WASHINGTON — The top U.S. spy agency said for the first time on Thursday that the nation's collective intelligence community does not believe that the coronavirus was manmade or genetically modified.
"The Intelligence Community also concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified," the Office of Director of National Intelligence said in a rare statement.
"The IC 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," it added.
The statement from the Office of Director of National Intelligence contradicts reports suggesting that the new coronavirus had been developed by Chinese scientists in a government biological weapons laboratory.
The U.S. intelligence community was tasked with examining whether the virus that caused the global pandemic emerged accidentally from a Chinese research lab, current and former U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News.
The virus has infected more than 3.2 million worldwide, and though many have recovered more than 227,971 have died. In the U.S. more than 1 million cases have been reported so far, with nearly 61,000 deaths, the most of any nation, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Earlier this month, the nation's highest-ranking military officer told reporters at the Pentagon that U.S. intelligence agencies were taking "a hard look" at whether the coronavirus originated in a Wuhan lab.
"We don't know for certain," Chairman of the Joint Chiefs U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley said on April 14.
When asked about the intelligence , Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said, "This is something we've been watching closely now for some time," adding that the results of the investigation are thus far "inconclusive."