The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee declared Sunday that declassified report on the origins of COVID-19 isn’t sufficient, noting that few new details were revealed.
In a Sunday interview, Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) demanded more information after a 10-page report was released Friday by the U.S. intelligence community.
“We passed a law saying declassify the information you have about the COVID [pandemic] and Wuhan lab’s activities. What they did is basically went and did a paper on what they believe about the intelligence they’ve looked at. To give you an example, we’ve asked to open the curtain and release the intelligence, and they went behind the curtain, read the stuff, and came out and said this is what we think about it,” Turner told CBS News’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday.
But the report “is not sufficient,” Turner added, “and this is going to set up a battle between the Congress and the director of national intelligence to make certain that law passed unanimously—both the Senate and House and signed by the president—is complied with, but also the American public get the answers they deserve.”
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence report found that there isn’t clear evidence that COVID-19, which was first detected in China’s Wuhan city in 2019, started at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. But it said the U.S. intelligence community still could not rule out the possibility that the virus came from a laboratory, however, and had not been able to discover the origins of the pandemic.
“The Central Intelligence Agency and another agency remain unable to determine the precise origin of the COVID-19 pandemic, as both (natural and lab) hypotheses rely on significant assumptions or face challenges with conflicting reporting,” the ODNI report stated, noting that “extensive work” was done on coronaviruses at the lab.
“We continue to have no indication that the WIV’s pre-pandemic research holdings included SARSCoV-2 or a close progenitor, nor any direct evidence that a specific research-related incident occurred involving WIV personnel before the pandemic that could have caused the COVID pandemic,” the report said.
The origins of COVID-19, a type of coronavirus, has been a matter of debate in the United States. Critics of the federal government’s response say that the National Institutes of Health provided funding to a third-party group to perform research on bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan research facility, while the first reported cases worldwide were in Wuhan.
The U.S. intelligence report, meanwhile, goes against what FBI director Christopher Wray said on Feb. 28 that his bureau has believed for some time that COVID-19’s origin was “most likely a potential lab incident” in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has maintained an official narrative that the virus emerged from a so-called wet market in Wuhan.
On Sunday, Turner stressed that intelligence should be declassified in order to allow people to research the origins of the virus.
“We want the intelligence released and their opinion about the released. If we wanted their opinion, we would have asked for it. We passed a law saying declassify it so the American public can see it. Experts out there in the community besides the intelligence community need to take a look at this and help us understand what really happened, that resulted in millions of people dying,” Turner said during the CBS News interview.
As head of the House Intelligence Committee, Turner said that he has not been able to see the “classified annex” part of the report.
“I haven’t had access to it in a classified setting, but even releasing a classified annex goes against what the law says,” he added. “The law says declassify—not give us more classified information. My committee has seen a significant amount of this intelligence; giving my committee more intelligence doesn’t give it to the public.”
President Joe Biden in March signed a bill declassifying information related to the origins of the pandemic. Biden said at the time of signing that he shared Congress’ goal of releasing as much information as possible about the origin of COVID-19.
Reuters contributed to this report.