US Department of Energy assesses with ‘low confidence’ that COVID may have originated from Chinese lab leak

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Epidemic-prevention workers in protective suits queue for swab tests as the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in Beijing, China November 28, 2022.

Thomas Peter | reuters

WASHINGTON — The Energy Department concluded with “low confidence” that the Covid-19 pandemic “likely” originated from a lab leak in Wuhan, China, according to a classified report given to key lawmakers on the House and Senate intelligence committees. Two sources with direct knowledge told NBC News.

The sources said lawmakers who head the intelligence committees were briefed about the classified report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence last month.

The news was first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Sunday.

However, a source cautioned NBC News that the DOE’s findings are not being widely perceived among the intelligence community because of inter-agency disagreements about the origins of COVID.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Energy told NBC News 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.”

Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, called for “extensive public hearings” on Sunday if the US intelligence community conclusively determines that Covid-19 leaked from a Chinese lab.

Asked on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” what the consequences should be if the US makes this determination and then learns it was covered up by the Chinese government, Sullivan said lawmakers should first “look at it”. There should be a public hearing and actually digging.” This.”

Sullivan said, “Think what happened in the last three years, one of the biggest pandemics in a century. There is a lot of evidence that it is coming from the Chinese.”

China has denied that Covid originated from a lab leak, calling the first theory a “conspiracy”.

House Republicans have launched their own investigation into the origins of the pandemic.

ODNI responded to a February 13 letter from Rep. James Comer, chairman of the Oversight Committee, and Brad Weinstrup, chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, requested “information about the origins of COVID-19,” a spokesman for the Oversight Committee told NBC News Sunday. “The committee is reviewing the classified information provided,” the spokesperson said.

The White House referred NBC News to ODNI for comment.

Asked about the confidential report on Sunday, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said there is “no definite answer” from the intelligence community on the origins of COVID.

“There are a variety of views in the intelligence community. Some elements of the intelligence community have come to conclusions on one side, some on the other. Many of them have said they don’t have enough information to be sure,” Jake Sullivan of CNN Said on “State of the Union”.

Jake Sullivan said, “If we get any more insight or information, we’ll share it with Congress and we’ll share it with the American people.” “But right now, there is no definite answer from the intelligence community on this question.”

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