In a significant move towards greater transparency, Joe Biden signed the bipartisan COVID-19 Origin Act of 2023 into law on Monday. The legislation requires the declassification of all intelligence related to the origins of the COVID-19 virus, addressing growing demands for full public disclosure.
Following assessments by the U.S. Department of Energy and FBI Director Christopher Wray concluded with “low” and “moderate confidence,” respectively, that COVID-19 likely originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China, the legislation gained momentum. The lab-leak theory, previously dismissed as a conspiracy by the corporate media and senior health officials, now represents a crucial point of inquiry in understanding the virus’s origins.
The law, which passed both chambers of Congress unanimously, mandates the Director of National Intelligence to declassify all information relating to potential links between China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology and COVID-19 within 90 days of enactment. The director is then to submit the information in a report to Congress.
Biden issued a statement emphasizing the importance of getting to the bottom of COVID-19’s origins to help ensure better prevention of future pandemics.
While the Department of Energy and the FBI lean towards the lab leak hypothesis, other U.S. intelligence agencies support the natural origin theory. In addition, the World Health Organization maintains that both possibilities remain on the table.
SCOOP: A Chinese govt official sent this letter to the office of Sen. @HawleyMO yesterday, criticizing Congress for the COVID Origin Act that he introduced in late February pic.twitter.com/yJPsk9Zxok
— Liz Elkind (@liz_elkind) March 9, 2023
The legislative push for transparency has not been without objection. The Chinese embassy accused Congress of attempting to “politicize and stigmatize China.” Government official Li Xiang stated that the move shows the U.S. is heading down a path of political manipulation, further straining the U.S.-China relationship.
Although a determination that the virus leaked from the Chinese lab would erode trust in leading scientists who argued for the natural origin hypothesis, it is essential to maintain a commitment to public disclosure and transparency. This commitment will ultimately contribute to better preparedness and prevention measures in the face of future pandemics.
In the coming months, as U.S. intelligence agencies redact their data to protect sources and methods before sharing it with Congress, the public will have the opportunity to review the information that government agencies have deemed inconclusive. The declassification of intelligence related to the origins of COVID-19 is a vital step in understanding the virus’s beginnings and ensuring that lessons are learned for future pandemic response.