Energy Dept. says with ‘low confidence’ Covid-19 likely from lab; FBI confidence ‘moderate;’ intel panel, 4 other agencies disagree

The Department of Energy has concluded that the Covid-19 pandemic “most likely arose from a laboratory leak, according to a classified intelligence report recently provided to the White House and key members of Congress,” The Wall Street Journal‘s Michael Gordon and Warren Strobel report.

The department “made its judgment with ‘low confidence,’ according to people who have read the classified report,” the Journal reports. The agency thus joins the FBI “in saying the virus likely spread via a mishap at a Chinese laboratory,” the Journal notes. “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. . . . While the Energy Department and the FBI each say an unintended lab leak is most likely, they arrived at those conclusions for different reasons.”

Four other agencies and a national intelligence panel still judge with “low confidence” that the pandemic “was likely the result of a natural transmission, and two are undecided,” the Journal reports. “The Energy Department’s conclusion is the result of new intelligence and is significant because the agency has considerable scientific expertise and oversees a network of U.S. national laboratories, some of which conduct advanced biological research.”

The Journal adds, “The National Intelligence Council, which conducts long-term strategic analysis, and four agencies, which officials declined to identify, still assess with ‘low confidence’ that the virus came about through natural transmission from an infected animal, according to the updated report. The Central Intelligence Agency and another agency that officials wouldn’t name remain undecided . . . Despite the agencies’ differing analyses, the update reaffirmed an existing consensus between them that Covid-19 wasn’t the result of a Chinese biological-weapons program, the people who have read the classified report said.”

Because no animal source for the novel coronavirus has been confirmed, and Wuhan, where the outbreak began, “is the center of China’s extensive coronavirus research, has led some scientists and U.S. officials to argue that a lab leak is the best explanation for the pandemic’s beginning,” the Journal reports. “State Department cables written in 2018 and internal Chinese documents show that there were persistent concerns about China’s biosafety procedures, which have been cited by proponents of the lab-leak hypothesis.”

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