The US President Just Told Spy Agencies to Explore the COVID-19 'Lab Leak' Theory

But so far, they are split on origin theories of COVID-19.
Brad Bergan
Doctors in biohazard suits obscured by a curtain.doble-d / iStock

President Joe Biden has declared he wants U.S. intelligence agencies to explore the "lab leak" theory on the origins of the COVID-19 coronavirus, according to a statement tweeted by the National Security Council. This is a theory that suggests the coronavirus was created in a lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and then began its global wave of infections after escaping, intentionally or accidentally, the premises.

Nothing is proven on the question of the coronavirus' origins: We don't yet have conclusive proof that it did come from a lab, nor do we have any proving it didn't.

US spy agencies are split on the idea of a COVID-19 'lab leak'

"As of today, the U.S. Intelligence Community has 'coalesced around two likely scenarios' but had not reached a definitive conclusion on this question," said the U.S. President's statement in the tweet from the National Security Council. The statement describes the two scenarios as ones wherein the coronavirus either came from human contact with an infected animal, or leaked during a lab accident. "Here is their current position: 'while the two elements in the IC leans toward the former scenario and one leans more toward the latter — each with low or moderate confidence — the majority of elements do not believe there is sufficient information to assess one to be more likely than the other,'" read the statement from the Biden administration.

In other words, the most powerful spy agencies in the country lack requisite evidence to conclusively support or deny the idea of a lab leak origin for the coronavirus. But the President seems determined to use the intelligence community in search of a concrete answer. This comes on the heels of bizarre statements from the new NASA Chief Nelson, who on Wednesday claimed the possibility of a "lab leak," whether intentional or not, was "nothing to snooze at and ignore," according to a series of initial tweets from The Verge reporter Joey Roulette.

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US President asks spy agencies to 'redouble their efforts'

Earlier, a team of experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) said the idea of a lab leak was an "extremely unlikely" hypothesis for the coronavirus' origin, according to an NBC News report. But, later the institution's conclusions were scrutinized by others, including the leadership of WHO, citing limitations related to China's lack of transparency. But whether the COVID-19 coronavirus ultimately came from a laboratory or not, the best evidence most probably remains in China itself. Needless to say, this could make it extremely difficult for spy agencies to come to a solid conclusion.

"I have now 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," read the President's announcement, in the tweet. We've come a long way since the initial waves of the coronavirus swept the world and changed human society for keeps. And while much technological progress was made to help treat victims of the illness, in addition to curbing the spread of the virus, the possibility of knowing — for certain, with concrete, substantial and evidence-based proof — where the virus came from could drastically improve our ability to prevent a repeat of the COVID-19 pandemic.