COVID Most Likely Originated in Lab Leak, Concludes U.S. Energy Department
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has concluded that the COVID-19 pandemic most likely originated in a laboratory leak, according to a classified intelligence report, reported The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). This marks the second known intelligence agency to conclude that the evidence points to the lab-leak theory, although at least four other agencies reportedly believe that natural transmission is the stronger explanation.
The DOE, which previously had no opinion on the virus’s origins, changed its position in a five-page update to a 2021 assessment of COVID’s origins by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines’s office, according to WSJ. The update was recently provided to the White House and key members of Congress.
According to the DNI’s previous declassified assessment, “Four IC [intelligence community] elements and the National Intelligence Council” believed “with low confidence” that the evidence pointed to COVID-19 beginning naturally, one IC element [believed to be the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)] assesses with moderate confidence that the first human infection with SARS-CoV-2 most likely was the result of a laboratory-associated incident,” and “analysts at three IC elements remain unable to coalesce around either explanation.”
This latest development moves the DOE from the “undecided” column towards assessing a lab-related theory the most likely scenario, albeit with “low confidence.”
In response, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning complained, “Certain parties should stop rehashing the ‘lab leak’ narrative, stop smearing China and stop politicizing origins-tracing.”
An unnamed U.S. senior intelligence official confirmed the report and told WSJ that DOE’s updated position was based upon “new intelligence, further study of academic literature, and consultation with experts outside government,” but the details surrounding the justification for the change remain classified.
The DOE’s analysis was reportedly conducted by an intelligence arm of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory specializing in foreign WMD assessments called “Z Division.” Z Division suggested that the lab-leak hypothesis was plausible and deserved further investigation as early as May 2020.
However, for most of the pandemic, the lab-leak hypothesis was an unacceptable viewpoint for social and legacy media, taking their cues from the official international experts.
In February 2020, public health scientists led by American Peter Daszak took to the pages of The Lancet, a British health journal, to “strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin,” arguing that studies “overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife.” Daszak also represented the U.S. in a World Health Organization (WHO) study, released in March 2021, which found the lab leak theory “extremely unlikely,” thus attempting to exonerate China of wrongdoing. Critics had already noted that the WHO was trying to help China cover up the origins of COVID.
That same month, FactCheck.org called the suggestions about a man-made origin for COVID “baseless conspiracy theories,” writing, “as for the general notion that the virus has been bioengineered, there’s no evidence that’s true. … All lines of evidence point to the virus coming from an animal.” Facebook also censored users from sharing a New York Post op-ed titled, “Don’t buy China’s story: The coronavirus may have leaked from a lab,” placing a “False information” notice on top of the shared link.
In March 2020, USA Today rated “the claim that COVID-19 may have originated in a Chinese lab as PARTLY FALSE.” However, the reason they gave for their verdict that COVID-19 did not originate in a lab was a non sequitur. “Investigations continue into where COVID-19 began, and no conclusions can be drawn, nor has evidence been presented, that definitively explains the pathogen’s origin,” they wrote.
As late as May 2021, in a now-archived fact-check, PolitiFact considered the claim, “This virus, COVID-19 SARS-CoV-2 virus, actually is not from nature. It is a man-made virus created in the lab.” They concluded:
“The genetic structure of the novel coronavirus, which has been shared by thousands of scientists worldwide, rules out the possibility that it was manipulated in a lab. Public health authorities have repeatedly said the virus was not created in a lab. Scientists believe the coronavirus originated in bats before jumping to humans. … The claim is inaccurate and ridiculous. We rate it Pants on Fire!”
More recently, the mainstream media has begun to reluctantly admit that COVID might have come from a lab. Forbes headlined their article on the DOE’s decision, “Covid Likely Originated From Lab Leak, Energy Department Reportedly Finds — But Biden Aide Says There’s No ‘Definitive Answer.’” The New York Times chose to contextualize with a subheading instead, “The conclusion, which was made with ‘low confidence,’ came as America’s intelligence agencies remained divided over the origins of the coronavirus.” ABC News did the same, “The Energy Department’s assessment came with ‘low confidence,’ per the WSJ.” The media may still temper their reporting on the lab-leak theory, but they are reporting on it as a credible hypothesis, which they simply wouldn’t do two years ago.
Regardless, social and mainstream media censored and suppressed the COVID lab-leak theory as conspiratorial even while official government agencies hadn’t ruled it out. In fact, now both the FBI and the DOE have concluded that it is the most likely explanation for the origin of COVID. Several mainstream reporters have tacitly admitted that their refusal to countenance the possibility that the virus escaped from a Chinese lab was, at least in part, due to their political bias against the Trump administration.
In fact, pandemic-era censorship was not limited to the possible origins of COVID. The official fact-checkers censored all sorts of claims about COVID, from foolish recommendations that people should inject bleach to now-vindicated claims that masks don’t stop the spread of COVID. By February 2021, Facebook had developed the following list of “false,” “debunked” claims it would censor:
- “COVID-19 is man-made or manufactured.”
- “Vaccines are not effective at preventing the disease they are meant to protect against.”
- “It’s safer to get the disease than to get the vaccine.”
- “Vaccines are toxic, dangerous or cause autism.”
By May 2021, it was forced to admit, “In light of ongoing investigations into the origin of COVID-19 and in consultation with public health experts, we will no longer remove the claim that COVID-19 is man-made or manufactured from our apps.” That censorship appears even more counterfactual as a second government agency concludes that this supposedly “debunked” claim is likely correct.
As of early 2023, Facebook’s second category for censorship has not aged well either. Study after study has confirmed what most people experienced to be true: that vaccination did not prevent a COVID infection, and that natural immunity was at least as effective as a two-dose vaccination, which even The Lancet was recently forced to admit.
The third claim Facebook said was “debunked” — that is, disproven — relied upon a comparison between two datasets that were rapidly changing in real time. U.S. health care providers began distributing vaccines, approved only on an emergency basis, in mid-December, and was still trying to scale up vaccine production by early February. Meanwhile, COVID mortality rates rapidly declined as we learned how to treat severe cases and protect vulnerable populations. At the very least, no data on the vaccines’ long-term health effects was available in early 2021 or is available even now.
The fourth claim is merely a repudiation of longstanding anti-vaccine arguments, in no way specific to COVID.
In a report published on October 28, 2022, ProPublica and Vanity Fair, two news outlets to the left of the legacy media, published an investigative report suggesting the Chinese government became concerned about a leak from the Wuhan biolab on November 12, 2019. The balance of evidence is shifting slowly in direction of this theory, as the DOE had recognized. Yet instead of getting to the bottom of the question, much of the legacy media — not to mention social media — spent the bulk of two years not investigating, but rather trying to obstruct the open exchange of information for political ends.
Joshua Arnold is a staff writer at The Washington Stand.