These services, which include the FBI and CIA, are still unable to identify the source of Sars-CoV-2, and accuse China of withholding important information for this international investigation.
The fog persists. In a report delivered on August 24 to Joe Biden, the American intelligence services mentioned their difficulties in precisely identifying the origins of Covid-19. China, the suspected focus of the virus, is notably singled out for its refusal to cooperate in this international investigation. Privileged tracks, obstacles, further investigation: franceinfo summarizes the main lessons of this eagerly awaited report, certain elements of which were revealed on Friday 27 August.
Very few details have been leaked concerning this top secret report drafted by the National Intelligence Council (NIC), an organization that brings together the American intelligence community – which includes the CIA and the FBI. In a declassified note published on August 27, the NIC however declares that the new coronavirus “was not developed as a biological weapon”, and leans instead for the hypothesis of a natural occurrence.
“The intelligence council believes that [the virus] probably emerged and infected humans during a first small-scale infection”, details the summary of the report, which locates this initial focus in Wuhan (China) “no more until November 2019 “. The NIC also states that the Chinese government was likely “not aware of the virus until the initial outbreak of Covid-19” emerged. The council thus considers “plausible” the track of the natural contamination in contact with an animal infected by the virus, or by a virus “close to 99% of Sars-CoV-2”.
What about the hypothesis of a virus accidentally escaped from a laboratory, as has been mentioned by scientists? This lead is also considered “plausible” by the NIC, which even quotes the Wuhan Institute of Virology in its declassified note. The tone of the text remains cautious, however: only one agency member of the board leans for this scenario, with a “moderate” degree of confidence.
If the NIC struggles to be affirmative on the tracks studied, it is largely because the American intelligence agencies have had access to very different information, and do not work in the same way. This poses for example problem about the hypothesis of a creation of the virus by the man, which the council refutes in majority, but which two agencies still refuse to reject, “for lack of proof”.
The NIC had 90 days to write this report, recalled Joe Biden in a statement released Friday. By calling for this investigation, the US president was seeking in particular to distinguish himself from his predecessor, Donald Trump, who said in May 2020 to have evidence that the coronavirus is linked to a Chinese laboratory – without ever revealing it to the public. A statement that made the Chinese government jump, further complicating cooperation in the investigation of the virus.
“Our efforts to understand the origins of this pandemic will not weaken,” said Joe Biden after receiving this inconclusive report. Several executives in his administration believe, however, that the intelligence services are not the best equipped to investigate the virus. At the end of June, the national director of American intelligence, Avril Haines, herself expressed serious doubts about the ability to one day unravel this mystery in an interview with the Yahoo News site. “The best thing I can do is present the facts as we know them (…) as objectively as possible”, she confided.
In addition to the divisions between its agencies, the NIC justifies its difficulty in reaching clear conclusions by the attitude of the Chinese government, which it accuses of “hindering the international investigation” and “of blaming other countries, including the United States “. For American intelligence, it is therefore impossible to know more without the cooperation of Beijing, for whom the subject touches on national pride.
Xi Jinping’s regime notably refused, at the end of July, to let the World Health Organization (WHO) continue its investigation into the first cases of Covid-19 in the country, after the organization asked to audit laboratories Chinese. For the Chinese Minister of Health, this request then constituted a “lack of respect for common sense and arrogance towards science”.
Regarding these blockages, US intelligence believes that they “reflect, in part, the uncertainty of the Chinese government as to the direction the investigation could take and its frustration at seeing the international community using this issue to exercise political pressure on China “.
The inconclusive report of the NIC will not reassure the experts of the WHO, for whom the research of the origins of the pandemic is “at a standstill”. “The search for the origins of the Sars-CoV-2 virus is at a critical juncture”, however alerted the scientists commissioned by the organization on Thursday, arguing that “the window of fire to conduct this crucial investigation is closing quickly”.
To trace the virus, experts are indeed tracking the antibodies present in animals and people potentially contaminated before December 2019. Problem: these antibodies disappear over time, and China’s reluctance could prevent any analysis in the allotted time. .
In order to save what can be saved in this investigation, WHO President Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus plays the appeasement card and insists that investigations are underway in several countries, and not just in China. “We encouraged the various parties to continue these studies,” he said from Geneva on Wednesday. For the time being, the WHO is still sticking to the hypotheses listed in its last report published five months ago, and favors the track of a transmission of Sars-CoV-2 from bats to human, via an intermediate animal.
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