Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, there has been an ongoing debate about whether the deadly virus originated naturally in animals before it spread to humans or whether it somehow came out of a biological research lab in China.
FBI Director Chris Wray revealed in an interview on Tuesday that the federal investigative bureau, with "moderate confidence," leans toward the virology lab in Wuhan, China as being the most likely source of the novel coronavirus, the Daily Mail reported.
That admission followed recent reports that the U.S. Energy Department had similarly concluded that the most likely source for the virus was the Chinese laboratory.
In a Tuesday interview with Fox News, FBI Director Wray said, "The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan. Here you are talking about a potential leak from a Chinese government-controlled lab."
He noted that the bureau had specialists who were specifically focused on "the dangers of biological threats, which includes things like novel viruses like COVID, and the concerns that in the wrong hands some bad guys, some hostile nation-state, a terrorist, a criminal, the threats that that could pose."
"So here, you’re talking about a leak at a Chinese government-controlled lab that killed millions of Americans, and that’s precisely what that capability was designed for," Wray said before adding that the communist regime in Beijing had been unhelpful in terms of investigations of the origin of the virus.
The FBI director said, "I will just make the observation that 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."
Just days prior to that admission from FBI Director Wray came multiple media reports about how the U.S. Energy Department had concluded, albeit with "low confidence," that the coronavirus pandemic most likely originated as an accidental lab leak in China, according to USA Today.
That Chinese laboratory, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, is located just a short distance from the wet market where the first cases of COVID-19 were traced back to. Furthermore, the lab was known to be researching various coronavirus strains and had a history of prior accidents and poor safety records.
The competing theory is of course that the virus developed naturally among some unknown animal and then somehow evolved and made the jump to infect humans, again at the Wuhan wet market near the virology lab.
Unfortunately, as FBI Director Wray alluded to, it has been exceedingly difficult for anyone to reach a definitive conclusion as the Chinese government swiftly cleaned up both the wet market and the virology lab shortly after the pandemic began and likely erased, or covered up, any conclusive evidence about the true origin of the virus.
USA Today noted that the Energy Department and FBI appear to be the only federal agencies to have concluded that COVID-19 most likely originated in a lab while at least four other agencies have stated their belief that the virus occurred naturally and two other agencies have yet to decide either way.
President Joe Biden's White House has used that split decision among the federal agencies to refrain from drawing any conclusion of its own about the origin of the virus, as exemplified by National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan during an appearance Sunday on CNN.
"Right now, there is not a definitive answer that has emerged from the intelligence community," Sullivan said, though he noted that the president has encouraged each agency to investigate the matter as he "wants to put every tool at use to be able to figure out what happened here."
"There is a variety of views in the intelligence community," he added. "Some elements of the intelligence community have reached conclusions on one side, some on the other. A number of them have said they just don’t have enough information to be sure."
Meanwhile, during Monday's White House press briefing, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby was asked about the reports of the Energy Department's assessment over the weekend. He replied, "The President made trying to find the origins of COVID a priority right when he came into office. And he’s got a whole-of-government effort designed to do that."
"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," Kirby added.