WASHINGTON—FBI Director Christopher Wray said Tuesday that the Covid pandemic was likely the result of a laboratory leak in China, providing the first public confirmation of the office’s classified judgment of how the virus that first emerged. caused the death of almost seven million people worldwide. .
“The FBI has assessed for quite some time that the origins of the pandemic are likely to be a possible laboratory incident in Wuhan,” Wray told Fox News. “Here you are talking about a possible leak from a laboratory controlled by the Chinese government.”
Mr. Wray added that the Chinese government has been trying to “frustrate and obfuscate” the investigation that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, other parts of the US government and foreign partners have been conducting into the origin of the pandemic, but that the office the work continues.
The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that the FBI had concluded with “moderate confidence” in 2021 that the Covid-19 pandemic was likely the result of an accidental laboratory leak and still stands by this opinion.
The Department of Energy, the Journal also reported, now also judges that the pandemic was likely the result of an unintentional laboratory leak. The Department of Energy arrived at that assessment with “low confidence” as a result of new intelligence, and it represents a change from its previous position in 2021, which was undecided.
The FBI and Energy Department assessments are included in a classified report that was released to the White House and some lawmakers earlier this year.
Four other intelligence agencies that officials have not named and the National Intelligence Council, which conducts long-term strategic analysis, still favor the theory that the virus arose when it jumped from an animal to a human, albeit with “low confidence.” .
The Central Intelligence Agency and another agency that officials have not identified remain undecided between the lab leak and natural transmission theories, said people who read the classified report.
There is consensus among agencies that the virus was not the result of a biological weapons program, people familiar with the classified report said.
China has denied that the virus could have leaked from one of its laboratories, suggesting that it arose outside of China.
“The origin of the novel coronavirus is a scientific question and should not be politicized,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said at a press conference on Monday.
“The bottom line is we have to get to the bottom of this,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., NY). “The Biden administration is committed to that. They have all kinds of people looking at it, and we’ll wait and see their results.”
The FBI employs microbiologists, immunologists, and other scientists. Funds and manages the National Center for Bioforensics, which was established in Fort Detrick, Maryland, in 2004 to analyze potential biological threats.
Mr. Wray in his television interview said that among the variety of potential dangers, these scientists, along with agents and analysts in the office, “focus specifically on the dangers of biological threats, which include things like new viruses like Covid , and the concerns that in the wrong hands, some bad guys, a hostile nation-state, a terrorist, a criminal, the threats they could pose.”
The Department of Energy oversees a network of US National Laboratories, some of which perform advanced biological research. The California-based department’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory “Z Division” conducts analyzes of adversaries’ nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs and supports the US intelligence community.
The new intelligence community report updates a 2021 assessment led by the office of Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines.
Some scientists have argued that the virus, as with other previously unknown pathogens that have infected humans, must have arisen in nature, likely as a result of China’s extensive and largely unregulated trade in wild animals.
However, as more time has passed and no animal host has been found, scientists have become more focused on the potentially risky nature of the coronavirus research in Wuhan and the possibility of an unwanted leak.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Monday that President Biden supports “a whole-of-government effort” to try to unravel what led to the pandemic.
“We just haven’t gotten there yet,” he said. “If we have something that is ready to be reported to the American people and to Congress, we will.”
—lindsay knew contributed to this article.
Email Michael R. Gordon at email@example.com and Warren P. Strobel at Warren.Strobel@wsj.com
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