(CNN) The US Department of Energy estimates that The covid-19 pandemic Often came from a Laboratory leak in ChinaAccording to a newly updated classified intelligence report.
Two sources said the Energy Department assessed there was “low confidence” in the intelligence report that the Covid-19 virus escaped accidentally. A laboratory in Wuhan.
Intelligence agencies can make estimates with low, medium, or high confidence. A low confidence estimate usually means that the information obtained is not reliable enough or is too fragmented to make a very firm analytical judgment, or there is not enough information to make a very firm decision.
The latest assessment further widens the divide in US government The Covid-19 pandemic started in China Was it a result of a lab leak in 2019 or was it naturally occurring? Various intelligence agencies have been divided over the years over the issue. In 2021, the intelligence community declassified a report that four agencies in the intelligence community assessed with low confidence that the virus could jump naturally from animals to humans in the wild, while one assessed with moderate confidence that it was the result of an epidemic. Laboratory accident.
Three other intelligence community elements were unable to attach any explanation without additional information, the report said.
The Wall Street Journal The Department of Energy’s new assessment was first reported. The update to the intelligence assessment was conducted in light of new intelligence, additional review of academic literature and consultation with experts outside the government, a senior U.S. intelligence official told the Journal.
An Energy Department spokesperson told CNN in a statement: “As directed by the President, the Department of Energy continues to support the thorough, careful and objective work of our intelligence experts in investigating the origins of COVID-19.”
The Department of Energy’s Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence is one of 18 government agencies that make up the intelligence community under the umbrella of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment.
China’s foreign ministry pushed back against the claim when asked about the reported assessment during a regular briefing on Monday.
Spokesman Mao Ning pointed to an “official and scientific” conclusion reached after 2021 field work between Chinese and World Health Organization experts, who determined the lab leak hypothesis was “highly unlikely.” That work was later criticized by Western governments for its lack of transparency.
“Concerned parties should stop stirring up arguments about laboratory leaks, stop defaming China and stop politicizing the issue of the origin of the virus,” Mao said.
‘There is no definitive answer’
National Security Adviser Jack Sullivan said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” On Sunday, the intelligence community was divided on the matter, while noting it President Joe Biden It lays out the evidence to get to the bottom of the root question.
“Right now, this question doesn’t have a definitive answer from the intelligence community,” Sullivan told CNN’s Dana Bash. “Some elements of the intelligence community have reached conclusions on one side, and some on the other. Many of them have said they don’t have enough information to say for sure.”
Sullivan said Biden ordered the national labs, which are part of the Department of Energy, to be included in the assessment.
In May 2020, researchers at the government-supported Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Issued a confidential report The discovery that the coronavirus may have escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan came at a time when that investigation was considered taboo.
America began to explore the possibilities Covid-19 spread in the laboratory As of April 2020, Beijing’s lack of cooperation has made it difficult to get to the bottom of the question, even as the intelligence community has repeatedly noted.
The latest intelligence assessment was presented to Congress as Republicans on Capitol Hill are pushing for further investigation into the lab leak theory, while accusing the Biden administration of playing down its possibility.
House Foreign Affairs Chairman Mike McCaul said Sunday that he was “pleased” that the Energy Department “has finally come to the same conclusion that I have already come to.”
“I have requested a full and complete explanation from the administration regarding this report and the evidence behind it,” the Texas Republican said in a statement.
McCall said in his statement 2021 report He was released as the ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, which “found a preponderance of evidence” that the pandemic originated from a leak from a Wuhan lab.
The president called on the Biden administration to publicly agree with that decision.
“It is critical that the administration immediately begin working with our partners and allies around the world to hold (the Chinese Communist Party) accountable and put renewed international norms in place to ensure that an event like this never happens again,” McCall said.
Alaska’s Republican Senate. Dan Sullivan called for a public hearing after the Department of Energy released the estimate on Sunday.
“We need to do comprehensive investigations. I’m sure our Democratic colleagues in Congress can support it. I know Republicans in the Republican Party will certainly support it,” a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“Think about what’s happened in the last three years, it’s one of the biggest epidemics in a century. There’s a lot of evidence that it’s coming from the Chinese,” Sullivan said.
A spokesman for House Oversight Chairman James Comer, Republican of Kentucky, said in a statement that the “committee is reviewing the disclosed information” provided by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in response to a letter requesting information earlier this month.
One of the sources said the Energy Department’s new assessment is similar to information from a House Republican intelligence committee report released last year on the origins of the virus.
This story has been updated with additional reaction.
CNN’s Aaron Bellish, Andrew Millman, Zachary Cohen and Sam Fossum contributed to this report.