A report by U.S. intelligence agencies about the origin of the COVID-19 virus delivered to President Joe Biden on Tuesday did not provide definitive answers about where the deadly infection came from.
The lack of detailed information from China hindered the investigation, according to senior U.S. officials who spoke to The Wall Street Journal on the condition they would not be named.
“It was a deep dive, but you can only go so deep as the situation allows,” one of the U.S. officials said. “If China’s not going to give access to certain data sets, you’re never really going to know (about the origin).”
The study, ordered by Biden in May, noted in part China’s reluctance to provide specific details on the emergence of the virus tracked to Wuhan, China.
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said intelligence agencies might not solve the mystery of how the virus started and spread.
“We’re hoping to find a smoking gun,” she told Yahoo News in an interview, adding, “it’s challenging to do that. ... “it might happen, but it might not.”
Intelligence officials worked off the theory that the pandemic originated in one of two ways: It emerged from human contact with an infected animal, or it came from a laboratory accident, likely at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
According to what has been leaked about the report, intelligence sources could not determine if either one of the theories was true.
A World Health Organization team conducted a study earlier in the year trying to determine where the virus originated. The team presented a similar finding in its report: based on the information they were given, there was no definitive conclusion as to where COVID-19 came from.
Chinese officials pushed back on the claims that it was responsible for the virus, saying the U.S. was aiming to make China the “scapegoat” for the virus.
“Scapegoating China cannot whitewash the US,” Fu Cong, director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ arms control department, said during a news briefing on Wednesday.
Chinese officials have repeatedly said that the U.S. leaked the virus, saying it came out of either Fort Detrick, located in Frederick, Maryland, or research labs at the University of North Carolina.
Fort Detrick is a military installation that contains biomedical labs that research viruses.
The report remains classified, but according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, a declassified report will be released to the public.
“I can’t obviously speak to a classified briefing,” Psaki said when asked about the report at the White House press briefing on Wednesday.
“I know you are eager to receive an unclassified summary, that is something the intelligence community has been working to produce and as soon as that is available it will be put out publicly.”
The virus has killed more than 4 million people worldwide and infected nearly 215 million people, according to Johns Hopkins University.
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