Houses vote to declassify information on Wuhan lab leak

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Security personnel stand guard outside the Wuhan Institute of Virology during a visit by a World Health Organization (WHO) team tasked with investigating the origin of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Wuhan, Hubei province, China on February 3, 2021.

Thomas Peter | Reuters

The House of Representatives voted unanimously on Friday to declassify information about possible links between the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Covid-19 pandemic, sending the bill to President Joe Biden.

The Senate also voted unanimously earlier this month to ask Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to declassify that information.

Covid first appeared in Wuhan, China, in 2019, although it is not yet known how the virus spread to humans. Scientists have battled for years over whether Covid came from an infected animal that transmitted the virus to humans, or whether the pathogen escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan.

The effort by Congress to declassify information about the origin of Covid comes after the Department of Energy concluded with “some confidence” that the virus escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan as a result of an accident.

The Department of Energy is one of 18 agencies that make up the US intelligence community. The department had not previously determined how the virus appeared.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has also concluded that the pandemic may have started with a laboratory incident in Wuhan, the agency’s director, Christopher Wray, told Fox News earlier this month.

“The FBI has for some time now assessed that the origin of the pandemic is a possible laboratory incident in Wuhan,” Wray told Fox News. “Here you are talking about a possible leak from a laboratory controlled by the Chinese government. ”

“I will just make the comment that the Chinese government, it seems to me, has been doing its best to try to stop the work here, the work that we are doing, the work that government to close our US and foreign partners. And that’s unfortunate for everybody,” Wray said.

Biden ordered the intelligence community in 2021 to provide an updated analysis of how the pandemic unfolded. The intelligence agencies were divided on how Covid began to spread among people, although they said a natural origin and a laboratory leak were both plausible.

Four unnamed groups in that 2021 report reached low-confidence assessments that an infected animal spread the virus to humans. The intelligence community agreed that Covid was not developed as a biological weapon, and most groups assessed that the virus was not genetically engineered.

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The Central Intelligence Agency and another unnamed agency are unsure whether the virus has natural or laboratory origins, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news about the Department of Energy.

“Right now, no definitive answer has emerged from the intelligence community on this question,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN last week. “Some of the intelligence community have reached conclusions on one side, some on the other. Several of them have said they don’t have enough information to be sure.”

Sullivan said Biden had specifically requested that national laboratories under the Department of Energy be involved in the review of information on how the pandemic began. He would not confirm or deny reports of the Department of Energy’s assessment that a lab leak was more likely.

Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Francis Collins, former heads of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the National Institutes of Health, respectively, have maintained that Covid may spread from an infected animal to humans. Such an animal was not identified three years after the pandemic.

House Republicans have called Fauci, Collins, and other former and current health officials to testify about the origins of the pandemic.

China has denied that the virus escaped from a laboratory. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning pointed to a World Health Organization report released in March 2021 that said the laboratory origin of the pandemic was “considered highly unlikely.”

But the US and 12 other countries strongly criticized the WHO report because the experts who wrote it did not have access to complete, original and sample data.

On the day the report was published, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that all hypotheses about the origin of the pandemic are on the table and that further studies are needed. Tedros called on Beijing last week to be more transparent.

“WHO continues to ask China to be transparent in sharing data and to do the necessary studies and share the results for that – until then, all comments are – hypothesis about the origin of the virus is still on the table,” said Tedros at a press conference in Geneva.

He also called on the US to share any information it has about the origins of the pandemic.

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