The virus that causes COVID-19 most likely leaked from a Chinese laboratory, according to a classified report based on new intelligence and recently sent to the White House and key members of Congress.
The stunning assertion by the US Energy Department comes more than a year after the FBI concluded a lab accident in China was the origin of the disease, which has killed more than 6.8 million people around the world, including 1.1 million in the US.
The FBI’s decision was made with “moderate confidence” and remains the bureau’s opinion, said The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the Energy Department’s own finding, Sunday.
By contrast, the Department of Energy made its determination with “low confidence,” sources who’ve read the classified report told the Journal.
But the judgment is considered important because the Energy Department — which oversees the American nuclear weapons program — runs a network of national labs and has a great deal of scientific expertise, the Journal said.
Both agencies reportedly arrived at their conclusions for different reasons, with the sources declining to detail the new intelligence cited by the Energy Department.
The assertion comes more than a year after the FBI concluded a lab accident in China was the origin of the coronavirus.AFP via Getty Images
In response to the Journal’s report, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said, “There is a variety of views in the intelligence community” and that the origin of COVID-19 remained under investigation.
“Here’s what I can tell you: President Biden has directed, repeatedly, every element of our intelligence community to put effort and resources behind getting to the bottom of this question,” Sullivan told CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“And if we gain any further insight or information, we will share it with Congress, and we will share it with the American people. But right now, there is not a definitive answer that has emerged from the intelligence community on this question.”
The FBI’s decision was made with “moderate confidence” and remains the bureau’s opinion.REUTERS/Tingshu Wang
Avril Haines, US Director of National Intelligence, addresses a panel session during the 53rd annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.GIAN EHRENZELLER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
The National Intelligence Council and four unidentified agencies still believe with “low confidence” that the virus first spread to humans as the result of natural transmission from an infected animal, according to the Journal.
The Central Intelligence Agency and another unidentified agency reportedly remain undecided on the lab leak and natural transmission theories.
Last year, Senate Republicans released an interim report that found the virus most likely leaked out of a Chinese lab and that ” the hypothesis of a natural zoonotic origin no longer deserves the benefit of the doubt or the presumption of accuracy.”