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COVID-19 Origins: Why State Department’s Testimony to Congress Is Crucial to Finding Answers



Expect more details—and more controversy—coming soon on the Chinese origins of COVID-19 as a House select committee continues its investigation. While many in government in early 2020 immediately began pushing the narrative that the coronavirus came from nature, several scientists and the U.S. State Department had serious doubts and pointed to the large amount of circumstantial evidence that the virus originated in a Chinese lab.

At the first hearing on the origins topic, Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, announced that he was not only inviting Drs. Francis Collins and Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health to testify on the topic but also key personnel of other federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of State.

The key question for Congress and the nation: Did COVID-19 have a natural or a laboratory origin? There is disagreement among scientists; and among U.S. intelligence agencies, no consensus exists.  

But human intelligence at the inception of the outbreak in Wuhan, China, could yet provide vital clues to resolving the mystery. That is why State Department testimony is so important.

Major media has largely overlooked an intriguing fact. In April of 2020, when Fauci and Collins were busy denying the validity of the lab leak theory after “prompting” NIH-funded scientists to craft a March 2020 article to discredit the possible lab origins of COVID-19, one or more State Department officials investigating the issue concluded that the pandemic more than likely originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China.

According to new evidence recently released by the Republican staff of the subcommittee, in February of 2020, certain prominent virologists initially believed that the novel coronavirus originated in a lab. Within a matter of days, however, they abandoned their initial assessment, accepted the idea of a natural (animal) origin of COVID-19, and then quickly drafted an article for Nature Medicine, a prominent peer-reviewed journal, to discredit the notion that the virus was a “laboratory construct.”  

Their paper—“The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2″—was published on March 17, 2020, and became one of the most influential articles in professional literature, bolstering the dominant media narrative that COVID-19 had a “natural” origin.  

Even so, there is evidence of doubt among the authors. Commenting on a draft of the article on February 11, 2020, W. Ian Lipkin of Columbia University, one of the five authors, confided to a colleague:

It’s well-reasoned and provides a plausible argument against genetic engineering. It does not eliminate the possibility of inadvertent release following adaptation through selection in culture at the institute in Wuhan. Given the scale of the bat CoV research pursued there and the site of emergence of the first human cases we have a nightmare of circumstantial evidence to assess.

Independently, State Department personnel took that “nightmare” of circumstantial evidence seriously. According to a remarkable April 2020 State Department memo, “There is no direct, smoking gun evidence to prove that a leak from Wuhan labs caused the pandemic, but there is circumstantial evidence to suggest such is the case.”

The author(s) of the department’s five-page memo further claimed that:

  • “The Wuhan labs remained the most likely yet least probed. All other possible places of [the] virus’s origin have been proven false.”
  • The “first known patient who was diagnosed 12/01[/]2019 was not related to the Wet Market.”
  • “The most logical place to investigate the virus origin has been completely sealed off from outside inquiry by the CCP [Chinese Communist Party]. A gag order to both places was issued on 1/01/2020, and a Major General from the PLA [Peoples’ Liberation Army] took over the WIV [Wuhan Institute of Virology] since early Jan. Of the five possible theories, the WCDC [Wuhan Center for Disease Control] and WIV are most likely yet least investigated. All other proposed theories are likely to be a decoy to prevent inquiry to WCDC and WIV.”
  • “WIV has failed to convince the world of the whereabouts of its former employee Huang Yanling, rumored to be Patient Zero. Huang worked at WIV but she is the only WIV employee who[se] bio, profile and picture have been deleted by WIV, fueling speculation of foul-play. WIV issued vigorous denial about Huang being infected claiming she has left WIV to another unnamed province to work and is currently healthy and fine. But Huang herself has never appeared in public and she has since ‘disappeared.’”

In April 2020, amidst the greatest international medical emergency since the 1918 flu pandemic, officials at the NIH and the State Department should have been communicating with each other and sharing information and assessments. Based on the available email traffic of Collins and Fauci, they were not. Congress should find out why.

Subsequently, on Jan. 15, 2021, the State Department issued a fact sheet that complemented its initial assessment from the previous year. Regarding the first cases of COVID-19 in China, the State Department reported:

The U.S. Government has reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV became sick in Autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both Covid-19 and common seasonal illnesses. This raises questions about the credibility of WIV senior researcher Shi Zhengli’s public claim that there was ‘zero’ infection among WIV’s staff and students of SARS-CoV-2 or SARS-related viruses.

While the U.S. National Intelligence Council is undecided on the origin of the pandemic, it confidently declared, “We judge the virus was not a biological weapon.” In January 2021, however, the State Department memo noted, “Secrecy and non-disclosure are standard practice for Beijing. For many years the United States has publicly raised concerns about China’s past biological weapons work, which Beijing has neither documented nor demonstrably eliminated, despite its clear obligations under the Biological Weapons Convention.”

Concerning the Wuhan lab specifically, the State Department memo declares, “Despite the WIV presenting itself as a civilian institution, the United States has determined that the WIV has collaborated on publications and secret projects with China’s military. The WIV has engaged in classified research, including laboratory animal experiments, on behalf of the Chinese military since at least 2017.”  

Despite the best efforts of top NIH officials and their media allies, the lab leak theory is no longer a debunked “conspiracy” theory. In 2021, allied British intelligence determined that the lab leak theory was “feasible.” And today, analysts at the Department of Energy and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have determined, with varying degrees of confidence, that COVID-19 most likely originated in a lab. These assessments align with the recent congressional testimony of former CDC Director Robert Redfield.  

Breaking with the dominant media narrative, independent journalists have come to the same conclusion. The best initial summary of the circumstantial evidence was outlined by  Nicholas Wade, former science reporter for The New York Times, who concluded in 2021 that the virus was a product of genetic engineering at the Wuhan lab:

It is documented that researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were doing gain-of-function experiments designed to make coronaviruses infect human cells and humanized mice. This is exactly the kind of experiment from which a SARS2-like virus could have emerged. The researchers were not vaccinated against the viruses under study, and they were working in the minimal safety conditions of a BSL2 laboratory. So, the escape of a virus would not be at all surprising. In all of China, the pandemic broke out on the doorstep of the Wuhan Institute. The virus was already well adapted to humans, as expected for a virus grown in humanized mice.

Given Communist China’s refusal to cooperate with international health officials, solving the mystery of COVID-19’s origins is likely to be the work of intelligence agencies. In May of 2021, Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of MI-6, Britain’s famed intelligence service, judged that COVID-19 origins had become an “intelligence issue” and British intelligence should “incentivize” Chinese defectors to uncover the truth.

Members of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic have thus far performed a valuable public service. By summoning the appropriate State Department personnel, they can shed an even brighter light on the source of the most damaging and deadly pandemic in over a century.