Intelligence shared among Five Eyes nations indicates it is “highly unlikely” that the coronavirus outbreak was spread as a result of an accident in a laboratory but rather originated in a Chinese market, according to two Western officials who cited an intelligence assessment that appears to contradict claims by President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“We think it’s highly unlikely it was an accident,” a Western diplomatic official with knowledge of the intelligence said. “It is highly likely it was naturally occurring and that the human infection was from natural human and animal interaction.” The countries in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing coalition are coalescing around this assessment, the official said, and a second official, from a Five Eyes country, concurred with it. The US has yet to make a formal assessment public.
The Five Eyes alliance is made up of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — and the countries share a broad range of intelligence in one of the world’s tightest multilateral arrangements.
The assessment from members of the exclusive intelligence-sharing group seems to undermine forceful claims by Trump and Pompeo in recent days, as they have doubled down on the assertion that the outbreak originated from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, rather than a market in the same region.
It will likely increase pressure on the Trump administration to provide evidence to back up its claim, which it has failed to do so far despite the increasingly aggressive rhetoric from the President and his top diplomat.