On Feb. 26, White House National security adviser Jake Sullivan said there’s “no definitive answer” to whether the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic can be traced to a lab leak in China.
During an interview on the CNN Sunday talk show “State of the Union,” Sullivan addressed a Wall Street Journal report stating the Energy Department had joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in its assessment that COVID-19 likely escaped a Wuhan lab in 2019 due to a research accident.
“Here’s what I can tell you. President Biden has directed, repeatedly, every element of our intelligence community to put effort and resources behind getting to the bottom of this question,” Sullivan said.
The security adviser added that he would share any further information with Congress and the American people. Though for the moment, he noted, “there is not a definitive answer that has emerged from the intelligence community on this question.”
Identifying the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the subject of much conjecture since the first cases were confirmed in December 2019. Speculation the virus escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China, began circulating almost immediately. At the time, the “lab leak” hypothesis was promptly criticized by government and health officials in the United States.
However, over the past three years, some U.S. officials have become convinced that a research-related mishap with the virus is not just possible but the likely source of the pandemic’s origin.
“Based on the analysis of the publicly available information, it appears reasonable to conclude that the COVID-19 pandemic was, more likely than not, the result of a research-related incident,” a 2022 Senate Committee report (pdf) on the origins of COVID-19 states.
The Wall Street Journal reported an amendment to a 2021 document from the office of Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines.
A declassified U.S. intelligence document with findings from four security agencies in 2021 confirmed “low confidence” in a cross-species jump as the impetus for the pandemic. This is also known as the natural zoonotic origin theory.