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Senate passes bill requiring declassification of information on COVID-19 origins

The Senate on Wednesday night passed legislation requiring the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to declassify information about the origins of COVID-19.
 
The bill, spearheaded by Sens. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyGOP's attacks on Fauci at center of pandemic message Colonial Pipeline CEO grilled over ransomware attack Senate Republicans delaying Biden OPM nominee's confirmation MORE (R-Mo.) and Mike BraunMichael BraunIU parents protest school's vaccine mandates Rick Scott introduces bill banning 'vaccine passports' for domestic flights Braun-McConnell bill would protect Americans from IRS surveillance MORE (R-Ind.), gives the ODNI 90 days to declassify "any and all information relating to potential links between the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the origin of the coronavirus disease." 
 
"The American people deserve to know about the origins of the COVID-19. They deserve to know how this terrible pandemic that has ravaged the globe and our country, how it got started and what's China's role in starting it," Hawley said on the Senate floor ahead of the bill passing. 
 
Braun added that the intelligence community has information "that needs to be revealed to the American public." 
 
"It needs to be revealed to anyone that can look at it to make sense out of what has happened," he added. 
 
Among the declassifications the bill would require would be activities performed at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, including those on behalf of the People's Liberation Army, and coronavirus-related activities prior to the outbreak. 
 
It would also require the declassification of details on any researchers who fell ill in autumn 2019, including their names, symptoms and whether they visited hospitals. 
 
That bill would require the information to be given to Congress in an unclassified report. 
 
The Senate's action comes as scientists who previously downplayed or dismissed the hypothesis that the virus could have leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China, are now increasingly saying there is a need for further investigation.
 
The Wall Street Journal cited a U.S. intelligence report that several researchers at China's Wuhan Institute of Virology fell ill with flu-like symptoms in November 2019 — just before the coronavirus began infecting people across China and then the world — and that they required hospitalization.
 
President BidenJoe BidenPutin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting How the infrastructure bill can help close the digital divide Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE on Wednesday asked the intelligence community to “redouble their efforts” to come to a definitive conclusion on the disease's origins, calling on them to report back to him within 90 days.
 
“As part of that report, I have asked for areas of further inquiry that may be required, including specific questions for China,” Biden said in a statement. “I have also asked that this effort include work by our National Labs and other agencies of our government to augment the Intelligence Community’s efforts. And I have asked the Intelligence Community to keep Congress fully apprised of its work.”
 
Top intelligence officials, including Director of National Intelligence Avril HainesAvril HainesLawrence Livermore report finds Wuhan lab leak theory plausible Senate passes bill requiring declassification of information on COVID-19 origins Rubio calls on Wall Street to stop 'enabling Communist China' MORE, acknowledged at a hearing in April that a laboratory accident was a plausible scenario that the intelligence community was investigating.
 
Meanwhile, Anthony FauciAnthony FauciOvernight Health Care: FDA says millions of J&J doses from troubled plant must be thrown out | WHO warns Africa falling far behind in vaccinations | Top CDC official says US not ready for next pandemic Top CDC official warns US not ready for next pandemic WHO official: Delta variant 'poised to take hold' in Europe MORE, the government's leading infectious diseases expert and White House medical adviser, said that many public health experts think "it is more likely this is a natural occurrence, but we don't know 100 percent the answer to that."

"Because we don't know 100 percent what the origin is, it's imperative that we look and we do an investigation," he added.