The statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence comes after months of speculation and disinformation.
The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus was likely not produced in a lab, though it remains possible that a lab’s mishandling of the virus contributed to its spread, the head of U.S. intelligence said in a Thursday statement, which said the finding reflects “wide scientific consensus.”
“As we do in all crises, the Community’s experts respond by surging resources and producing critical intelligence on issues vital to U.S. national security. The IC will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, or ODNI, said in the statement.
The World Health Organization made a similar statement on April 21.
The origins of COVID-19 have been a subject of speculation, conspiracy, and rumor. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, and others have suggested that the virus may have been the result of Chinese government experiments. Cotton has since partially walked back his remarks, saying the matter should be investigated.
On April 14, the Washington Post detailed U.S. concerns about safety at a Chinese lab that had been studying the virus. That same day, U.S. military leaders said they were investigating the possibility that the virus was man-made, but they emphasized that they had no hard evidence to support the theory.
The United States and others have accused China of withholding information about the virus. The European Union’s diplomatic body released an April 20 report that sharply criticized Beijing for mounting a global disinformation campaign to deflect blame from China.