New intelligence reportedly prompted a key U.S. science agency to surmise COVID likely leaked from a Chinese laboratory in Wuhan.
The Energy Department, with its network of U.S. national laboratories, revised its assessment to say with “low confidence” that the pandemic likely began with a lab leak, sources told The Wall Street Journal. The report said officials would not share details about the new intelligence which led the agency to shift its view from undecided.
The assessment appears in an update to a 2021 classified report to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines.
The National Intelligence Council and four agencies, which the newspaper says officials refuse to identify, still believe with “low confidence” in the natural emergence theory. The FBI assessed in 2021 with “moderate confidence” that the pandemic likely began with a lab leak. The CIA and two other agencies reportedly still have not made a determination.
The updated classified report also affirms the view that COVID did not stem from a biological weapons program, the Wall Street Journal noted. A lack of a definitive animal source has led researchers and U.S. officials to suspect a leak from Wuhan’s assemblage of laboratories.
More than 6.8 million people diagnosed with COVID have died since the earliest cases were reported in Wuhan in late December 2019.
Beijing has denied being to blame, fending off assertions that have come from a variety of people, including former President Donald Trump. But a lack of cooperation from China led to the World Health Organization’s investigation into COVID’s origins hitting a snag at a key juncture.
After President Joe Biden ordered a 90-day U.S. intelligence review into the virus origin in 2021, it was reported that officials in his administration found the lab leak theory as credible as the natural emergence theory. Following the inquiry, Biden criticized China for a lack of transparency and pledged a further investigation.
The Energy Department “continues to support the thorough, careful, and objective work of our intelligence professionals in investigating the origins of COVID-19, as the President directed,” an agency spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal.