The Covid-19 pandemic likely arose from a laboratory leak, according to a classified U.S. Department of Energy report recently provided to the White House and key members of Congress.
"The shift by the Energy Department, which previously was undecided on how the virus emerged, is noted in an update to a 2021 document by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines’s office," the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.
The Covid-19 virus first circulated in Wuhan, China, no later than November 2019, according to the U.S. 2021 intelligence report.
U.S. State Department cables written in 2018 and internal Chinese documents show that there were persistent concerns about China’s biosafety procedures, which have been cited by proponents of the lab-leak hypothesis.
Wuhan is home to an array of laboratories, many of which were built or expanded as a result of China’s traumatic experience with the initial severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, epidemic beginning in 2002. They include campuses of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, which produces vaccines.
The Energy Department now joins the FBI in saying the virus likely escaped from a Chinese laboratory.
"The Energy Department’s conclusion is the result of new intelligence and is significant because the agency has considerable scientific expertise and oversees a network of U.S. national laboratories, some of which conduct advanced biological research," the report said.
Lawmakers, particularly House and Senate Republicans, are pursuing their own investigations into the origins of the pandemic and are pressing the Biden administration and the intelligence community for more information.
Asked about the Energy Department’s assessment, Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan said Sunday on NBC that Congress needed to hold extensive hearings concerning the origins of the pandemic, adding that China has sought to intimidate other countries from questioning whether the virus emerged naturally. “This is a country that has no problem coming out and lying to the world,” he said.
David Relman, a Stanford University microbiologist who has argued for a dispassionate investigation into the pandemic’s beginnings, welcomed word of the updated findings.
“Kudos to those who are willing to set aside their preconceptions and objectively re-examine what we know and don’t know about Covid origins,” said Dr. Relman, who has served on several federal scientific-advisory boards. “My plea is that we not accept an incomplete answer or give up because of political expediency.”
Action . . . . Intelligence . . . . Publish