A recent classified intelligence report provided to the White House and Congress has concluded that the most likely origin of the COVID-19 pandemic was a laboratory leak.
The U.S. Energy Department, which had previously been undecided, has also joined the FBI in stating that the virus likely spread from a laboratory in China, according to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
The report notes that different agencies within the intelligence community have come to disparate conclusions regarding the origin of the pandemic.
Four agencies and a national intelligence panel say that the virus was likely the result of natural transmission, while two remain undecided.
The Energy Department’s conclusion was based on new intelligence and was reached with “low confidence,” according to sources familiar with the report, WSJ notes.
The FBI had previously concluded that the pandemic was likely the result of a lab leak in 2021 with “moderate confidence.”
Officials have not disclosed the specifics of the new intelligence or analysis that led to the Energy Department’s shift in position.
Additionally, while both the FBI and the Energy Department believe that a lab leak is the most probable cause, they arrived at these conclusions for different reasons.
The updated report also states that the National Intelligence Council and four other agencies still assess with “low confidence” that the virus came about through natural transmission.
The Central Intelligence Agency and another agency have yet to determine whether the virus originated from a lab leak or natural transmission.
Despite the conflicting assessments, the report claims there is a consensus that COVID was not the result of a Chinese biological weapons program.
The pandemic has claimed over a million American lives, and intelligence officials are still working to uncover its origins.
The Energy Department’s conclusion is significant because of its scientific expertise and its oversight of several national laboratories that conduct advanced biological research.
The updated report, which is under five pages long, was not requested by Congress and officials have not indicated whether an unclassified version of the report will be released.