With all that is going on in Afghanistan the leaking this week of the findings of a United States intelligence report into the origins of Covid-19 not surprisingly attracted little media attention. The report was ordered by the Biden administration in June.
That was in response to increasingly credible claims that the virus had its origin in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and may have been leaked through human agency rather than transmitted via bats in a food market. Gript reported on the background to this previously.
The report, compiled by nine different agencies, has not yet been officially released, but the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has made available the following “declassified key takeaways.”
The report as summarised can best be described as “inconclusive.” This has allowed those with varying views on the origin of Covid to take differing positions. Congressional Republicans have called for the immediate declassification of the entire report, while on Wednesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci claimed that the leaks points to a rejection of the lab leak theory.
That this is not the case is evident even from the sparse detail in the declassified document. It states that “All agencies assess that the two hypotheses are plausible: natural exposure to an infected animal, and a laboratory associated incident.” The intelligence agencies concluded that it was not developed as a bioweapon, and with “low confidence” that Covid “probably was not genetically engineered.” However, two of the nine agencies believe that there is “insufficient evidence” to decide on the possibility of genetic interference.
Of the nine agencies involved in the inquiry, five, including the Director’s Office, are said to have supported the natural origin theory, with one favouring a laboratory leak, and three undecided. The declassified full report will be crucial in revealing which agencies came to which conclusions, and the intelligence upon which they based their findings.
It is clear, for example, that there are serious conflicts within the American intelligence community as we reported previously with regard to the handling of an alleged high level Chinese defector. It is also the belief among serving and former intelligence officials that some of the agencies involved may be compromised in their assessments on and dealings with China.
The general consensus among all concerned, however, is that the Chinese authorities have from the very beginning been uncooperative to say the least. That is clear from the manner in which both the initial reports of the outbreak became knowledge, and their interference, with the possible connivance of some western agencies, in the initial World Health Organisation report into the Wuhan outbreak.
The Chinese have attacked the report as evidence of American concerns over threats to its “global dominance,” and as a reaction to China’s “economic miracles.” They claim that this “malice and malign” campaign goes right back to the Communist takeover in 1949, and was ramped up by the former Trump administration through threatened trade war.
Nor could they resist associating the catastrophic intelligence failure in Afghanistan with the agencies claim to be able to make a proper assessment on Wuhan. Which is fair dinkum as the Australians might say. Ironically, the Pakistani “international affairs” expert, Yasir Khan, interviewed by the Communist Party organ Global Times, having enumerated a litany of CIA disasters, was “optimistic that there might be some US media that will uphold the supremacy of truthfulness.” He also concluded that while Trump was a serious threat to China, that “Biden desires to use anti-China outrage for political mileage,”
So there is a lot at play in all of this. As a recently screened British TV report on Wuhan showed, the exact time (now stated by the American report to have been “no later than November 2019,”and origin and means of transmission of Covid are crucial. All of those have been questioned and it is clear that the Biden report has not brought closure.
The outbreak and consequent lockdown are arguably the most single significant global event since the ending of World War II. It may well mark, as baldly stated in the Chinese leadership’s take on it, a major shift in strategic power that has the potential to reach well beyond any shift in economic and trade relations.
It is pretty clear which side thinks they are ahead at the water break.