Leaning on new intelligence, the department, which oversees numerous United States labs and research centers, made a judgment in “low confidence” that a lab leak is the most likely origin of the pandemic, per a classified intelligence analysis shared with the White House and Congress, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The Energy Department joins the FBI in its conclusion, while four other agencies believe COVID-19 is most likely derived from natural transmission. Two agencies — including the CIA — haven’t reached a firm conclusion, per the report.
Previously, the Energy Department was undecided on the matter, and its shift in perspective comes as a result of new intelligence, though the department’s reasons for making its conclusion are different than the FBI’s, which reached its opinion with “moderate confidence” back in 2021, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Specifics about the new intelligence that led to the Energy Department’s shift remain unclear. Despite diverging perspectives between U.S. agencies, they appear to agree that COVID-19 did not derive from a Chinese biological weapons program, the report said.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, there has been widespread speculation that the virus stemmed from a lab leak, fueled partly by the fact that the virus was first officially identified not far from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
China has adamantly denied that the virus was the result of a lab leak and even promulgated theories that the United States was responsible for unleashing the brutal illness upon the world. Initially, the lab leak theory was deemed a conspiracy by some scientists but has gained some credibility in time since.
The initial explanation is that the virus spread from a wet market near Wuhan, China, though the exact history of the transmission of the virus from animal to human has been subject to debate because a confirmed animal source for the virus has not yet been found.