The U.S. Department of Energy has assessed that the Covid-19 pandemic most likely came from a laboratory leak in China, according to a newly updated classified intelligence report.
The report states that the Department of Energy has “low confidence” that the virus accidentally escaped from a lab in Wuhan. A low-confidence assessment generally means the information obtained is unreliable or too fragmented to make a more definitive analytic judgment.
The various intelligence agencies have been split on the matter for years. The latest assessment further adds to the divide in the US government over whether the Covid-19 pandemic began in China in 2019 due to a lab leak or whether it emerged naturally.
A Department of Energy spokesperson stated that the department continues to support the thorough, careful, and objective work of their intelligence professionals in investigating the origins of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs pushed back against the claim, pointing to the “authoritative and scientific” conclusion reached after a 2021 field mission between Chinese and World Health Organization experts, who determined the lab leak hypothesis was “highly unlikely.”
National security adviser Jake Sullivan stated that the intelligence community remains divided on the matter and that President Joe Biden has put resources into getting to the bottom of the origin question.
“Right now, there is not a definitive answer that has emerged from the intelligence community on this question,” Sullivan said.
“Some elements of the intelligence community have reached conclusions on one side, some on the other. A number of them have said they just don’t have enough information to be sure.”
Sullivan said Biden had directed the national laboratories, which are part of the Department of Energy, to be brought into the assessment.
As the debate over the origin of the pandemic continues, it is clear that more information is needed to reach a conclusive answer.