A June 18 deadline for President Joe Biden’s administration to declassify and release documents pertaining to the origins of COVID-19 has come and gone without a clear response.
In March, lawmakers passed the COVID-19 Origin Act of 2023 with overwhelming bipartisan support. The legislation passed unanimously in the Senate before a 419-0 voice vote in the House of Representatives. Biden signed the bill into law on March 20, just 20 days after its formal introduction.
The COVID-19 Origin Act gave the Biden administration 90 days from the day the president signed the bill into law to “declassify and make available to the public as much information as possible” about the true origin of COVID-19. The 90-day deadline gave the Biden administration until Sunday, June 18 to meet the declassification requirements.
The law would have forced a closer look at the intelligence underlying the theory that COVID-19 resulted from a laboratory leak. The law specifically calls for the U.S. intelligence community to reveal if the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in Wuhan, China was conducting research on behalf of the Chinese regime’s People’s Liberation Army, and whether the virology lab was researching or experimenting with coronaviruses. The legislation also called for the intelligence community to reveal the names of any WIV researchers who fell ill in the autumn of 2019, whether they were involved in coronavirus experimentation or not, and specific dates for when their symptoms began.
Reminder Sent
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who sponsored the COVID-19 Origin Act, sent a letter to Biden on June 14, reminding Biden administration officials that they had just four days to meet the law’s declassification deadline, and that the administration had not yet “provided any indication of when the relevant material will be declassified.”
Hawley and Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) reminded the president not only of the deadline, but that they were seeking the greatest degree of transparency possible with the declassification and public release of the documents. The senators noted that the COVID-19 Origin Act only allowed minimal redactions to protect intelligence sources and methods.
“Your Administration should comply with the law as written and not undermine clear congressional intent to provide as much transparency to the American people as possible,” Hawley and Braun wrote in their letter (pdf). “We introduced the COVID-19 Origin Act of 2023 earlier this Congress to hold China accountable for its obfuscation during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. From the beginning of the pandemic, China appears to have taken every effort to hide COVID’s origins from the world. The American people deserve to know how this pandemic began, and their democratically elected representatives have expressed their will unanimously. I urge you not to stand in their way.”
Still No Answer
Biden originally said he was pleased to sign the COVID-19 Origin Act into law.
In a March 20 statement upon signing the bill, Biden said: “I share the Congress’s goal of releasing as much information as possible about the origin of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID–19). In 2021, I directed the Intelligence Community to use every tool at its disposal to investigate the origin of COVID-19, and that work is ongoing. We need to get to the bottom of COVID-19’s origins to help ensure we can better prevent future pandemics. My Administration will continue to review all classified information relating to COVID–19’s origins, including potential links to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. In implementing this legislation, my Administration will declassify and share as much of that information as possible, consistent with my constitutional authority to protect against the disclosure of information that would harm national security.”
Despite this early show of support for the declassification effort, the Biden administration has offered no follow-up comments.
NTD News reached out to the Biden White House after Hawley and Braun’s June 14 letter, but the White House did not respond. NTD news reached out again after the June 18 declassification deadline passed, but the White House still had not responded by the time this article was published.
NTD News also reached out to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which provides oversight of the U.S. intelligence community. The intelligence office also did not respond.
Hawley condemned the lack of response from the Biden administration in a Tuesday-morning post on Twitter, stating, “This isn’t optional. It’s the law. Release the intelligence now.”
In an statement emailed to NTD News, Braun noted that the Biden administration’s decision to ignore the declassification deadline coincided with Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to China last weekend and his meetings with Chinese counterparts.
“The White House is now overdue to declassify their COVID lab leak intel, and there is no ‘Secretary of State is meeting with Xi Jinping’ exception in the law President Biden signed,” Braun said. “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.”