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Covid origin ‘most likely’ China lab incident

March 1, 2023
FILE: On February 28, FBI Director Christopher Wray, seen here in Washington on January 26, acknowledged that the bureau believes the Covid-19 pandemic was likely the result of a lab accident in Wuhan, China. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

(CNN) — FBI Director Christopher Wray on Tuesday acknowledged that the bureau believes the Covid-19 pandemic was likely the result of a lab accident in Wuhan, China.

In his first public comments on the FBI’s investigation into the virus’ origins during an interview with Fox News, Wray said that “the FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan.”

CNN reported in 2021, citing two sources familiar with the matter, that the FBI had “moderate confidence” in the lab-leak theory.

Wray’s comments come just days after news of the Department of Energy’s “low-confidence” assessment that Covid-19 most likely originated from a laboratory leak in China, underscoring a divide in the US government as the majority of the intelligence community still believes that Covid either emerged naturally in the wild, or that there is still too little evidence to make a judgment one way or another.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a 2021 report that revealed the National Intelligence Council, along with four other unidentified agencies, assessed with low confidence that the initial Covid-19 infection “was most likely caused by natural exposure to an animal infected with it or a close progenitor virus.”

Intelligence agencies can make assessments with either low, medium or high confidence. A low confidence assessment generally means that the information obtained is not reliable enough or is too fragmented to make a more definitive analytic judgment or that there is not enough information available to draw a more robust conclusion.

Wray said in the interview that the FBI has a team of experts who focus specifically on the risk of biological threats that come into the “wrong hands,” including by a “hostile nation state.”

“You’re talking about a potential leak from a Chinese government-controlled lab that killed millions of Americans,” Wray said of the coronavirus, “and that’s precisely what that capability was designed for.”

Wray said that most details of the FBI’s investigation remain classified, and that it has been difficult to work with the Chinese government on investigating the pandemic’s 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 bureau director said. “The work that our US government and close foreign partners are doing. And that’s unfortunate for everybody.”

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs pushed against the Department of Energy’s updated assessment during a briefing on Monday, with spokesperson Mao Ning saying that “the parties concerned should stop stirring up arguments about laboratory leaks, stop smearing China and stop politicizing the issue of the virus origin.”

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