COVID-19 lab leak theory fuels divide within US intelligence community

Eight U.S. government agencies are now investigating the source of COVID-19, and for the first time publicly, the FBI director is blaming the coronavirus on a leak from a lab in China.

While China continues to deny that it had anything to do with the COVID-19 outbreak, these latest comments are fueling a divide within the U.S. intelligence community.

In an interview with Fox News, FBI Director Christopher Wray acknowledged that the bureau believes the COVID-19 pandemic was likely the result of a potential lab incident in Wuhan, China. It’s a statement that is in contrast to the conclusions of several prominent scientific studies.

“The FBI has specialists who focus on the dangers of biological threats which includes things like novel viruses like COVID, and the concern is, that in the wrong hands of some bad guys, a hostile nation-state, a terrorist, a criminal, the threats that these could pose,” Wray said. “China has been doing its best to try and thwart and obfuscate the work here, the work the U.S. government and foreign partners are doing.”

He added the virus was a potential leak from the Chinese government that was designed to kill millions of Americans.

Former White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said the Biden administration is putting increased pressure on China.

“We have to be very clear. China is an actor. They did not learn from SARS. They were not transparent with COVID in 2019. They are not transparent today in 2023, and we just have to understand that we’re not going to change China’s behavior,” Birx said.

A small team of U.S. government scientists investigating the virus’s origin, simply known as the “Z Division,” have drawn their own conclusion. They say the pandemic probably started as an unintentional lab leak — a theory that is not in line with the FBI director’s.

“There is not a consensus right now in the U.S. government about exactly how COVID started. There is just not an intelligence community consensus,” said National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby.

Three days after the Energy Department concluded with “low confidence” that the virus started as an unintentional lab leak, the White House still hasn’t endorsed its findings.

Some experts say the true origin of the pandemic may not be known for years — if ever.

On Wednesday morning, China denounced Wray’s comments, saying that it was firmly opposed to any form of manipulation of the facts and that based on the poor track record of fraud and deception of the U.S. intelligence community, the conclusions it draws have no credibility.

About the Author:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.