The Biden administration missed a deadline Sunday to declassify information related to the origins of COVID-19, triggering backlash from scientists and politicians alike.
After President Joe Biden signed the COVID Origins Act in March, the director of national intelligence had 90 days to declassify intelligence pertaining to the origins of COVID-19 and the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in Wuhan, China. The administration did not release that intelligence, reportedly because they are working to smooth over fraught relations with Beijing.
Republicans, including Indiana Sen. Mike Braun and Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, blasted the administration for not complying with the law the president signed.
“We need to know the truth about how this pandemic started and China’s role in covering it up, and the White House must respect the text of the law passed unanimously in both chambers by the people’s representatives,” Braun told The Washington Times.
This isn’t optional. It’s the law. Release the intelligence now https://t.co/AFGTyHGpmo
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) June 20, 2023
Hawley tweeted Tuesday that the release of the information “isn’t optional” and demanded that the White House comply immediately.
NBC News reported that the White House’s decision not to release the information is part of a broader effort to improve relations with China that have deteriorated since a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) spy balloon traversed the United States in February. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was forced to postpone a trip scheduled to Beijing at the time the balloon was in flight. He finally made the rescheduled visit over the weekend in mid-June, at the same time the intelligence deadline passed.
Proponents of the lab leak theory believe that the COVID-19 pandemic originated when the virus was accidentally leaked from the WIV as part of a lab incident while researchers were conducting dangerous gain-of-function research. The topic is sensitive for the CCP, which has called the allegations a conspiracy theory. (RELATED: Blinken Bends The Knee To Xi In Beijing Visit, Fails To Secure Key Military Communication Deal)
A Biden administration official told NBC News that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence is undergoing a “careful declassification process” and that “getting to the bottom of the origins of Covid-19 remains a priority for the President and the United States.”