FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks during a press conference to
announce an international ransomware enforcement action, at the Justice
Department in Washington, on Jan. 26, 2023. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty
FBI Director Christopher Wray has confirmed that the bureau assessed the COVID-19 pandemic likely resulted from a lab incident in Wuhan, China.
“The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origin of the pandemic are [sic] most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan,” Wray told Fox News host Bret Baier in an interview late Tuesday.
“Let’s step back for a second. You know, the FBI has folks—agents, professionals, analysts, virologists, microbiologist, etc.—who focus specifically on the dangers of biological threats, which include things like novel viruses like COVID and the concerns that they’re in the wrong hands—some bad guys, a hostile nation state, a terrorist, a criminal—the threats that those could pose,” he said. “Here you’re talking about a potential leak from a Chinese government-controlled lab that killed millions of Americans.”
“I should add that the work related to this continues and there are not a whole lot [of] details that are unclassified.”
Wray also said he believes the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been interfering with efforts by the United States and other foreign nations to investigate the origins of COVID-19.
“The Chinese government, it seems to me, has been doing its best to try to thwart and obfuscate the work here—the work that we’re doing, the work that our U.S. government and close foreign partners are doing. And that’s unfortunate for everybody.”
The FBI’s Twitter account announced late Tuesday that Wray “confirmed that the Bureau has assessed that the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic likely originated from a lab incident in Wuhan, China.”
Wray’s comments come just days after the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released a classified report to the White House and key members of Congress that concluded the virus mostly likely came from a lab leak, reported the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on Feb. 26, citing unnamed sources. The new conclusion was reportedly reached due to new intelligence, according to the outlet.
Intelligence officials told WSJ and CNN there is “low confidence” in the conclusion. The FBI, according to WSJ, had previously concluded that COVID-19 originated from a Wuhan lab with “moderate confidence.”
According to the WSJ, the FBI made its determination for “different reasons” compared to the DOE. Meanwhile, four other U.S. agencies and the National Intelligence Council currently believe COVID-19 resulted from natural transmission from animals to humans at a wet market in Wuhan, and two other agencies, one of which is the CIA, are undecided, per the outlet.
The Epoch Times has reached out to the DOE for comment. A DOE spokesperson told WSJ and CNN that the department “continues to support the thorough, careful, and objective work of our intelligence professionals in investigating the origins of COVID-19, as the president directed.”
China has long dismissed the possibility of a lab leak. In response to the WSJ report, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said on Feb. 27: “The origin of the novel coronavirus is a scientific issue and should not be politicized.”
The origin of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has been a contentious topic since the start of the global pandemic in early 2020.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), located in central China’s Wuhan city, is at the center of questions surrounding the origins of the virus. The CCP has never allowed independent investigation into the facility.
Virologist Shi Zhengli, the director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the WIV, also known as China’s “bat woman,” has also been prominent in the discussions surrounding COVID-19’s origins. For over a decade, Shi has been testing how different coronaviruses from animals can infect humans.
The WIV, which houses a P4 lab (the highest biosafety level), has denied having ties to China’s military.
But for years, it has worked with military leaders on a state-sponsored project conducting laboratory animal experiments.
Separately, a fact sheet by the U.S. State Department in January 2021 stated that the WIV has engaged in laboratory animal experiments on behalf of the Chinese military since at least 2017, and worked on “gain-of-function” research to engineer chimeric viruses.
According to the January 2021 fact sheet, in the autumn of 2019, several researchers at WIV fell ill with symptoms similar to those caused by COVID-19.
Furthermore, during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, Beijing sent Chen Wei, a top Chinese expert in biology and chemical weapon defenses, to take over the lab. Wei is a major general for the People’s Liberation Army, which is the CCP’s military wing.
Jackson Richman contributed to this report.
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