U.S. intelligence agencies disagree about the origin of COVID-19, according to an administration report that lawmakers said is incomplete.
The COVID Origin Act of 2023, which Congress passed unanimously and President Joe Biden signed into law, requires the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to declassify all information pertaining to potential links between the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) and the virus.
The information the DNI is supposed to report to Congress includes activities performed by the Wuhan lab and the People’s Liberation Army, coronavirus research or other related activities prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, and the names of researchers at the WIV who fell ill in the autumn of 2019.
The Biden administration’s 10-page report contains numerous redactions and fell well short of the law’s requirements, according to lawmakers.
Bill sponsors Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Mike Braun (R-IN) sent a letter to Biden complaining about the report’s inadequacies.
“The act does not allow redactions based on your administration’s view of ‘national security’ broadly defined, as you claimed in your signing statement,” the letter states. “Rather, the act only provides for much narrower redactions to protect intelligence sources and methods. Your administration should comply with the law as written and not undermine clear congressional intent to provide as much transparency to the American people as possible.”
Hawley and Braun followed up with a letter to DNI Avril Haines, who is primarily responsible for complying with the law.
Citing the report’s “paltry” content, Hawley and Braun wrote, “Obviously, the U.S. government is in possession of more information than that. This half-baked effort falls woefully short of the statutory requirements and undermines congressional intent.”
Lab Leak ‘Most Likely Cause’
The intelligence agencies differ on the origins of the coronavirus, says the report.
“The National Intelligence Council and four other IC (Intelligence Community) agencies assess that the initial human infection with SARS-CoV-2 most likely was caused by natural exposure to an infected animal that carried SARS-CoV-2 or a close progenitor, a virus that would probably be more than 99 percent similar to SARS-CoV-2,” states the report.
The report states that “The Department of Energy and the Federal Bureau of Investigation assesses that a laboratory-associated incident was the most likely cause of the first human infection with SARS-CoV-2, although for different reasons.”
The report added that “The Central Intelligence Agency and another agency remain unable to determine the precise origin of the COVID-19 pandemic, as both hypotheses rely on significant assumptions or face challenges with conflicting reporting.”
No Names Named
The report does confirm widely known biosafety concerns surrounding the Wuhan lab.
“Some WIV researchers probably did not use adequate biosafety precautions at least some of the time prior to the pandemic in handling SARS-like coronaviruses, increasing the risk of accidental exposure to viruses,” states the report.
The report failed to identify the Chinese researchers at the Wuhan lab who became ill prior to the onset of the coronavirus, although their names have been published by journalists Michael Schellenberger, Matt Tiabbi, and Alex Gutentag, The Daily Signal reported on July 12.
Lab Leak Dismissed
The possibility COVID leaked from the WIT was dismissed early in the pandemic, in a paper by five scientists titled “The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2,” published in Nature Medicine on March 17, 2020.
Matt Ridley and Alina Chan, the authors of Viral: The Search for the Origin of Covid-19, note the paper’s findings were hailed by Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), who wrote on the NIH website that “this study leaves little room to refute a natural origin for COVID-19.”
Writing in the Wall Street Journal (July 27), Ridley and Chan say emails released this summer show some of the study’s authors ruled out a laboratory origin in private messages at the time because it was politically expedient to deflect attention away from the lab, with one of the authors writing in an email “I hate when politics is injected into science—but it’s impossible not to.”
“If experts hadn’t shut down the rational possibility of a laboratory origin of Covid-19, a credible investigation might have taken place (it still has not), the World Health Organization might not have taken Chinese government assurances at face value, and governments might have done more to detect and deter laboratory-based outbreaks in the future,” write Ridley and Chan.
Finding the origin of SARS-v2 is necessary to avoid future outbreaks, says Jane Orient, M.D., executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.
“It is vitally important to find out what happened to prevent recurrence,” said Orient. “Already, mandates are being geared up for a new outbreak of something. Besides the possibility of a natural event or lab leak, there is a third possibility: a deliberate release. There are biowarfare labs around the world, which have the stated purpose of defense—otherwise, their creation of dangerous pathogens would be illegal. Why isn’t the administration concerned about that?”
Craig Rucker, president of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, says American security is at risk.
“There are sound geopolitical reasons for the Biden administration to level with the American people about the origin of COVID-19,” said Rucker. “As evidence grows that the Wuhan lab was at fault—either through an accidental leak (a sign of gross negligence) or a deliberate release (something approaching an act of war)—the efforts by the administration and the public-health establishment to suppress the truth will only encourage the future release of a manmade pandemic by China or some other hostile power.”
Bonner Russell Cohen, Ph.D. (email@example.com) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.