By Andrew Kerr
The U.S. intelligence community is seriously considering the possibility that the novel coronavirus could have been accidentally released from biochemical research labs in Wuhan, according to a report Tuesday.
“It’s definitely a real possibility being bandied about at the high levels of the administration,” one unnamed source with knowledge of China and national security told Yahoo News.
“It’s absolutely being looked at very closely at the highest levels,” another source told with knowledge of the investigations told the outlet.
Citing the accounts of nine current and former intelligence and national security officials familiar with investigations into the coronavirus, Yahoo News reported that the U.S. intelligence community is exploring all possible avenues the virus could have been unleashed into the human population, including the possibility that it spread naturally from a Wuhan wet market and the possibility that the virus could have been unintentionally released from research facilities that were known to be studying bat-based coronaviruses in Wuhan.
“We are actively and vigorously tracking down every piece of information we get on this topic and we are writing frequently to update policymakers,” one official said, noting that the intelligence community “has not come down on any one theory.”
However, the theory that the coronavirus is a man-made bioweapon has been largely discounted by the intelligence community, Yahoo News reported.
The lab leak theory has picked up steam in media, academic circles and the government in recent weeks.
Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin reported on Tuesday that U.S. Embassy had sent two official warnings to Washington D.C. warning about inadequate safety at a Wuhan research lab that was studying bat-based coronaviruses after visiting the lab in 2018.
And Richard H. Ebright, a professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University, previously told the Daily Caller News Foundation in no uncertain terms that he believes it’s possible that the coronavirus could have been unleashed due to a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
After all, China’s top virologist on bat-borne viruses, Shi Zhengli, said in March that she frantically searched for evidence that any of her records in that lab were mishandled when she first learned of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan in late December.
“Could they have come from her lab?” she recalled thinking, according to the Scientific American.
“I had never expected this kind of thing to happen in Wuhan, in central China,” Shi added.
Shi now furiously denies that the novel coronavirus could have leaked from her lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who was largely ridiculed in the press in February for suggesting that research labs in Wuhan could be connected to the virus’s exposure to the human population, told the DCNF in April it was a reasonable question to ask given China’s record of dishonesty on it’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak
“After concealing the virus for many weeks in December and then minimizing its severity for most of January, they then peddle an origin story about the food market in Wuhan,” Cotton said. “Given their dishonesty and the proximity of these labs, which we know were working with coronaviruses, it is only reasonable and responsible for us to ask the question and demand the answers.”
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