According to a newly updated classified intelligence analysis, the U.S. Department of Energy has concluded that the COVID-19 epidemic originated from a laboratory leak in China.
The most recent assessment deepens the division inside the U.S. administration over whether the COVID-19 outbreak began in China in 2019 as a result of a laboratory leak or organically. Intelligence services have been divided on this issue for years.
According to two individuals, 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.
The Wall Street Journal was the first to report the Department of Energy's new assessment. A senior U.S. intelligence official told the Journal that the intelligence assessment was revised based on new intelligence, more examination of academic literature, and communication with experts from outside the government.
Intelligence agencies can make evaluations with low, medium, or high levels of certainty. A low confidence evaluation typically indicates that the information received is insufficiently dependable or too fragmented to make a more decisive analytic judgment, or that there is insufficient data available to reach a more firm conclusion.
In 2021, the intelligence community declassified a study indicating that four agencies had evaluated with low confidence that the virus likely moved from animals to humans in the wild, and one agency had assessed with moderate confidence that the pandemic was caused by a laboratory accident.
According to the study, three other sections of the intelligence community were unable to agree on either explanation without additional information.
National security advisor Jake Sullivan stated on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday that the intelligence community remains divided on the issue, while emphasizing that President Joe Biden has devoted resources to resolving the origin controversy.
"Right now, there is not a definitive answer that has emerged from the intelligence community on this question," Sullivan told CNN's Dana Bash. "Some elements of 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 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 confidential paper indicating that the coronavirus may have escaped from a lab in Wuhan. At the time, this line of inquiry was deemed taboo.