Time to lay lab-leak theory to rest

US President Joe Biden’s deadline for his country’s intelligence community to report on the Covid origin lapsed last week with an inconclusive report landing on his desk.

A total of 18 intelligence agencies were involved in the exercise.

Although the report was inconclusive, one agency assessed with “moderate confidence” that the virus infected humans after an incident related to a laboratory.

Four agencies assessed with “low confidence” that the virus had a natural origin.

The remainder were not mentioned in media reports, presumably because they were unable to arrive at any assessment with any level of confidence.

But the report put together by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence concluded that the virus was not developed as a biological weapon, as had been speculated in some conspiracy theories.

That’s what Biden has got from his intelligence men and women so far.

The next question is: how will the information be used by the Biden administration?

The hypothesis that Covid had been leaked from a high security lab in Wuhan was first suggested by former US president Donald Trump. It was vigorously promoted during the final months of Trump’s term when it became clear his popularity persistently lagged behind that of Biden by a significant margin ahead of the presidential election.

It was agreed even by Americans that the hypothesis was a long shot. Without a field investigation within a reasonable time, it would be impossible to prove the theory.

After Biden defeated Trump in the country’s most controversial election so far, he took up the issue.

Indeed, he could have easily thrown the matter out the window had he wished as he was not obliged to inherit it from his predecessor.

But he raised some eyebrows when he declared back in May that he was giving his intelligence officers 90 days to report on the origin of the virus.

Was he seriously after the origin of the pandemic? Or could there have been a political agenda in his mind at that time and the order was merely a means to win time?

Despite one agency reporting with moderate confidence that the virus had been leaked from a lab, the report was largely inconclusive.

The inconclusive finding was anticipated as a site visit to Wuhan by the World Health Organization early this year also failed to establish the origin.

In its report, the WHO team lent credence to a hypothesis that the virus had a natural origin. However, the observation was quickly disputed by some WHO team members who disagreed with the statement.

The WHO planned to organize a second investigation in China but Beijing has categorically rejected the plan.

Nonetheless, the 90-day wait has helped to focus international attention on the dangerous twist in the relationship between China and the United States.

Biden is caught between a rock and a hard place.

On the one hand, criticisms are mounting at home and among allies over the disastrous way he pulled American troops out of Afghanistan.

On the other hand, the inconclusive report deprives him of the Covid ammo needed for a conflict with China.

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