US House Passes Bill to Declassify Intelligence on COVID-19 Origins
On Friday, March 10, 2023, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill ordering the declassification of all intelligence relating to the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill, known as the COVID-19 Origin Act, is sponsored by Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) and is expected to reach President Biden’s desk, who has yet to indicate whether he will sign the bill or issue his first veto.
The bill requires the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), Avril Haines, to declassify any and all information relating to potential links between the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) and the origin of COVID-19, including activities performed by the WIV with or on behalf of the People’s Liberation Army, and coronavirus research or other related activities performed at the WIV prior to the outbreak of COVID-19. The bill also requires the DNI to submit an unclassified report to Congress with redactions only as necessary to protect sources and methods.
The bill’s passage comes after a series of public hearings by the House’s Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, which heard testimony from experts on both sides of the debate on the origin of the pandemic. While the Intelligence Community’s 2023 threat assessment states “all agencies assess that two hypotheses are plausible explanations for the origin of COVID-19: natural exposure to an infected animal and a laboratory-associated incident,” the question of where the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus originated has become highly politicized.
The US Energy Department concluded in late February 2021 with “low confidence” that the COVID-19 pandemic was “likely” caused by a lab leak in Wuhan, while the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) came to the same conclusion with “moderate confidence.” Christopher Wray, the Director of the FBI, has expressed his belief that the virus probably originated in a lab, something that was disregarded in the beginning stages of the pandemic.
Understanding the root causes of the COVID-19 pandemic is important to help prevent a future pandemic, said Raul Ruiz, a doctor and ranking member of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic.
0. “House unanimously sends COVID-19 origins declassification bill to Biden's desk” The Hill, 10 Mar. 2023, https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/3893725-house-unanimously-sends-covid-19-origins-declassification-bill-to-bidens-desk
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