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Intelligence Community ‘Aggressively’ Trying to Determine Which COVID-19 Origin Scenario Is More Likely

After President Biden said there is split opinion in the intelligence community about the likely origin of COVID-19 and announced intensified efforts to determine the facts, Assistant Director of National Intelligence for Strategic Communications Amanda Schoch confirmed Thursday that the IC didn’t yet have enough information to pick one possible scenario over the other.

Biden announced in a statement Wednesday that he had “asked the Intelligence Community to redouble their efforts to collect and analyze information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion, and to report back to me in 90 days.”

“Shortly after I became President, in March, I had my National Security Advisor task the Intelligence Community to prepare a report on their most up-to-date analysis of the origins of COVID-19, including whether it emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident,” he said. “I received that report earlier this month, and asked for additional follow-up. As of today, the U.S. Intelligence Community has ‘coalesced around two likely scenarios’ but has not reached a definitive conclusion on this question.”

Schoch said in a statement released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Thursday that “the U.S. Intelligence Community does not know exactly where, when, or how the COVID-19 virus was transmitted initially but has coalesced around two likely scenarios: either it emerged naturally from human contact with infected animals or it was a laboratory accident.”

“While two elements of the IC lean toward the former scenario and one leans more toward the latter — each with low or moderate confidence — the majority of elements within the IC do not believe there is sufficient information to assess one to be more likely than the other,” Schoch said. “The IC continues to examine all available evidence, consider different perspectives, and aggressively collect and analyze new information to identify the virus’s origins.”

Biden said that as part of the report expected in three months he has “asked for areas of further inquiry that may be required, including specific questions for China.”

“I have also asked that this effort include work by our national labs and other agencies of our government to augment the Intelligence Community’s efforts. And I have asked the Intelligence Community to keep Congress fully apprised of its work,” he added. “The United States will also keep working with like-minded partners around the world to press China to participate in a full, transparent, evidence-based international investigation and to provide access to all relevant data and evidence.”

Biden told reporters Thursday that he would publicly release the IC’s ultimate findings “unless there’s something I’m unaware of.”

The New York Times reported Thursday that Biden’s statement was prompted by the IC alerting the White House that they had a significant amount unreviewed evidence to study in conjunction with the national labs, including analyzing the movements of lab workers in Wuhan, China, in relation to how the outbreak unfolded.

The Wall Street Journal cited an intelligence report in a Sunday article stating that three researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick enough in November 2019 to seek medical care, with symptoms that could have been COVID-19 or another seasonal illness such as the flu.

Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a terrorism analyst and security consultant with a speciality in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, anti-Semitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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