Biden Signs Bill to Release Intelligence on COVID Origins

Bipartisan legislation gives agency 90 days
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 10, 2023 5:05 PM CST
Updated Mar 20, 2023 7:15 PM CDT
House Votes to Release Intelligence on COVID Origins
Government workers stand outside a blue tent used to coordinate transportation of travelers from Wuhan to designated quarantine sites in Beijing on April 15, 2020.   (AP Photo/Sam McNeil, File)
UPDATE Mar 20, 2023 7:15 PM CDT

President Biden on Monday signed a bill directing the government to declassify intelligence about how COVID-19 originated. The law allows redactions to protect sensitive sources and methods, Axios reports. It requires the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to act within 90 days. "My administration will declassify and share as much of that information as possible," Biden said in a statement.

Mar 10, 2023 5:05 PM CST

The House voted unanimously Friday to declassify intelligence information about the origins of COVID-19, a sweeping show of bipartisan support near the third anniversary of the start of the deadly pandemic. The 419-0 vote was final congressional approval of the bill, sending it to President Biden's desk. It's unclear whether the president will sign the measure into law, and the White House said the matter was under review, the AP reports. "We're taking a look at the bill," said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

Debate in the House was brief and to the point: Americans have questions about how the deadly virus started and what can be done to prevent future outbreaks. "The American public deserves answers to every aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic," said Republican Rep. Michael Turner, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. That includes, he said, "how this virus was created and, specifically, whether it was a natural occurrence or was the result of a lab-related event." The order to declassify focused on intelligence related to China's Wuhan Institute of Virology, citing possible links between the research done there and the outbreak of COVID-19, which the World Health Organization declared a pandemic on March 11, 2020.

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US intelligence agencies are divided over whether a lab leak or a spillover from animals is the likely source of the deadly virus. China maintains the leak couldn't have come from a lab, per the Wall Street Journal. Experts say the true origin of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 1 million Americans, may not be known for many years—if ever. If Biden signs the measure, which already cleared the Senate, it would require the declassification of related information within 90 days. That includes information about research and other activities at the Wuhan lab and whether any researchers grew ill.

(More COVID-19 stories.)

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