The virus that caused the Covid-19 pandemic most likely emerged from a lab leak, but was discovered as part of a weapons program, according to an updated and declassified 2021 US Department of Energy study provided to the White House and senior US lawmakers, The Wall Street Journal. Not in form. Reported on Sunday.
The department’s finding – a departure from previous studies on how the virus emerged – came in an update of a document from the office of Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines. It follows the FBI’s finding, released with “moderate confidence”, that the virus spread after leaking from a Chinese laboratory.
The findings from the Department of Energy – which oversees a network of 17 US laboratories, including areas of advanced biology – are considered significant despite the fact that, as the report said, the agency made its update with “low confidence”. decision made.
Conflicting hypotheses on the origin of Covid-19 center on either an unknown animal transmitting the virus to humans or its accidental leak from a Chinese research laboratory in Wuhan.
The spread of Covid-19, the first in a line of infectious coronaviruses to emerge, caught global health bodies off guard in early 2020. It has since caused close to 7 million deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation, and disrupted trade. as travel.
Former US President Donald Trump politicized the issue, calling it the “China virus”, triggering a racialization of the pandemic that his Democratic successor Joe Biden sought to avoid. But political polarization remains just below the surface in attempts to establish its origins.
The Department of Energy’s updated findings run contrary to reports by four other US intelligence agencies, which concluded that the pandemic began as the result of natural transmission from an infected animal. The two agencies remain undecided.
US officials, the Journal said, also refused to elaborate on the new intelligence or analysis, prompting the Energy Department to change its position. He also noted that the Department of Energy and the FBI reached the same conclusion for different reasons.
The CIA is undecided between the leak and natural transmission theories, according to a National Intelligence Council study. But while the 2021 preliminary report was inconclusive, it offered a unanimous view that COVID-19 was not part of the Chinese biological weapons program.
Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, acknowledged on Sunday that there are a “variety of views” within US intelligence agencies on the issue.
“Some elements of the intelligence community have come to conclusions on one side, some on the other, and many have said they don’t have enough information to be sure,” Sullivan told CNN.
But he said the Biden administration has “repeatedly directed every element of our intelligence community to exert effort and resources to get to the bottom of this question”.
Sullivan said Biden had specifically requested that national laboratories under the Department of Energy be brought into the evaluation. “He wants to use every tool he can to find out what happened,” Sullivan said.
“At the moment there is no definite answer emerging from the intelligence community on this question,” he said, referring to the National Intelligence Council as well as eight of the 18 agencies that have looked into the origins of Covid-19.
A previous report from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in May 2020 concluded that the lab-leak theory was plausible.
The updated, five-page NIC assessment, the Journal reported, “was done in light of new intelligence, further study of the academic literature and consultation with experts outside the government” as Republicans in Congress press for more information. Is.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Energy wrote in a statement that the agency “continues to support the thorough, careful and purposeful work of our intelligence professionals in investigating the origins of Covid-19, as directed by the President”.
Chinese officials have disputed that Covid-19 may have leaked from their laboratories, among them the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC) and the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products.
According to a preliminary US 2021 intelligence report, Covid-19 first circulated in Wuhan, China, no later than November 2019, when three researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology – reportedly involved in coronavirus research – admitted to hospital care was sick enough.