Mark Mazzetti, Julian E. Barnes, Edward Wong and Adam Goldman “Trump Officials Are Said to Press Spies to Link Virus and Wuhan Labs” https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/30/us/politics/trump-administration-intelligence-coronavirus-china.html
For months, scientists, spies and government officials have wrestled with varying theories about how the outbreak began, and many agree on the importance of determining the genesis of the pandemic. In government and academia, experts have ruled out the notion that it was concocted as a bioweapon. And they agree that the new pathogen began as a bat virus that evolved naturally, probably in another mammal, to become adept at infecting and killing humans.
A few scientists and national security experts have pointed to a history of lab accidents infecting researchers to suggest it might have happened in this case, but many scientists have dismissed such theories.
“We do not believe any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible,” five scientists wrote in a paper published in March in Nature Medicine*2
Scientists who study the coronavirus have maintained that the initial spillover from animal to person could have occurred in any number of ways: at a farm where wild animals are raised, through accidental contact with a bat or another animal that carried the virus, or in hunting or transporting animals.
The scientists have also scrutinized the new pathogen’s genes, finding that they show great similarity to bat coronaviruses and bear no hints of human tampering or curation.
The odds were astronomical against a lab release as opposed to an event in nature, said Kristian G. Andersen, the lead author of the paper published in Nature Medicine and a specialist in infectious disease at the Scripps Research Translational Institute in California.
No evidence supports the theory that the coronavirus originated “in a laboratory either intentionally or by accident,” Daniel R. Lucey, an expert on pandemics at Georgetown University who has closely tracked what is known about the origins, wrote this week*3.
He has called on China to share information about animals sold at a market in Wuhan that was linked to some of the earliest known cases of people infected with the virus, though not the first one. Dr. Lucey has raised questions about whether the market was, in fact, where the virus spilled over from animals to people. The limited information released about environmental samples taken from the market that were positive for the coronavirus do not resolve whether the source was animals sold there or people working or visiting the market, or both, he wrote*4 .
But Richard Ebright*5, a microbiologist and biosafety expert at Rutgers University, has argued that the probability of a lab accident was “substantial,” pointing to a history of such occurrences that have infected researchers. The Wuhan labs and other centers worldwide that examine naturally occurring viruses have questionable safety rules, he said, adding, “The standards are lax and need to be tightened.”
Liu Caiyu and Leng Shumei “Biosafety guideline issued to fix chronic management loopholes at virus labs” https://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1179747.shtml
Richard Grenell, the acting director of national intelligence, has told his agencies to make a priority of determining the virus’s origin. His office convened a review of intelligence officials on April 7 to see whether the agencies could reach a consensus. The officials determined that at least so far, they could not.
Intelligence officials have repeatedly pointed out to the White House that determining the origins of the outbreak is fundamentally a scientific question that cannot be solved easily by spycraft.
A former intelligence official described senior aides’ repeated emphasis of the lab theory as “conclusion shopping,” a disparaging term among analysts that has echoes of the Bush administration’s 2002 push for assessments saying that Iraq had weapons of mass of destruction and links to Al Qaeda, perhaps the most notorious example of the politicization of intelligence.
The C.I.A. has yet to unearth any data beyond circumstantial evidence to bolster the lab theory, according to current and former government officials, and the agency has told policymakers it lacks enough information to either affirm or refute it. Only getting access to the lab itself and the virus samples it contains could provide definitive proof, if it exists, the officials said.
The Defense Intelligence Agency recently changed its analytic position to formally leave open the possibility of a theory of lab origin, officials said. Senior agency officials have asked analysts to take a closer look at the labs.
The reason for the change is unclear, but some officials attributed it to the intelligence analyzed in recent weeks. Others took a more jaundiced view: that the agency is trying to curry favor with White House officials. A spokesman for the agency, James M. Kudla, disputed that characterization. “It’s not D.I.A.’s role to make policy decisions or value judgments — and we do not,” he said.
Ken Dilanian, Courtney Kube and Carol E. Lee “Trump administration asks intelligence agencies to find out whether China, WHO hid info on coronavirus pandemic” https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/national-security/trump-administration-asks-intelligence-agencies-find-out-whether-china-who-n1194451
“Coronavirus: Trump seems to undercut US spies on virus origins” https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52496098
*1:http://www.whiov.cas.cn/ See eg. https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E4%B8%AD%E5%9B%BD%E7%A7%91%E5%AD%A6%E9%99%A2%E6%AD%A6%E6%B1%89%E7%97%85%E6%AF%92%E7%A0%94%E7%A9%B6%E6%89%80 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wuhan_Institute_of_Virology https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E6%AD%A6%E6%BC%A2%E3%82%A6%E3%82%A4%E3%83%AB%E3%82%B9%E7%A0%94%E7%A9%B6%E6%89%80
*3:Daniel Lucey “With evidence against the origin of COVID-19 being the seafood market in December, a call to share and discuss all data at the 73rd World Health Assembly in May” https://sciencespeaksblog.org/2020/04/27/with-evidence-against-the-origin-of-covid-19-being-the-seafood-market-in-december-a-call-to-share-and-discuss-all-data-at-the-73rd-world-health-assembly-in-may/
*4:Daniel Lucey “COVID-19: Day 100 since the Wuhan market closed — where are the animals and their virus test results?” https://sciencespeaksblog.org/2020/04/09/covid-19-day-100-since-the-wuhan-market-closed-where-are-the-animals-and-their-virus-test-results/