“The intelligence community does not know exactly where, when, or how the COVID-19 virus was transmitted initially,” Avril Haines, the director for national intelligence, told the Senate Intelligence Committee during a hearing on global national security perils.
She had been challenged by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the vice-chairman of the Senate panel, about the chance that the virus developed from a leak in a laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Haines said that the intelligence committee has converged on two theories about the sources of the virus.
“These scenarios emerged naturally from human contact with infected animals, or it was a lab accident,” Haines said.
William Burns, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said that the spy agency is using all of its cause skills to “try to get to the bottom of” the virus’s origin story.
He also stressed that the Chinese government has kept information from the World Health Organization and other researchers that could reveal and explain how the virus first spread to humans.
“The one thing that’s clear to us and to our analysts is that the Chinese leadership has not been fully forthcoming or fully transparent in working with the WHO or in providing the kind of original complete data that would help answer those questions,” Burns testified.
A team of experts visited China in February as part of a WHO mission to probe into the origins of the coronavirus. The health agency released a report last month that said that the virus most likely infected humans after jumping from an animal species. WHO said that the least likely reason was that the virus resulted from a leak in the Wuhan lab.
The WHO investigation has come under harsh criticism, with people saying that it acted under the firm control of Chinese government officials.
Peter Daszak, who was the lone American scientist on the WHO team, confirmed in an interview with “60 Minutes” that officials from China’s foreign ministry took part in meetings they had with scientists from the Wuhan lab.
Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, said on Feb. 13 that the Biden administration had “deep concerns” that China had not provided raw data to the WHO team for its investigation.