A leaked intelligence report revealing that three researchers from China's Wuhan Institute of Virology had been hospitalized in November 2019, months before China disclosed the COVID-19 pandemic, doesn't resolve "In one way or another" enough details of the origins of the deadly pandemic, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Monday.
Further, Clapper, now a CNN intelligence analyst, commented on "CNN Newsroom" that it will take more than an intelligence report to get to the bottom of how the virus began and spread worldwide.
"DNI (Avril) Haines and CIA Director Bill Burns, in their worldwide threat testimony, said there are two theories, one that (COVID) was naturally occurring, and one that it wasn't, that it occurred in a lab," said Clapper.
He also noted that Burns "appropriately highlighted and reminded us about the fact that the Chinese had been less than transparent and less than forthcoming about this. Thus, I don't think intelligence in and of itself is ever going to resolve this issue."
China has rejected the intelligence report, with the foreign ministry saying that a team led by the World Health Organization had concluded a lab leak was extremely unlikely after a visit in February to the Wuhan facility.
"The U.S. continues to hype the lab leak theory," the ministry said in response to a request for comment by the Journal. "Is it actually concerned about tracing the source or trying to divert attention?"
Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci is now admitting that he is not convinced that the coronavirus that leads to COVID-19 developed naturally and not in a lab. Clapper said Monday he believes the investigation is being conducted as "aggressively as it can" be done, but the newest report about the sickened researchers does not do much to rule out whether the virus could have been built in a lab.
However, he added, "you can't rule out the possibility in the absence of total transparency on part of the Chinese, which is not possible now since the lab has been cleaned and the Chinese don't allow forensic access to DNA."
If the evidence further corroborates that the virus developed at the Wuhan lab, not in the wet market there as the Chinese have said from the beginning, there are still a "number of alternatives" about why the virus would have been made, said Clapper.
He acknowledged that two "viable options" could be anything from attempts to weaponize the disease to simple sloppiness on the part of the lab that allowed the virus to escape.
"That's the problem; there are any number of alternatives," said Clapper. "In the absence of more definitive, tough evidence one way or the other, the debate will go on. The intelligence community has not ruled out any possibility."
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