A general view of Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China, in January 2021. File Photo by Roman Pilipey/EPA-EFE
Feb. 26 (UPI) -- A classified report from the U.S. Energy Department has concluded that the COVID-19 pandemic was likely caused by a leak from a lab in China.
The report's conclusions were made with "low confidence" but come after other U.S. agencies have suggested that the SARS-CoV-2 virus had accidentally escaped from a lab in Wuhan where the first cases were reported.
Such reports from U.S. agencies are made on a three-tier scale based on the quality of intelligence assessments are made on, from low to high confidence. A low confidence finding means there is either not enough information or the information is not consistent enough to make a firmer determination.
The news was first reported by the Wall Street Journal and confirmed by The New York Times and CNN.
"The Department of Energy continues to support the thorough, careful, and objective work of our intelligence professionals in investigating the origins of COVID-19, as the President directed," an Energy Department spokesperson told CNN.
Officials who spoke to The New York Times did not disclose what new intelligence the U.S. Energy Department had acquired that had led the agency to its determination.
The Energy Department's report comes after the FBI also determined with a higher confidence rating that the virus leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a report in October 2021 that four other intelligence agencies determined with low confidence that the initial COVID-19 infection "was most likely caused by natural exposure to an animal" infected with the virus, most likely a bat.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday that divisions between the intelligence agencies remains and that the administration of President Joe Biden would share more information to Congress when it is obtained.
Theories that the virus may have leaked from the Wuhan lab have been made since the emergence of COVID-19 in 2020.
However, prominent health officials including Dr. Anthony Fauci - who served as the longtime head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases -- pushed back on such "conspiracy theories."
Fauci, who also served as the chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, has played a key role in the United States response to the COVID-19 pandemic during Biden's administration and that of his predecessor, former President Donald Trump.
"Fabrications, conspiracy theories and outright lies are becoming commonplace from radical fringe groups as well as from people who you would hope would know better -- and you know who they are," Fauci said during a graduation speech at a New York City college last year.
"Yet segments of our society have grown increasingly inured by such falsehoods while the outrage and dissent against this alarming trend have been relatively muted and when voiced are regularly castigated."