(CNSNews.com) – The FBI has for the first time stated publicly its assessment that the COVID-19 pandemic likely originated from a leak from a laboratory in Wuhan, a charge that Beijing vehemently denies and which was ridiculed by many mainstream media outlets as a right-wing conspiracy theory.
“The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan,” FBI Director Christopher Wray told Fox News anchor Bret Baier on Tuesday.
“Let me step back for a second. You know, the FBI has folks – agents, professionals, analysts, virologists, microbiologists, etc. – who focus specifically on the dangers of biological threats, which include things like novel viruses like COVID, and the concerns that in the wrong hands – some bad guys, a hostile nation-state, a terrorist, a criminal – the threats that those could pose.”
“So here you’re talking about a potential leak from a Chinese government-controlled lab that killed millions of Americans. And that’s precisely what that capability was designed for.”
(Many Twitter users picked up on that last phrase – “precisely what that capability was designed for” – and wondered if Wray was accusing China of designing the coronavirus as a bioweapon. Others countered that the “capability” he was referring to related to the FBI experts who focus on biological threats.)
Wray said the FBI’s work in this area continues, adding, “there are not a whole lot of details I can share that aren’t classified.”
He also called China out, alleging deliberate attempts to hinder efforts designed to get to the bottom of the outbreak origin.
“I will just make the observation that the Chinese government, it seems to me, has been doing its best to try to thwart and obfuscate the work here – the work that we’re doing, the work that our U.S. government and close foreign partners are doing,” he said. “And that’s unfortunate for everybody.”
Wray’s comments came after the Wall Street Journal reported this week that the Department of Energy had shifted from being undecided on the coronavirus origin issue to assessing that a “lab-leak” was the most likely cause. Of the three levels of analytic confidence employed by the intelligence community, the DOE assessment was reportedly made with “low confidence.”
The Journal report also claimed that the FBI held the same view; that four other, unnamed, agencies favored the hypothesis that the outbreak began with natural transmission from an infected animal; and that the CIA remained undecided between the two theories.
The White House in response to the report stressed that there was “not a consensus” on the issue in the intelligence community.
China has consistently denied the possibility that the outbreak in Wuhan in late 2019 -- which became a pandemic blamed for more than 6.8 million deaths across the world -- originated from an accidental leak from a biolab in the city. One of them, the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), specializes in researching pathogens including coronaviruses in bats.
Beijing points to the conclusion by a World Health Organization-convened team of experts, after a visit to Wuhan in early 2021, that the lab-leak hypothesis was “extremely unlikely” and not worth further study.
In an editorial on Tuesday, the Chinese Communist Party newspaper Global Times again lashed out at U.S. allegations about a Wuhan lab leak.
“In the past two years, the virus origins tracing issue has been used by U.S. politicians as an omnipotent political tool that can be brought up at any time to disgust people due to its unverifiable and difficult to disprove nature,” it said. “To be frank, ‘low confidence’ basically means baseless.”
The fact that one unnamed U.S. intelligence agency assessed that the lab accident theory was the likeliest source of the outbreak had been made public before. This is the first time, however, that one of them – the FBI – has identified itself as being that agency.
In May 2021, President Biden asked the intelligence community to investigate the origins of the outbreak and report back in 90 days.
After it did so, an unclassified summary of the report released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said the intelligence community “remains divided” between the natural origin and “laboratory-associated incident” theories.
That report said that the National Intelligence Council and four intelligence agencies supported the natural transmission origin (with “low confidence”), and that three others had yet to have reached a conclusion.
It also said that one agency favored the lab-leak theory, with “moderate confidence”:
“One IC [intelligence community] element assesses with moderate confidence that the first human infection with SARS-CoV-2 most likely was the result of a laboratory-associated incident, probably involving experimentation, animal handling, or sampling by the Wuhan Institute of Virology. These analysts give weight to the inherently risky nature of work on coronaviruses.”
China Rejects WHO Plans to Examine Wuhan Labs in Continuing Probe of Virus Origin (Jul. 22, 2021)
NYT Headline (Since Changed) Says Wuhan Lab Theory Has Been ‘Debunked.’ It Hasn’t Been (Mar. 29. 2021)
Questions Swirl About Source of China’s Coronavirus Outbreak (Feb. 19, 2020)