Biden indicators regulation releasing Wuhan lab info

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers a speech during a reception celebrating Nowruz in the East Room of the White House in Washington March 20, 2023.

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

President Joe Biden signed legislation Monday requiring the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to release information about possible links between a laboratory in China and the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The House and Senate unanimously passed the law earlier this month. The push to release classified information about the origins of the pandemic comes after the Department of Energy concluded with “low confidence” that the virus was likely the result of an accidental lab leak in China.

“In implementing this legislation, my administration will release and share as much of this information as possible, consistent with my constitutional authority to protect against disclosure of information that would harm national security,” Biden said in a statement.

Under the legislation, National Intelligence Director Avril Haines has 90 days to release any information on possible links between the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the origins of Covid. The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been a major center of coronavirus research.

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

“The FBI has held for some time that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential laboratory incident in Wuhan,” Wray told Fox News. “You’re talking about a potential leak from a Chinese government-controlled laboratory.”

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The Wall Street Journal first reported the Department of Energy’s assessment, citing people who had read a classified report. White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan would neither confirm nor deny the report, but said Biden has specifically requested that the Department of Energy’s national labs participate in a review of the onset of the pandemic.

The pandemic started three years ago in Wuhan, China, although how Covid spread to people is not yet known. Intelligence agencies were divided in a 2021 report commissioned by Biden that reviewed information about the origins of the pandemic. Intelligence agencies agreed that both an infected animal and a laboratory accident were plausible hypotheses.

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Four unnamed authorities concluded with low confidence in the 2021 report that an infected animal transmitted the virus to humans.

A recent analysis by international scientists found raccoon dog genetic material in samples from the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market that tested positive for Covid. Although the analysis does not prove that the raccoon dogs were infected with the virus, it does provide some additional data consistent with a possible spread of the virus from animals to humans.

The scientists drew the samples from an international database. The samples subsequently disappeared from this database. The World Health Organization asked Beijing on Friday to release these samples.

“This data could – and should – have been shared three years ago,” said WHO Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “We continue to urge China to be transparent in sharing data and to conduct the necessary investigations and share the results.”

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