A recent classified report by the U.S. Department of Energy has revived questions about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, after sources familiar with the investigation confirmed earlier this week that the possibility of a Chinese laboratory leak was possible.
Speaking at the White House on Tuesday, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said there is currently “not an intelligence community consensus” on the issue.
“The President made trying to find the origins of COVID a priority right when he came into office,” Kirby said. “And he’s got a whole-of-government effort designed to do that.”
The DOE report determined with “low confidence” that COVID-19 might have originated from a leak that occurred at a laboratory in Wuhan, China. Sources who spoke on background about the matter with CBS said the report’s findings could be separate from those related to an analysis performed at Lawrence Livermore Labs, a DOE facility, which also concluded an accidental lab leak was a probable source for the pandemic.
Speaking on Tuesday, Kirby said President Joe Biden “tasked the National Labs, which report up through the Department of Energy, to study this as well.” However, he declined to confirm the findings reportedly included in the DOE report, which remains classified.
Kirby added that efforts to determine the origins of the virus remained inconclusive but that the U.S. government is continuing to assess the available data.
“The intelligence community and the rest of the government is still looking at this,” Kirby said. “There’s not been a definitive conclusion, so it’s difficult for me to say, nor should I feel like I should have to defend press reporting about a possible preliminary indication here.”
“There is not a consensus on what caused COVID to start,” Kirby emphasized. “The President wants to understand that so we can prevent better future pandemics. He’s made that a priority.”
Speaking with CNN earlier this week, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that there are currently several views within the U.S. intelligence community on the situation.
“Some elements of the intelligence community have reached conclusions on one side, some on the other,” Sullivan said, adding that agencies say they “just don’t have enough information to be sure.”
“If we gain any further insight or information, we will share it with Congress and we will share it with the American people,” Sullivan added. “But, right now, there is not a definitive answer that has emerged from the intelligence community on this question.”
Echoing Sullivan’s remarks, Kirby told reporters on Tuesday that there was no consensus opinion yet on the origins of COVID-19, and cautioned against “speculation on hypothetical situations to come.”