Lab Leak Most Likely Caused Pandemic, Energy Dept. Says

On Tuesday, Mr. Gallagher will hold the new committee’s first hearing, looking at the threat the Chinese Communist Party poses to the United States. Future hearings, Mr. Gallagher said, will look at biosecurity and China’s efforts to influence international organizations like the World Health Organization.

“Where our committee can have a role is teasing out what this communicates about the DNA of the Chinese Communist Party, an organization that was willing to cover up the origins of the pandemic and thereby cost us critical days, months and weeks and millions of lives in the process,” Mr. Gallagher said in an interview on Sunday.

Chinese officials have repeatedly called the lab leak hypothesis a lie that has no basis in science and is politically motivated.

Early in the Biden administration, the president ordered the intelligence agencies to investigate the pandemic’s origins, after criticism of a W.H.O. report on the matter. While there was material that had not been thoroughly examined by intelligence officials, the review ultimately did not yield any new consensus inside the agencies.

The March 2021 report by the W.H.O. said it was “extremely unlikely” that the virus emerged accidentally from a lab. But China appointed half the scientists who wrote the report and exerted major control over it. American officials have been largely dismissive of that work.

The intelligence agencies have said they do not believe there is any evidence that the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 was created deliberately as a biological weapon. But they have said that whether it emerged naturally, perhaps from a market in Wuhan, or escaped accidentally from a lab is the subject of legitimate debate.

Anthony Ruggiero, a scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former National Security Council staff member focusing on biodefense issues during the Trump administration, said he believed China is still “hiding crucial information” about how the virus emerged. He said the lab leak theory should not be dismissed.

“The lab leak origin for the Covid-19 pandemic is not, and was not, a conspiracy theory,” he said.

Benjamin Mueller and Sheryl Gay Stolberg contributed reporting.

source: nytimes.com