The U.S. Energy Department reportedly newly assessed that the COVID-19 pandemic likely originated from an accidental lab leak in China.
The Energy Department, which was previously undecided on the origin of the pandemic, now joins the FBI’s stance that the coronavirus likely spread due to a mishap at a Chinese laboratory, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing a classified intelligence report recently provided to the White House and key members of Congress.
The development was noted in an update to a 2021 document by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines’s office, according to the newspaper.
The National Intelligence Council and four other agencies assess at "low confidence" that the COVID-19 pandemic originated due to natural transmission from an infected animal, while the CIA and another unnamed agency are undecided. The updated report maintains a consensus between all the intelligence agencies that the pandemic was not the result of a Chinese bioweapons program.
The Energy Department’s view is significant, according to the Journal, because it has considerable scientific expertise and oversees a network of U.S. national laboratories, some of which conduct advanced biological research. People who read the classified report told the Journal the Energy Department ranks its new judgment at "low confidence," while the FBI ranked its same conclusion in 2021 that the COVID-19 pandemic was the result of an accidental lab leak at "moderate confidence" and maintains that view.
The Energy Department and the FBI arrived at those conclusions separately for different reasons.
In a statement to the Fox News Digital Sunday, a spokesperson for the Energy Department said: "The Department of Energy continues to support the thorough, careful, and objective work of our intelligence professionals in investigating the origins of COVID-19, as the President directed.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan was asked about the Journal’s report during an appearance on CNN Sunday. "There is a variety of views in the intelligence community. Some elements in 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.
"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," he continued. "And one of the things in that Wall Street Journal report, which I can’t confirm or deny, but I will say the reference to the Department of Energy, President Biden specifically requested that the national labs, which are a part of the Department of Energy, be brought into this assessment because he wants to put every tool at use to be able to figure out what happened here. And if we gain any further insider 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 2021 U.S. intelligence report says the virus first circulated Wuhan, China, no later than November 2019, the Journal reported. China has rejected claims the virus could have originated from one of its labs and has curtailed the World Health Organization’s investigations into the start of the global pandemic.
According to the Journal, no confirmed animal source of the pandemic has been identified, and Wuhan is the center of China’s extensive coronavirus research. The 2021 report hypothesizes that the outbreak at the Wuhan seafood market was more likely due to community spread, rather than the origin of the pandemic.