The State Department has released a 2018 diplomatic cable noting that the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) had “a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory.”
Contents of the 2-year-old cable, which were leaked earlier this year, provided fodder for unproven allegations from members of the Trump administration and Congress that the coronavirus may have escaped from the lab at the epicenter of the virus.
The January 2018 cable, obtained by the Washington Post after a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, noted that ties between the WIV and the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston could help alleviate the shortage and that, reportedly, the US-based institution was training technicians to work at the WIV.
A second cable about the WIV from April 2018 cited a French official who said that “French experts have provided guidance and biosafety training to the lab, which will continue.”
Parts of both cables are redacted.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was among the most vocal in suggesting that the deadly virus could have escaped from the WIV.
Although Pompeo still speaks out forcefully against the Chinese government for its role in failing to stem the pandemic outbreak and a lack of transparency, the secretary recently seemed to back away from the theory the virus originated in a lab. In an interview in mid-May, he conceded, “We know it began in Wuhan, but we don’t know from where or from whom, and those are important things.”
While both Pompeo and President Donald Trump earlier this year claimed that they had seen evidence linking the outbreak to a Wuhan lab, assessments by scientists and those circulated among US intelligence-sharing allies have posited that it is “highly unlikely” the virus originated in a lab. The US intelligence community has said it is looking into both possibilities.