and was coordinated with the intelligence community.
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But for those hoping for any breakthrough into the origins of COVID-19, the 10-page report was fairly scant on new details.
It contended that “almost all IC agencies assess that SARS-CoV-2 was not genetically engineered” and that “most agencies assess that SARS-CoV-2 was not laboratory-adapted,” while “some are unable to make a determination.”
ODNI said the intelligence community agrees COVID-19 “was not developed as a biological weapon.”
It was recently reported by Public and Racket that “sources within the U.S. government say that three of the earliest people to become infected with SARS-CoV-2 were Ben Hu, Yu Ping, and Yan Zhu,” who “all were members” of the Wuhan lab.
“Several WIV researchers were ill in Fall 2019 with symptoms; some of their symptoms were consistent with but not diagnostic of COVID-19,” the ODNI report assessed. “The IC continues to assess that this information neither supports nor refutes either hypothesis of the pandemic’s origins because the researchers’ symptoms could have been caused by a number of diseases and some of the symptoms were not consistent with COVID-19.”
ODNI said “some scientists at the WIV have genetically engineered coronaviruses using common laboratory practices,” but “the IC has no information, however, indicating that any WIV genetic engineering work has involved SARS-CoV-2, a close progenitor, or a backbone virus that is closely-related enough to have been the source of the pandemic.”
ODNI assessed, “Prior to the pandemic, we assess WIV scientists conducted extensive research on coronaviruses, which included animal sampling and genetic analysis.
“We continue to have no indication that the WIV’s pre-pandemic research holdings included SARSCoV-2 or a close progenitor, nor any direct evidence that a specific research-related incident occurred involving WIV personnel before the pandemic that could have caused the COVID pandemic.”
The report added that “scientists at the WIV have created chimeras, or combinations, of SARS-like coronaviruses through genetic engineering, attempted to clone other unrelated infectious viruses, and used reverse genetic cloning techniques on SARS-like coronaviruses.”
ODNI said “some of the WIV’s genetic engineering projects on coronaviruses involved techniques that could make it difficult to detect intentional changes” and noted that “some WIV researchers probably did not use adequate biosafety precautions at least some of the time prior to the pandemic in handling SARS-like coronaviruses, increasing the risk of accidental exposure to viruses.”
The Friday night news dump comes almost a week after President Joe Biden missed the congressionally mandated Sunday deadline for making the information public.
The House and Senate unanimously passed the COVID-19 Origin Act of 2023 in March, giving 90 days to declassify and release intelligence on the Wuhan Institute of Virology and its connections to the emergence of SARS-CoV-2.
The law instructed Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to “declassify any and all information relating to potential links between the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the origin” of COVID-19, including intelligence on the “activities performed by the Wuhan Institute of Virology with or on behalf of the People’s Liberation Army” and “coronavirus research or other related activities performed at the Wuhan Institute of Virology prior to the outbreak” of SARS-CoV-2.
The legislation also told the Biden administration to hand over any information on “researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology who fell ill in autumn 2019.”
The Wuhan Institute of Virology has long been suspected by some as the source of the global pandemic that contributed to the deaths of more than 1 million Americans. The close relationship between the Wuhan lab and the Chinese military has been a focal point for congressional investigators.
ODNI said the Wuhan lab is “independent” of the People’s Liberation Army but that “WIV personnel have worked with scientists associated with the PLA on public health-related research and collaborated on biosafety and biosecurity projects.”
The report added that “some of the research conducted by the PLA and WIV included work with several viruses, including coronaviruses, but no known viruses that could plausibly be a progenitor of SARS-CoV-2.”
It continued that “prior to collaborating on a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, the WIV collaborated with the PLA on other vaccine and therapeutics relevant to coronaviruses.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray confirmed earlier this year the bureau has long believed with “moderate confidence” that COVID-19 originated at a Chinese government lab. It was also revealed earlier this year the Energy Department believes with “low confidence” that the virus started at a Wuhan lab.
Haines promised in March to share the Energy Department’s assessment with the House Intelligence Committee.
ODNI released an assessment in August 2021 stating that four U.S. spy agencies and the National Intelligence Council believed with “low confidence” that COVID-19 most likely had a natural origin.
Former DNI John Ratcliffe, who has long insisted that the intelligence is strong that COVID-19 originated at a Wuhan lab, called it “utter nonsense” in March to claim the CIA doesn’t have enough information to reach a conclusion on natural origin versus lab leak.
EcoHealth Alliance’s Peter Daszak was a longtime collaborator with the Wuhan lab and its “bat lady” leader, Shi Zhengli. Daszak steered hundreds of thousands of dollars in National Institutes of Health bat coronavirus funding to the Chinese institute.
A Trump State Department fact sheet released in January 2021 contended Wuhan lab researchers had previously conducted experiments involving what the Wuhan lab had identified as the “closest sample” to SARS-CoV-2 and that the lab “has a published record of conducting ‘gain-of-function’ research to engineer chimeric viruses.” The fact sheet asserted the lab “engaged in classified research, including laboratory animal experiments, on behalf of the Chinese military” and that lab workers became sick with coronavirus-like symptoms in fall 2019.
Chinese officials, diplomats, and state-run outlets have repeatedly attempted to baselessly shift blame to the U.S. military since the pandemic began.
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The State Department made it clear earlier this week that getting to the bottom of COVID’s origins was not a key reason for Blinken’s China visit.
Blinken’s only mentions of coronavirus came in relation to the pandemic’s effect on the economy and the Biden administration’s desire for China to do well economically.
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