WASHINGTON, March 21, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - US President Joe Biden on Monday
signed into law a bill requiring the release of intelligence materials on
potential links between the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and a
laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
"We need to get to the bottom of Covid-19's origins..., including potential
links to the Wuhan Institute of Virology," Biden said in a statement.
"In implementing this legislation, my administration will declassify and
share as much of that information as possible," he added.
"I share the Congress's goal of releasing as much information as possible
about the origin" of Covid, he said.
Biden said that in 2021, after taking office, he had "directed the
Intelligence Community to use every tool at its disposal to investigate."
That work is "ongoing," but as much as possible will be released without
causing "harm to national security," he said.
The bill posed political risks for Biden, who is negotiating a difficult
relationship with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
Beijing vehemently rejects the possibility that a leak during research at the
Wuhan lab could have unleashed the global pandemic.
However, much of Congress wants to pursue the theory further, and the issue
has become a rallying point in particular for Biden's Republican opponents.
Congress passed and sent the bill to Biden in March.
The Covid-19 outbreak began in 2019 in the eastern Chinese city of Wuhan,
leading to almost seven million deaths worldwide so far, according to
official counts, over a million of them in the United States.
But health officials and the US intelligence community remain divided over
whether it was spread randomly to humans from an infected animal or leaked
during research undertaken at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The US Energy Department -- one of the US agencies investigating the disaster
-- concluded with "low confidence" that the virus probably came from a lab,
agreeing with the assessment of the FBI, but contradicting the conclusions of
several other agencies.