(CNN) – President Joe Biden’s instructions to the US intelligence community to redouble their efforts in investigating the origins of the covid-19 pandemic came after intelligence officials informed the White House that they possessed unreviewed evidence that required further computer analysis that could potentially provide answers, The New York Times reported Thursday.
The newspaper cites senior administration officials, who chose not to detail the new evidence or the computational analysis to be carried out. The disclosure raises the question of whether the government fully scrutinized existing intelligence and public health information to investigate the emergence of the virus.
It also comes after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued an unusual public statement Thursday on the status of its intelligence gathering on the genesis of the pandemic, exposing divisions within the intelligence community as to whether the virus escaped from a laboratory in China or it occurred naturally.
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The spokeswoman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Amanda Schoch, reiterated what Biden had said on Wednesday, that there is a difference of opinion between various intelligence agencies and their degrees of confidence in the theories.
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Administration officials told The New York Times that the White House wants US allies to be more involved in investigating the possibility that the virus originated in a Chinese laboratory, a scenario that had previously been played out. considered less likely.
The investigation has not reached a dead end, a senior Biden administration official told the newspaper, adding that it will now draw on federal scientific resources, including national laboratories, that had not previously been tapped to do so.
Biden’s tenure on Wednesday came the same week as news of a US intelligence report that found that several researchers from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology fell ill in November 2019 and had to be hospitalized, a new detail about the severity of his symptoms that could fuel the debate about the origins of the pandemic, according to two people briefed on intelligence information.
A State Department fact sheet released by the Trump administration in January said investigators fell ill in the fall of 2019, but stopped short of saying they had been hospitalized. China informed the World Health Organization that the first patient with symptoms similar to COVID-19 was registered in Wuhan on December 8, 2019.
A Biden administration official told The New York Times that if the new investigation did not produce explanations, it would be due to the obfuscation of China. Current officials told the newspaper that the main focus of the new investigation is to increase preparedness for a pandemic in the future, and administration officials believe that the new intelligence effort, combined with China’s deception of the WHO, will provide a opportunity for greater intelligence sharing and teamwork.
Administration and US intelligence officials told the newspaper that tracing the origin of the virus would require efforts not only from scientists, but also from spies. Senior officials have told spy agencies that their science-focused teams will play a key role in the task, after months of work on the issue.
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Current and former intelligence officials told The New York Times they had doubts that someone would unearth communications that would provide evidence of a lab leak.
An official told the newspaper that allies have been sharing intelligence since the start of the pandemic, with Britain among those who view the theory of lab leaks as dubious, while others, such as Australia, have proven more receptive.
Biden said in a statement Wednesday that in March he had directed his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, to commission the intelligence community to prepare a report on the most up-to-date analysis of the origins of the pandemic, including whether the virus it had arisen from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident. The president said he had received that report earlier this month and asked for additional follow-up.
“To this day, the US intelligence community has ‘rallied around two likely scenarios’ but has not reached a definitive conclusion on this issue. Here’s his current position: ‘While two elements in the intelligence community lean towards the former scenario and one leans more towards the latter, each with low or moderate confidence, most elements do not believe that there is enough information to assess which one is more likely than the other, ‘”Biden said in the statement.
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That’s essentially the same public determination that the intelligence community has had for more than a year on the origins of Covid-19, although Wednesday’s statement made clear that these two scenarios are “likely” and not just being investigated. CNN reported in April 2020 that the intelligence community was investigating whether the new coronavirus had spread from a Chinese laboratory rather than a market in Wuhan, China. The Chinese government has maintained that the virus originated and spread naturally.
Natasha Bertrand, Kylie Atwood, Katie Bo Williams, Zachary Cohen, Kate Sullivan, Donald Judd, Phil Mattingly, Alex Marquardt y Veronica Stracqualursi de CNN contribuyeron a este informe.