WASHINGTON — The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic held a hearing on “Investigating the Origins of COVID-19, Part 2: China and the Available Intelligence” to explore declassified intelligence related to COVID-19 origins and examine China’s complicity in suppressing the origination of the global pandemic. Select Subcommittee members inquired about the misinformation spread by public health officials during the pandemic, the intelligence community’s understanding of COVID-19 origins, and the Chinese government’s lack of transparency. Expert witnesses testified that current American intelligence and intelligence during the height of the pandemic support the lab leak as the only credible explanation for the origination of COVID-19. The witnesses also detailed the politicization of the lab leak hypothesis by intelligence community officials who were afraid to align with the beliefs of the Republican administration.
Key Hearing Takeaways
The question of COVID-19 origins cannot be solved by science alone. Intelligence is an important piece of the investigatory puzzle.
- Select Subcommittee Chairman Brad Wenstrup opened the hearing by emphasizing the importance of listening to intelligence experts and following the facts, as opposed to conducting a Congressional analysis of the available information: “As Dr. Redfield stated and we agree, the intelligence community plays an important role in this investigation. We are not here to analyze the intelligence ourselves. We are here to listen to the experts and follow the facts. That is exactly what we are here to do today. Ask those that were actually involved in the intelligence process in the earliest days of the pandemic about what they saw and how we, as Congress, should proceed.”
- John Ratcliffe, former Director of National Intelligence, who advised the President during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, testified that the resources available to the intelligence community provide adequate information to make an accurate assessment on the origins of COVID-19: “The intelligence community’s sources for this information are numerous, diverse, and unassailable. And I hope that the recent unanimous congressional support to require the declassification of our COVID origins material will soon make at least some of this intelligence available to the American people. Our intelligence has led to a demonstrable shift whereby a few of the intelligence community’s 18 agencies are now publicly assessing that the COVID-19 virus originated from a lab leak in Wuhan. And as this shift continues, the day will come when every single agency in the IC will make this same assessment.”
Evidence released by the intelligence community provides further proof that COVID-19 originated in a Wuhan laboratory.
- David Feith, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, explained that the State Department’s January 2021 Fact Sheet, which revealed evidence of sick researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in fall 2021, is the most “potentially probative part of the story that we are yet aware of…there was, after all, U.S. government information about a cluster of illnesses in that lab which is exactly what you would expect to happen if the origin of COVID came from a laboratory accident where a worker became ill, knowingly or not, and then took the virus out into the community.”
- Former Director Ratcliffe issued a bombshell statement in his opening remarks that current intelligence supports the lab leak as the only credible explanation for the origination of COVID-19: “My informed assessment, as a person with as much or more access than anyone to our government’s intelligence during the initial year of the virus outbreak and pandemic onset, has been and continues to be that a lab leak is the only explanation credibly supported by our intelligence, by science and by common sense. From a view inside the IC, if our intelligence and evidence supporting a lab leak theory was placed side-by-side with our intelligence and evidence pointing to a naturally occurring “spillover” theory, the lab leak side of the ledger would be long and overwhelming while the “spillover” side would be nearly empty.”
China is complicit in preventing a transparent investigation into the origins of COVID-19 and played a pivotal role in suppressing information.
- Former Director Ratcliffe explains how Chinese officials were able to suppress information about the origination of the virus from the Wuhan Institute of Virology: “Well, with respect to China particularly, it is not unusual for local officials to actually suppress intelligence from national leaders until the problem can be arrested or remediated. Sometimes lives depend on that…so without confirming the accuracy of that, what I would submit to you is, if that is in fact the case and those hospitalizations took place, the lab results and tests from those patients, if submitted for genetic sequencing, would be dispositive of the issue of whether or not those initial patient zeros worked at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”
- Dr. Mark Lowenthal, the minority witness and former Assistant Director of Central Intelligence for Analysis and Production, expressed concern that China will continue to suppress information to hide the truth about the origins of COVID-19: “The Chinese will not give us access to the information that we need. If they gave us the kind of access that Mr. Feith is talking about — if they gave us samples, if they gave us access to their records — you’ll never be sure with the Chinese if they’re giving you the access that you want.”
Intelligence community analysts politicized the lab leak hypothesis by hiding the truth about China out of fear of aligning with a Republican administration.
- Former Director Ratcliffe highlights the politicization of the origins of COVID-19 by revealing details from the intelligence community’s analytic ombudsman: “I think there was at time reluctance, as I’ve commented, that the independent analytic ombudsman found that there were instances, particular to China, some intelligence was being suppressed so that it could not be used to support policies that the administration in which I was serving, the Trump administration, could use that. That was improper.”
Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic Chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) revealed that scientists with conflicts of interest have previously briefed the intelligence community and emphasized the importance of congressional oversight.
Chairman Wenstrup: “Mr. Feith, you were heavily involved in this investigation from the side of the State Department. While you were gathering information, did you struggle to find experts that did not have conflicts of interest?”
Mr. Feith: “In short, yes.”
Chairman Wenstrup: “And do you believe these same conflicted scientists may be briefing the IC today?”
Mr. Feith: “I can’t speculate about today, but based on the experience a few years ago, yes.”
Chairman Wenstrup: “In your opinion, is it acceptable or practical to avoid or ignore the truth from Congress of trying not to divulge or to shield a covert operation?”
Hon. Ratcliffe: “I don’t think it’s ever appropriate to ignore the truth. I think from the intelligence community standpoint, there is an ability to protect sources and methods, but still meet our obligations to keep members of Congress informed through its proper oversight role.”
Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) blasts Dr. Fauci and the authors of “Proximal Origins” for suppressing the lab leak hypothesis.
Chairman Comer: “This so bad. It just gets worse every day. These scientists flipped 180 degrees with no new evidence, produced a paper not based on facts and then may have used that paper to brief the intelligence community and suppress the lab leak hypothesis. This is a how-to manual in orchestrating a cover up by using some of the most powerful and influential institutions in our country. If you ask me, this was set in motion by Dr. Fauci to hide U.S. funding of gain-of-function research and dodge accountability for a virus that has killed more than 1 million Americans. This must be investigated.”
Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa) brings to light evidence that intelligence community reports confirming the likely lab leak hypothesis are based in science.
Dr. Miller-Meeks: “With your background and experience as Director of National Intelligence, can you elaborate on the scientific expertise within the Department of Energy and the FBI and why their conclusions on COVID 19 origins would be noteworthy and it doesn’t mean not probable.”
Hon. Ratcliffe: “When assessments are made, they can be made at a low confidence level, they can be made at a moderate confidence level or they can be made at a high confidence level. And in this case, you referenced the moderate and low confidence levels that the the FBI and the Department of Energy, respectively have made. Those are based on scientific information. And none of this is political. None of this is disputed.
“There is currently no environmental source identified for COVID-19. There is no intermediate host that has ever been identified. There is no reservoir species that has ever been identified and COVID-19 was never known to exist in any animal or species before the pandemic began. Those are scientific facts that are not disputed, and there’s nothing political about that. That factored into the determinations that have been made.
“We’re now three and a half years, and every day that passes makes it less likely that there’s anything that will ever tie this to nature. Whereas on the other side of the ledger, it’s overwhelming.”
Dr. Miller-Meeks: “It sounds like that you would consider the opinions of these components to be taken seriously.”
Dr. John Joyce (R-Pa.) highlighted China’s complicity in starting a global pandemic by suppressing information and refusing to cooperate with international organizations.
Hon. Ratcliffe: “I would submit to you that if the answers were exculpatory in nature, that information would have been shared by the Chinese government, which it has not.”
Dr. Joyce: “Had that information been shared early, could this have been a regional, a local endemic as opposed to unleashing this pandemic onto the world?”
Hon. Ratcliffe: “Absolutely. That is just one of many factors and unfortunately, actions that the Chinese government took or did not take. They misled. I referenced their conversations with World Health Organization’s. They urged that a public health epidemic not be declared earlier. They misled international scientists about human-to-human transmissibility and what they knew about the COVID-19 virus. All of those things could have minimized and prevented the spread of this disease and surely would have saved millions of lives globally.”
Dr. Joyce: “Had China cooperated and not suppressed actions by the World Health Organization, could this pandemic have not spread worldwide?”
Hon. Ratcliffe: “Yes.”
Dr. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) slams members of the American public health authority for spreading misinformation about the origins of COVID-19 and suppressing public discussion of the lab-leak hypothesis.
Dr. Jackson: “I just want to start off by saying, other than the Chinese government, the entities most aggressively trying to actively spread misinformation about the origins of COVID, trying to actually create and spread what they would have you believe was ‘scientific evidence’ or ‘scientific opinion’ – and I’m referring in particular to things like the “Proximal Origins” document, a document that was intended to provide fodder to harass, label, threaten, cancel, destroy anyone with any other opinion, specifically an opinion that this came from a lab, from the Wuhan lab, in particular, an opinion that we know now was accurate. The people that were most interested in doing just this were people like Anthony Fauci, Francis Collins, and others at NIH. It was Peter Daszak and EcoHealth Alliance. It was Dr. Tedros at the W.H.O.”