The Department of Energy now assesses that the Covid-19 pandemic most likely began as the result of a leak from a government laboratory, the Wall Street Journal reports.
That assessment was laid bare in a classified intelligence report recently shared with the White House and with select members of Congress. The report, which appears to have been a brief survey of the U.S. intelligence community on the issue of Covid-19's origins, shows that the DOE has shifted its assessment about SARS-CoV-2 over time. Whereas the agency previously said it was “undecided” about how the pandemic began, its views apparently shifted after being exposed to “new intelligence, further study of academic literature and consultation with experts outside government,” the Journal reports.
The nature of that new intelligence hasn’t been made public, so it’s not exactly clear what changed the agency’s mind. The Energy Department, which is part of the U.S. intelligence community, also maintains a network of sensitive laboratories all over the country, giving it a unique window into the issue of facility security and its potential deficiencies.
While the DOE now favors the lab leak hypothesis, that assessment is said to have been made with “low confidence,” suggesting that officials are anything but certain about what the heck is going on. Nevertheless, the Journal reports that the DOE is actually the second federal agency to conclude that the pandemic began as the result of a lab leak, as the FBI previously came to the same conclusion. The Journal writes:
The FBI previously came to the conclusion that the pandemic was likely the result of a lab leak in 2021 with “moderate confidence” and still holds to this view. The FBI employs a cadre of microbiologists, immunologists and other scientists and is supported by the National Bioforensic Analysis Center, which was established at Fort Detrick, Md., in 2004 to analyze anthrax and other possible biological threats.
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Despite its vast investigative resources, much of the U.S. intelligence community has remained noncommital on the origins of Covid-19. During multiple past congressional hearings, high-ranking intelligence officials—including Director of Intelligence Avril Haines and CIA Director William Burns—have stated that a lab leak remains a distinct possibility. Meanwhile, other high-ranking federal officials, including former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under President Trump, Robert Redfield, have expressed their personal beliefs that the pandemic began as the result of a lab leak. Additionally, the recently distributed report apparently states that the National Intelligence Council, an intersectional hub of the intelligence community, still assesses with “low confidence” that the pandemic began as a result of natural zoonotic transmission.
While the possibility of a lab leak has captured many imaginations around the globe, a swell of other health professionals have consistently expressed criticism of the theory. Many in the scientific community maintain that Covid-19 likely came about as the result of “natural origin” via zoonotic transmission from humans to animals.