Intelligence Agencies Issue Rare Statement on Coronavirus

They are investigating origins, but don't think it was manmade
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 30, 2020 3:42 PM CDT
Updated Apr 30, 2020 3:55 PM CDT
US Intelligence Is Investigating All Theories on Virus
Residents walk past reeds and the cityscape along the Yangtze River in Wuhan, China, earlier this month.   (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

It's not often that US spy agencies issue a statement telling everyone what they're working on. But given the competing theories about where in Wuhan the coronavirus originated, and a New York Times report about the Trump administration pressuring the agencies to investigate one of them, the agencies made an announcement Thursday. The intelligence community "concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified," the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said, referring to the theory that the virus escaped from a government lab. Still, the agencies are investigating the possibility, the Hill reports. They'll try "to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan."

The statement was issued after the Times reported that administration officials were leaning on the agencies to look into the lab theory. President Trump already has blamed the pandemic on China, and some Democrats expressed concern that the intelligence agencies' findings will be used in that political effort. "I think it is a fair question to ask, if it is asked appropriately," said Sen. Mark Warner of the Senate Intelligence Committee, adding, "I am concerned if the White House is trying to influence our intelligence product." The expert consensus is that the culprit started out as a bat virus that evolved in another mammal, then made the jump to humans. Scientists don't think it was created as a bioweapon, either. Warner said the intelligence agencies were "pretty dismissive" of the lab theory. (More coronavirus stories.)

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