Biden revealed that earlier this year he tasked the intelligence community to prepare “a report on their most up-to-date analysis of the origins of Covid-19, including whether it resulted from human contact with an infected animal or a laboratory accident. “
“To date, the US intelligence community has ‘coalesced around two probable scenarios’ but has not reached a definitive conclusion on this issue,” Biden said in a statement.
“Here is their current position: ‘while two elements of the IC lean towards the [human contact] scenario and we lean more towards the [lab leak scenario] – each with a low or moderate confidence – the majority of the elements do not think that there is enough information to assess that one is more likely than the other ”, declared the president.
Biden used the traditional language of the intelligence community when providing assessments to a president. This includes explaining to the president when different agencies within the IC disagree and always giving the president the level of confidence they have in the accuracy of the raw information.
Biden released the new guidelines as the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, still officially unknown, come under increasing scrutiny.
The hypothesis that the virus could have escaped a laboratory, although initially rejected by some as a conspiracy theory, has gained popularity in recent months.
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, recently said in Senate testimony that a laboratory leak origin was “certainly” “a possibility.”
The CDC’s website currently says that while the exact source of the outbreak is unknown, “we know it originally came from an animal, possibly a bat. “
Covid-19 was discovered near the city of Wuhan, in China’s Hubei province. The Wuhan Institute of Virology, which has studied coronaviruses in the past, is at the center of the turmoil over the origins of the pandemic.
The scrutiny of that lab intensified dramatically this week, when the Wall Street Journal reported that three researchers had been diagnosed with Covid-like symptoms in November 2019, shortly before the first cases of the virus were reported. . The newspaper cited a previously undisclosed US intelligence report.
White House officials told reporters on Tuesday that China had not been “completely transparent” in the global investigation into the origins of Covid-19, and that a full investigation was needed to determine whether the virus that killed nearly 3.5 million people came from nature or a laboratory.
“We have to get to the bottom of it, regardless of the response,” White House senior Covid-19 adviser Andy Slavitt told reporters at a Covid briefing on Tuesday. “We need a fully transparent process from China, we need [World Health Organization] to help in this matter and we don’t feel like we have it now. “
The World Health Organization said in March that it was “extremely unlikely” that the virus was introduced into humans through an accidental lab leak. But that report was heavily criticized by scientists who said the WHO had given the possibility of a short-term laboratory accident compared to a naturally occurring scenario.
“The report lacks critical data, information and access. It represents a partial and incomplete picture, ”said White House press secretary Jen Psaki at the time, when asked about the WHO’s position on the origins of Covid.
The office of the director of national intelligence, which heads the country’s 18 intelligence agencies, did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC, did not immediately respond to CNBC.
This is the latest news. Please come back for updates.
—- CNBC’s Kevin Breuninger and Amanda Macias contributed to this story.