Sources say the leaked Covid-19 assessment from a Chinese lab is a minority view in the US intel community

(CNN) Department of Energy Low confidence rating That COVID-19 Most likely stemming from a lab leak in China remains a minority view within the intelligence community, three sources familiar with the intelligence community’s findings told CNN.

While the FBI estimates — with moderate confidence — that the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 may have leaked from a laboratory, most of the intelligence community believes that Covid arose naturally in the wild or is still rare. Evidence to make a judgment one way or the other.

Three sources told CNN the Energy Department’s change was based on information about research conducted at the Chinese Centers for Disease Control in Wuhan, China, which studied a coronavirus variant at the time of the outbreak.

CNN previously reported that the Chinese CDC laboratory in Wuhan was conducting research on coronaviruses and bats, but it was unclear how closely related the variants studied there were to SARS-CoV-2, the strain of the virus that swept the world in 2020.

However, other intelligence agencies disagree that this data point is sufficient evidence to assess whether the virus may have leaked from the lab, according to sources.

A 2021 report Published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the National Intelligence Council, along with four unidentified agencies, assessed with low confidence that the initial Covid-19 infection was “most likely due to natural exposure to an infected animal.” A close progenitor virus.”

Three other investigative societies “could not reconcile the two explanations without additional information, with some researchers favoring a natural origin, others a laboratory origin, and some viewing the hypotheses equally.” One of the agencies that hasn’t made that decision, CNN reported, is the CIA, which remains on the fence about the issue.

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Sources said that the only significant change from the 2021 report was in the field of energy analysis. The intelligence community provided lawmakers with an update on that report in recent weeks, including a new DoE assessment.

Two Democratic sources familiar with the intelligence debate downplayed the significance of the new energy assessment because the most prominent agencies in the intelligence community have not changed their positions, despite reviewing the information the Energy Department used for its assessment.

But a GOP source familiar with the energy assessment said it was significant that the agency was willing to come out in support of the lab theory. They also reiterated that China is still withholding important information that they could share for further clarification.

China’s foreign ministry backtracked when asked about the reported assessment during a regular briefing on Monday. “Related parties should stop stirring up arguments about laboratory leaks, stop defaming China and stop politicizing the issue of the origin of the virus,” said spokesman Mao Ning.

State Department spokesman Ned Price on Monday accused the agency of “preventing international investigators and members of the global health community from the very beginning from accessing the information they need to understand the origins of Covid-19.”

June 2021 American Intelligence Community Reference It was released as part of an investigation into the origins of Covid-19, which was previously obtained by CNN, instructing agencies to expand their collection on “the breadth of Chinese biological research and related activities.”

The memo specifically instructed the intelligence community to focus on “data or samples from sites where samples were taken related to coronavirus research,” including the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, located just off the Wuhan CDC.

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A 2021 ODNI report noted that until China agrees to cooperate with global investigations, a definitive assessment of the outbreak’s origins will remain elusive.

“China’s cooperation will likely be needed to achieve a definitive assessment of the origin of COVID-19,” the report said. “Beijing, however, obstructs the global investigation, resists sharing information and blames other countries, including the United States.”

Two top GOP lawmakers sent letters Monday demanding a wide range of information from the Biden administration about the origins of Covid-19.

House Oversight Chairman James Comer of Kentucky and Ohio Rep. Brad Wenstrup, chairman of the coronavirus task force, on Monday sent requests to the State Department, Energy Department and FBI for documents and testimony related to their ongoing investigation into the pandemic and how it began. , according to letters obtained by CNN.

Wenstrup’s subcommittee plans to hold its first hearing on March 8, a Republican aide said.

John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, reiterated at the White House on Monday that the US government does not have a consensus on the origin of the virus.

“What the president wants are the facts. He wants the whole government to be designed to get those facts. That’s what we’re doing, and we’re not there yet,” Kirby told reporters. “While we’re still there, if there’s something short for the American people and Congress — we’re going to do it.”

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