This week, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., the vice-chairman of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, questioned Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director William Burns and National Security Agency (NSA) Director-General Paul Nakasone on the origins and true source of the COVID-19 virus.
A partial transcript is below.
Vice-Chairman Rubio: “So about a year and a half ago, a bat virus…transferred to something that infected human beings. I don’t need to tell everybody what’s happened since then. The official answer for why it’s happened — and it is a possible answer — is that this was a new zoonotic transmission, it crossed over from an animal into a human. But there’s another hypothesis which is plausible. And that is that there was an accident at a laboratory that ended up impacting the world the way we’ve seen.
“And there’s reason to believe that’s plausible. Number one, researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology have demonstrated from their publication record that they were skilled at techniques in which they genetically modified bat coronaviruses in order to create new man-made viruses that were highly capable of creating disease in human beings.
“Second, there have been several lab leaks documented that have occurred in China, including one involving the original SARS virus.
“And third, U.S. diplomats who visited the Wuhan Institute of Virology in 2019 warned of the risk of the subpar safety standards that they observed.
“I think it’s really a two-part question…We can’t conclude definitively that the virus that causes COVID-19 emerged naturally until there’s a transmission chain [that identifies] how the virus evolved and transmitted between species. And to date, no such path of zoonotic transmission has been definitively identified. Is that — are those two things accurate?”
Director Haines: “Thank you, Vice Chairman. It is absolutely accurate the Intelligence Community does not know exactly where, when, or how COVID-19 virus was transmitted initially. And basically, components have coalesced around two alternative theories. The scenarios are it emerged naturally from human contact with infected animals, or it was a laboratory accident as you identified. And that is where we are right now, but we’re continuing to work on this issue and collect information, and, to the best we can, essentially to give you greater confidence in what the scenario is. But I’ll leave it to my colleagues if there’s anything they want to add.”
Director Burns: “…The one thing that’s clear to us and to our analysts is that the Chinese leadership has not been fully forthcoming or fully transparent in working with the WHO or in providing the kind of original, complete data that would help answer those questions. So we’re doing everything we can using all the sources available to all of us on this panel to try to get to the bottom of it.”
General Nakasone: “I would just add, Vice Chairman, that, to your parlance, we continue to gather and to analyze and form a series of pieces that we’re looking at. [We’re] working very, very closely partnered with obviously the [International Community] here, but also with a number of other partners in the inner agency and in academia as well.”