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US Energy Department Suggests Covid-19 May Have Originated from Lab Leak, Increasing Intelligence Rift

US Energy Department Suggests Covid-19 May Have Originated from Lab Leak, Increasing Intelligence Rift

According to a newly updated classified intelligence report, the US Department of Energy has concluded that the Covid-19 pandemic originated from a laboratory leak in China.

According to two sources, the Department of Energy concluded in its intelligence report that it had “low confidence” that the Covid-19 virus escaped accidentally from a laboratory in Wuhan.

Intelligence agencies can make assessments with low, medium, or high levels of certainty.

A low confidence assessment typically indicates that the information obtained is insufficiently reliable or too fragmented to make a more definitive analytic judgment, or that there is insufficient data available to draw a more robust conclusion.

The most recent assessment deepens the division within the US government over whether the Covid-19 pandemic began in China in 2019 as a result of a laboratory leak or natural.

Intelligence agencies have been divided on this issue for years. In 2021, the intelligence community declassified a report indicating that four agencies had assessed with low confidence that the virus likely jumped from animals to humans in the wild, whereas one agency had assessed with moderate confidence that the pandemic was caused by a laboratory accident.

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According to the report, three other elements of the intelligence community were unable to agree on either explanation without additional information.

The Wall Street Journal was the first to report the Department of Energy’s new assessment.

US Energy Department Suggests Covid-19 May Have Originated from Lab Leak, Increasing Intelligence Rift. A senior US intelligence official told the Journal that the intelligence assessment was revised based on new intelligence, additional study of academic literature, and consultation with experts from outside the government.

A spokesperson for the Department of Energy told CNN: “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 directed by the President.”

The Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence of the Department of Energy is one of 18 government agencies that comprise the intelligence community, which is overseen by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

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The Director of National Intelligence’s Office declined to comment.

Monday during a routine briefing, when asked about the alleged assessment, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs pushed back against the claim.

Spokesperson Mao Ning cited the “authoritative and scientific” conclusion reached by Chinese and World Health Organization experts during a 2021 field mission, who determined that the lab leak hypothesis was “extremely unlikely.” Western governments later criticized the mission’s lack of transparency.

Mao said, “The parties involved should stop stirring up arguments about laboratory leaks, stop smearing China, and stop politicizing the virus’s origin.”

Not a definitive response

National security adviser Jake Sullivan stated on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that the intelligence community remains divided on the issue while noting that President Joe Biden has devoted resources to resolving the origin controversy.

“At this time, the intelligence community has not provided a definitive response to this question,” Sullivan told CNN’s, Dana Basa. “Some elements of the intelligence community have reached opposing conclusions, while others have not. A number of them have stated that they lack sufficient information to be certain.”

Sullivan stated that Biden had directed the Department of Energy’s national laboratories to be included in the evaluation.

In May 2020, researchers at the government-supported Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory published a classified report indicating that the coronavirus may have escaped from a lab in Wuhan.

At the time, this line of inquiry was considered taboo.

As early as April 2020, the United States began investigating the possibility that Covid-19 spread in a laboratory, although the intelligence community has repeatedly noted that Beijing’s lack of cooperation has made it difficult to get to the bottom of the matter.

Republicans react

The most recent intelligence assessment was provided to Congress as Republicans on Capitol Hill demanded an additional investigation into the lab leak theory and accused the Biden administration of downplaying its likelihood.

Sunday, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Mike McCaul said he was “pleased” that the Department of Energy “has finally arrived at the same conclusion I had already reached.”

The Texas Republican said in a statement, “I have requested a comprehensive briefing on this report and its supporting evidence from the administration.”

In his statement, McCaul referred to a 2021 report he had published as a ranking member of the Foreign Affairs panel, which “found a preponderance of the evidence proved” that the pandemic was caused by a leak from the Wuhan laboratory.

The chairman demanded that the Biden administration publicly endorse this conclusion.

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McCaul stated that the administration must immediately begin working with international partners and allies to both hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable and implement updated international regulations to prevent a similar incident from occurring again.

Sunday, Alaska Republican Senator Dan Sullivan called for public hearings in response to the release of the Department of Energy’s assessment.

“We must conduct exhaustive hearings. I hope our Democratic colleagues can support this in Congress. On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee stated, “I know the Republicans in the House are certainly in favor of that.”

“Consider what has transpired over the past three years, one of the most devastating pandemics in a century. “There is substantial evidence that it originated in China,” Sullivan stated.

The committee is “reviewing the classified information provided” by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in response to a letter sent earlier this month.

According to one of the sources, the new Department of Energy assessment is similar to information from a House Republican Intelligence Committee report on the origins of the virus that was published last year.