Mr. President, ‘Contact With an Infected Animal’ and ‘Lab Accident’ Can Be the Same Thing

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Then-vice president Joe Biden shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, December 4, 2013. (Lintao Zhang/Reuters Pool)

Moments ago, the White House released this statement:

Statement by President Joe Biden on the Investigation into the Origins

of COVID-19

Back in early 2020, when COVID-19 emerged, I called for the CDC to get access to China to learn about the virus so we could fight it more effectively. The failure to get our inspectors on the ground in those early months will always hamper any investigation into the origin of COVID-19.

Nevertheless, shortly after I became President, in March, I had my National Security Advisor task the Intelligence Community to prepare a report on their most up-to-date analysis of the origins of COVID-19, including whether it emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident. I received that report earlier this month, and asked for additional follow-up. As of today, the U.S. Intelligence Community has “coalesced around two likely scenarios” but has not reached a definitive conclusion on this question. Here is their current position: “while two elements in the IC leans toward the former scenario and one leans more toward the latter – each with low or moderate confidence – the majority of elements do not believe there is sufficient information to assess one to be more likely than the other.”

I have now asked the Intelligence Community to redouble their efforts to collect and analyze information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion, and to report back to me in 90 days. As part of that report, I have asked for areas of further inquiry that may be required, including specific questions for China. I have also asked that this effort include work by our National Labs and other agencies of our government to augment the Intelligence Community’s efforts. And I have asked the Intelligence Community to keep Congress fully apprised of its work.

The United States will also keep working with like-minded partners around the world to press China to participate in a full, transparent, evidence-based international investigation and to provide access to all relevant data and evidence.

The problem with this statement is “emerged from human contact with an infected animal” or “from a laboratory accident” are described as separate scenarios but they can occur in the same scenario. In addition to holding thousands of samples of viruses taken from swabbing bats in the wild, a considerable amount of evidence suggests that the Wuhan Institute of Virology had bats, or their carcasses, on site.

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The Wuhan Institute of Virology reportedly filed patents for bat cages. The contention of Peter Daszak that the WIV never collected live or dead bats is contradicted by multiple accounts of WIV staff. As one Chinese Academy of Science web site described it,  “Founded in 1956, Wuhan Institute of Virology is a comprehensive research institution specializing in basic virology research and related technological innovation. The institute currently has 3 sets of barrier facilities with a facility scale of 1,216 square meters. The facility has 126 cages for Japanese white rabbits, 340 cages for SD and Wistar rats, inbred strains, closed groups, mutant strains, and genetically engineered mice. There are 3,268 cages, 12 ferrets, 12 bats, and 2 species of cotton bollworm and beet armyworm, totaling 52 strains.”

Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, has been one of the most outspoken and vociferous critics of the lab leak theory.

I wonder which elements of the intelligence community are leaning towards the non-lab contact with an infected animal scenario, and which one is leaning towards the lab accident scenario.

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