Amid a curious reversal among many scientists, journalists and big tech companies who previously dismissed any notion that COVID-19 may have leaked from a Chinese lab, the U.S. Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved a measure that requires the Biden administration’s Office of the Director National Intelligence (ODNI) to declassify and disclose material on the true origins of the virus, according to The Hill.
According to the bill, passage of which was led by Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Mike Braun (R-IN), the ODNI must declassify “any and all information relating to potential links between the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the origin of the coronavirus disease” within 90 days.
Prior to the measure’s passage, Hawley took to the Senate floor to declare, “The American people deserve to know about the origins of the COVID-19. They deserve to know how this terrible pandemic that has ravaged the globe and our country, how it got started and what’s China’s role in starting it,” as Fox News noted.
Braun, for his part, argued that passage of the bill was essentially a no-brainer, saying, “Whether it’s weighing in on issues of health care, national security, COVID-19, who disagrees with transparency? The sunshine reveals everything.”
There are several areas of information that must be required according to the measure, including the specific activities undertaken at the Wuhan lab, such as any initiated at the behest of the People’s Liberation Army, as well as any coronavirus-related endeavors launched prior to the start of the outbreak, according to The Hill.
Information about any Chinese researchers who reportedly became ill in the fall of 2019, such as their names, degree of sickness, and whether they required hospitalization is also subject to declassification under the terms of the bill.
In advance of the Senate vote, President Joe Biden indicated that intelligence officials were considering two potential explanations for the virus’ origins, either that it was transmitted to a human via animal contact, or that it was the result of an unintentional leak from the Wuhan lab.
Biden also requested that the intelligence community “redouble their efforts” to reach a comprehensive conclusion on the origins of the virus within 90 days, asking “that this effort include work by our National Labs and other agencies of our government to augment the Intelligence Community’s efforts,” The Hill added.
Notably, howenver, the White House said earlier this week that even if investigations reveal that COVID-19 leaked from a Chinese lab in a way that was “deliberate or not an accident,” no decision had been made about whether retaliation or retribution would be pursued, as Fox News separately noted, with deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stating, “We’re not going to go there just yet.”