A newly reported classified US government missive on the lab leak theory shows we still don't know where COVID-19 came from

COVID-19 rapid antigen tests and plastic bags with 'biohazard' signs are seen in this illustration photo taken in Krakow, Poland on January 31, 2023.
COVID-19 rapid antigen tests and plastic bags with 'biohazard' signs.Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
  • A memo suggested that the Energy Department has 'low confidence' the coronavirus came from a lab leak, per WSJ.

  • Intelligence officials remain split on whether the virus occurred naturally or came from a lab.

  • The memo reaffirmed that the virus was not deliberately created or engineered as a biological weapon.

Officials from the Department of Energy say they have determined with "low confidence" that the Covid pandemic came about following a laboratory leak – a theory that has been hotly debated for the last three years.

The department's conclusion was first reported by The Wall Street Journal, which cited a classified report that was shared with officials at the White House and some in Congress. The update was drafted after officials considered new intelligence and consulted with non-government experts, a senior intelligence official told the Journal. It remains unclear if the report, which WSJ said was less than five pages in length, would be made public.

Officials have struggled to issue a definitive cause for the virus's origin, suggesting they needed additional information from China to form such an assessment. By 2021, much of the intelligence community concluded that the virus was not deliberately created in a lab or created as a biological weapon, beliefs that were reaffirmed by the intelligence memo, according to the Journal.

However, agencies have found that both theories about a natural occurrence and a lab leak remain possibilities, per the New York Times.

Their theories and varying degrees of certainty are as follows, per WSJ:

  • Department of Energy: lab leak (low confidence)

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation: lab leak (moderate confidence)

  • Central Intelligence Agency (and one unidentified agency): undecided between natural transmission and lab leak

  • National Intelligence Council (and four unidentified agencies): natural transmission from an infected animal (low confidence)

Following the WSJ report, many on Twitter jumped to claim their theories about a lab leak in Wuhan, China – at times fomented by former President Donald Trump, who frequently called it the "China Virus" – were validated.

Speaking with CNN on Sunday, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said he couldn't confirm or deny the contents of the WSJ report but that members of the intelligence community settled on some "conclusions on one side, some on the other."

"President Biden specifically requested that the National Labs, which are part of the Department of Energy, be brought into this assessment because he wants to put every tool at use to be able to figure out what happened here," Sullivan told Dana Bash on CNN's "State of the Union."

Sullivan said there are a "variety of views in the intelligence community," but that several agencies have said they "just don't have enough information to be sure."

"If we gain any further insight or information, we will share it with Congress and we will share it with the American people. But, right now, there is not a definitive answer that has emerged from the intelligence community on this question," Sullivan said.

Read the original article on Business Insider