Declassification of Covid Data Likely To Prompt More, Not Less, Speculation About Origins of Virus

President Biden promised to share as much classified information ‘as possible’ about the origins of the virus.

AP/Ng Han Guan, file
Security personnel at the entrance of the Wuhan Institute of Virology at Wuhan, China in 2021. AP/Ng Han Guan, file

The looming declassification of materials relating to the origin of Covid — with an important caveat — is sure to spur another round of speculation into the virus’s origin, even though many of the details from the earliest days of the pandemic are murky.

On Monday, President Biden signed a bill declassifying at least some of the information collected by the federal government into the origins of Covid, but not necessarily all of it.

“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,” Mr. Biden said.


According to the president, the administration “will continue to review all classified information relating to COVID–19’s origins, including potential links to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.” 

Last month the Energy Department issued a “low confidence” report that the most likely origin of Covid was from a laboratory leak, giving credence to a theory once dismissed as a rumor or racist “misinformation” by many major media outlets and government authorities. The FBI has also supported the lab leak theory following its own investigations.

With the new declassification, some of the evidence collected by government departments or agencies, like the FBI, could become public.


The declassification comes just as a new report suggests raccoon dogs may be the origin of the virus. Sometimes called an Asiatic raccoon, a raccoon dog is a fox-like canid native to East Asia that is often traded for its fur, which is sometimes used as an alternative to more expensive furs.

The report, first detailed in the Atlantic, was focused on genetic evidence collected from a market in Wuhan suggesting that raccoon dogs, which were sold illegally at the market, could have been carrying the virus.

Before the raccoon dog hypothesis, bats were also seen as a likely source of the virus, as they have transmitted coronaviruses in the past.


Critics and proponents of the lab leak theory have been quick to point out that there has been no definitive evidence to pin down precisely where the virus originated.

Earlier this month, the World Health Organization director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that the origin was likely to remain unclear until Chinese officials release data on the topic.

“If any country has information about the origins of the pandemic, it is essential for that information to be shared with WHO and the international scientific community,” Mr. Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Although Chinese officials have maintained that they have been transparent and cooperative and said the virus is of natural origin and not leaked from a lab, some American officials have contested both of these points.

With a renewed debate over the origins of Covid imminent, the National Intelligence Council has attempted to sort through the noise. According to the council, the lab leak and natural origins theories are not mutually exclusive, with the virus potentially evolving naturally, being taken into a lab, and subsequently leaking from that lab.

The council also has stressed that, regardless of whether it came from a lab, they have found no evidence that the virus was genetically engineered, despite claims that it was. 

What they are not yet sure of is what animal or animals the virus originated from or whether reports of infections with similar symptoms to Covid from autumn of 2019 were in fact Covid.

Finding the answer to such questions will require more cooperation from Chinese officials, according to the council’s report.

The New York Sun

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