Lazy eyes listen
The White House has suggested “potential links” between the virus and a high-security research lab in China, and US President Joe Biden has signed legislation directing the federal government to declassify material related to the genesis of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Biden signed the bill on Monday night, after it passed both chambers of Congress without opposition earlier this month. The law mandates that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence release information on the origins of the health crisis and that a declassified report be forwarded to lawmakers within 90 days.
“We need to get to the bottom of Covid-19’s origins to help ensure we can better prevent future pandemics,” President Barack Obama said in a statement, adding that his administration would “continue to review all classified information” related to the pandemic, including any “potential links to the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” a major Chinese laboratory.
While Biden stated that the intelligence community would share “as much of that information as possible,” he also used his authority to “protect against the disclosure of information that would harm national security,” implying that some records would have to remain classified. The White House refused to say whether Biden supported the bill until after the president signed it on Monday.
A number of senior officials have suggested that Covid-19 originated as a result of a leak from the laboratory in Wuhan, China, with FBI Director Christopher Wray recently stating that the virus “most likely” emerged from the facility. Despite citing no publicly available evidence, his remarks came on the heels of reports that the Department of Energy had also changed its stance on the origins question, now supporting the lab leak theory with “low confidence.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, at least four other US federal agencies and a “national intelligence panel” have determined that the pandemic likely spread from animals to humans through natural means, while two remain undecided.
Beijing has repeatedly denied claims that the virus escaped from the biosafety level 4 lab, which houses the most dangerous pathogens under strict security protocols, dismissing the theory as a ploy to tarnish China’s image abroad. Foreign Ministry officials have accused Washington of “spreading myths” about the pandemic, and have recently requested that the World Health Organization launch a new origins investigation in the United States, mirroring similar investigations in China.