Congress moves bill requiring declassification of Covid-19 origins info to Biden's desk
A bill that requires the Director of National Intelligence to declassify new information on the origins of Covid-19 passed the House unanimously on Friday. The bill similarly cleared the Senate last week, and now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk.
The White House hasn’t officially released a statement on whether Biden will sign the bill, but he also has not indicated that he would veto it. In 2021, Biden told the US intelligence community and government labs to increase their efforts to reach a consensus over the two competing theories on how Covid-19 started.
The bill requires the DNI to declassify all of the information no longer than 90 days after its approval, including activities related to the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China, and information regarding researchers at the lab who fell ill in the fall of 2019. The bill also asks for an unclassified report to be submitted to Congress with necessary redactions.
The intelligence community and federal government have been divided on the origins. Some believe the virus likely originated in an animal market in China and jumped to humans, while others believe it likely resulted from a lab accident in China.
The US Energy Department recently sent shockwaves through the origins discussion when it said the Covid pandemic most likely came from a lab leak in China, according to reporting in the Wall Street Journal. And FBI Director Christopher Wray also made similar comments on Fox News earlier this month, saying the start of the pandemic “most likely” came from “a potential lab incident in Wuhan.”
An unclassified report from the Office of the DNI said that four intelligence agencies “assess with low confidence that the initial SARS-CoV-2 infection was most likely caused by natural exposure to an animal infected with it or a close progenitor virus.”
The report added that analysts at three intelligence agencies were unable to say either way, without more information.
Chinese officials have denied that the Wuhan Institute of Virology had anything to do with the outbreak and said they were sharing data and research results on virus tracing, the Associated Press reported, though the US Department of State has said that the Chinese government has “systematically prevented a transparent and thorough investigation of the COVID-19 pandemic’s origin.”