The US Energy Department has reportedly concluded that an accidental laboratory leak in China is most likely the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic. The update, which comes after the agency had previously not taken a position on the virus's origins, is noted in an update to a 2021 document by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines's office. The conclusion is a change from the department's earlier position of being undecided on how the virus emerged.
The shift in position by the Energy Department is significant because the agency has considerable scientific expertise and oversees a network of national laboratories that conduct advanced biological research. The agency's insights come from these national laboratories, rather than more traditional forms of intelligence like spy networks or communications intercepts.
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 this view. The Energy Department's conclusion, which aligns with the FBI's, is the result of new intelligence.
However, the conclusion was made with "low confidence," and four other US intelligence agencies, along with a national intelligence panel, still believe that the pandemic was likely the result of a natural transmission, while two remain undecided.
The update to the 2021 document was not requested by Congress, but lawmakers, particularly House and Senate Republicans, are conducting their own investigations into the origins of the pandemic and seeking more information from the Biden administration and intelligence community.
The COVID-19 pandemic has killed over one million Americans and is believed to have originated in China. The new information from the Energy Department underscores how intelligence officials are still putting together the pieces on how the virus emerged, despite the pandemic beginning over three years ago.
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