U.S. Energy Department Endorses Lab Leak Theory of COVID-19’s Origins

“The U.S. Department of Energy has concluded that the most likely origin of COVID-19 is a lab leak.
The federal agency reviewed new intelligence, which prompted officials to revise their position that it’s unclear how the virus emerged. The White House and certain members of Congress also reviewed the intelligence, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The Energy Department’s conclusion is made with “low confidence,” according to The New York Times, which was quick to point out that “U.S. spy agencies remain divided over the origins of the virus.” The FBI previously concluded with “moderate confidence” that intelligence pointed to a lab leak origin; other agencies have been skeptical or undecided.

The shifting consensus on this issue should be a cautionary tale for all the would-be censors who thunderously objected to such talk. In the first year of the pandemic, the idea that COVID-19 might have emerged from a coronavirus research facility in Wuhan, China, was widely branded a racist conspiracy theory. Social media companies such as Facebook vigorously suppressed discussion of the lab leak thesis, partly because U.S. health officials and mainstream news outlets expressed absolute confidence that COVID-19 emerged as a result of zoonotic spillover.”

“Health officials and intelligence experts may not have enough information to conclusively determine COVID-19’s origins. But the push to not merely decry the lab leak theory but to actively prohibit discussion of it—as was the case on Facebook—has not aged well.”

Top Trump officials pushed the Covid-19 lab-leak theory. Investigators had doubts.

“In February 2020, 27 scientists penned an open letter in The Lancet saying “scientists from multiple countries have published and analyzed genomes of the causative agent … SARS-CoV-2, and they overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife.” “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that Covid-19 does not have a natural origin,” the scientists wrote.”

“Several former national security and White House officials said they felt the circumstantial evidence they gathered in the spring of 2020 pushed them to believe the virus had originated in the lab.

“Just as a matter of common sense, the CCP destroyed virus samples, they only let the WHO investigation into the laboratory for three and a half hours, they bleached the site of the wet market, they didn’t let Taiwan into the World Health Assembly, not to mention that this lab was so close to the center of the outbreak,” one former senior State Department official said. “To me, I just thought right away, this came from the lab.””

““It’s entirely plausible this came from a lab, and it’s also entirely plausible it came from nature. As an intel analyst, you look at a whole set of coincidences and you start to wonder if they’re really coincidences. A lab working on this very issue as a locus for an outbreak — that’s a heck of a coincidence,” said Emily Harding, a former CIA analyst who was deputy staff director for the Senate intelligence committee last year.”

“One of those reports, circulated internally in May 2020 by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s intelligence unit, said it pulled on genomic analyses of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to determine that it was plausible that Covid-19 originated in the Wuhan lab, according to two individuals familiar with the classified report.
Another report, published in the scientific journal Cell by Chinese and American researchers made its way to Ruggiero’s NSC directorate. The authors had studied mice with humanized lungs and tracked how they responded to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Although the special mice were created years before the virus emerged, the study led officials on Ruggiero’s team to determine that the virus could have originated in the lab in 2019.

Over the course of 2020, the Trump administration gathered evidence that showed researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick in November 2019 “with symptoms consistent with both Covid-19 and common seasonal illness,” according to a State Department fact sheet published in January 2020 just before the inauguration of President Joe Biden. Months later, on May 23, 2021, the Wall Street Journal reported more details about that incident, including that there were three researchers — all of whom sought medical care from a hospital.

But those reports described the researchers’ symptoms as “consistent with” Covid-19 and other well-known viruses such as the flu. Nor is it clear whether the scientists worked with bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan institute, a large research facility in a city bigger than New York. Many studies have suggested that Covid was already circulating in Wuhan by November 2019, so it’s possible the scientists could have been infected outside of work.”

“Last month, Biden ordered the intelligence community to redouble its efforts in studying the origins questions. It’s unclear whether the Biden administration has obtained new intelligence from China or elsewhere that will help officials come to a clearer determination than the Trump administration did.”

“with China refusing to share vital lab data with the U.S., the Biden officials face a similar challenge as the Trump officials who kick-started the probe in 2020. They will have to rely in part on circumstantial evidence that could prevent them from reaching a conclusion on whether the virus originated in the Wuhan lab.

“It seems unlikely that we will get a definitive answer on Covid’s origins in 90 days, or maybe ever. My guess is that if a lab leak did occur, the likelihood of gaining access to definitive evidence would be near zero. This would be among the most closely protected secrets in the history of the Communist Party,” said Zack Cooper, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. “That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t continue to press to get answers, but we should be realistic about the likelihood that we’ll have definitive proof in 90 days.””

Why some labs work on making viruses deadlier — and why they should stop

“The scientists who do this kind of research argue that we can better anticipate deadly diseases by making diseases deadlier in the lab. But many people at the time and since have become increasingly convinced that the potential research benefits — which look limited — just don’t outweigh the risks of kicking off the next deadly pandemic ourselves.”