US President Joe Biden has signed the bill requiring the release of intelligence materials on potential links between the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan into law.
The move requires all U.S. intelligence related to that link and the origins of COVID-19 to be declassified within 90 days of the law’s enactment.
Congress passed and sent the bill to Biden earlier this month.
‘I share the Congress’ goal of releasing as much information as possible about the origin of Covid,’ Biden wrote in a statement.
‘We need to get to the bottom of Covid-19’s origins,’ he said.
He noted any released material should also ‘include 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,’ he added.
The bill passed unanimously in the House and the Senate before being passed along to the White House. Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley originally sponsored the bill.
Biden’s signature now instructs Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to declassify any information the U.S. intelligence community has collected related to the origins of the COVID-19 virus in the next three months.
The debate in Washington, D.C. over China intentionally leaking the virus from a lab in Wuhan was recently refueled.
The Wall Street Journal reported last month the Energy Department assessed – albeit with low confidence – that the pandemic likely arose from the alleged Chinese laboratory leak.
Beijing has since denied this assessment that a leak during research at the Wuhan lab could have unleashed the global pandemic.
This new move poses political risks for Biden, who is negotiating a difficult relationship with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
The president claims that he believes in Congress’ goal of making available as much information as possible about where and how the coronavirus pandemic originated.
But he claimed that national security risks would still need to be assessed when it came to what his administration decides to release to the public.
Biden said in 2021, after taking office, that he had ‘directed the intelligence community to use every tool at its disposal’ to investigate the origins of the virus.
That work is ‘ongoing,: but as much as possible will be released without causing ‘harm to national security’, he said.