US spy agencies reject idea virus is man-made, but Trump suspects China

Washington, Apr 30 (efe-epa).- US intelligence agencies on Thursday rejected the hypothesis that the coronavirus could be man-made or genetically modified amid leaks to the press that officials within the Donald Trump administration have pressured the spy services to look for proof that it was created in a laboratory in Wuhan, China.

In a little-used method of communication, the office of the US National Intelligence Director Richard Grenell issued a statement ruling out that the SARS-CoV-2 virus could be artificially created, saying that US intelligence agencies agree with “the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified.”

The federal agency added that the intelligence community “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 central Chinese city where the virus was first detected last December.

To date, the source of the novel coronavirus is unknown, although the US administration has suggested that it originated in a laboratory, while some Chinese authorities have promoted the theory that US soldiers introduced it into China while participating in the World Military Games in Wuhan last October.

The announcement by National Intelligence coincides with the publication of an article by The New York Times saying that top-level Trump administration officials have pressured the country’s spy agencies to look for proof supporting the theory that the virus was created in a Wuhan laboratory.

According to the daily, citing current and former US officials, there are Trump aides and Republican lawmakers who intend to blame China for the pandemic to fend off responsibility for the US government’s own management of the crisis, management that has received harsh and widespread criticism.

The US has suffered the largest number of Covid-19 cases in the world – 1,056,402 confirmed cases as of Thursday – and 61,867 people have died in this country, according to figures compiled by The Johns Hopkins University.

According to the paper, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is leading the efforts of the administration to blame China, while Deputy National Security Advisor Matthew Pottinger has been pressuring the intelligence services since January to gather information supporting the hypothesis that the virus was created by Chinese scientists.

The article also emphasized the name of Anthony Ruggiero, the director of the National Security Council office tasked with keeping tabs on weapons of mass destruction, who in January expressed his frustration in a videoconference about the inability of the CIA to determine the origin of the pandemic.

Persons with knowledge of that conversation, quoted by The New York Times, said that CIA analysts responded that they had no proof favoring or confirming any particular theory about the origins of the virus.

On Wednesday, NBC reported that the White House had ordered US spy agencies to comb through all intercepted communications, data and satellite images to determine if China and the World Health Organization early on hid information about what would later erupt into the worldwide pandemic.

In that regard, Trump on Thursday told reporters at the White House that “We just got hit by a vicious virus that should never have been allowed to escape China,” and adding that the Chinese should have stopped the spread of the virus at the outset but did not.


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