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Congress launches probe of virologist who may have misled lawmakers, intelligence community on COVID lab leak
By JD Heyes // Jul 24, 2023

A virologist currently being investigated by Congress for providing false information regarding the possibility of a laboratory origin of SARS-CoV-2 may have also provided misleading details to the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC).

According to a newly obtained email by U.S. Right to Know, Kristian Andersen, Ph.D., a virologist at the Scripps Institute, provided assurances to officials from various government agencies during a briefing organized by the U.S. Department of State's intelligence analysts in early 2020. In the briefing, Andersen claimed that SARS-CoV-2 had a natural origin.

Since January 2020, Andersen has played a prominent role in discrediting the concept of a laboratory origin for SARS-CoV-2 by labeling it as a conspiracy theory. The briefing, which Andersen participated in, relied on the conclusions presented in a significant letter titled "The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2" published in Nature Medicine, where Andersen served as the lead author.

The letter had a substantial influence on both the scientific community and the general media, the outlet reported.

U.S. Right to Know added:

It spurred hundreds of headlines declaring the idea of an artificial virus emerging from the lab complex in Wuhan implausible, even a conspiracy theory.

The revelation that Andersen advised the intelligence community at a critical moment on the origins of COVID-19 comes on the heels of an Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) summary of certain intelligence related to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a coronavirus lab at the pandemic’s epicenter.

In 2021, Andersen faced public backlash after leaked emails revealed his private expressions of concern regarding a segment of the SARS-CoV-2 genome that appeared potentially engineered. The emails also exposed an emergency confidential call involving Andersen, fellow virologists, and leaders of the National Institutes of Health, who publicly dismissed the possibility of a lab leak hypothesis despite their involvement in funding advanced coronavirus research in Wuhan.

Shortly after that, Andersen actively advocated against the notion that the virus was engineered, referring to it as a "crackpot" idea, during discussions with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, as well as with the White House.

Following these discussions, the White House swiftly concluded a brief initiative to outline the essential data required for investigating the origins of the virus, the report continued.

These revelations have raised concerns that the aforementioned letter was an attempt to suppress dialogue surrounding a scientific hypothesis that carries significant implications: the possibility that the ongoing pandemic originated from a laboratory incident.

The controversy surrounding this topic has been brewing for several years and will reach a climax with a hearing scheduled before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, where Andersen is anticipated to testify.

Andersen plans to tell the committee that his change in position “was not based on a single piece of evidence, but a combination of many factors, including additional data, analyses, learning more about coronaviruses, and discussions with colleagues and collaborators,” according to his prepared testimony.

"Now, new evidence indicates Andersen may have similarly briefed intelligence analysts and influenced the State Department," U.S. Right to Know reported. "In an 'analytic exchange' organized by the State Department’s Intelligence and Research Bureau (INR), officials across U.S. agencies were briefed on the 'proximal origin' letter."

According to some participants, the confidential call was seen as an expensive distraction from a credible hypothesis, especially considering the pressing need for accurate data and the availability of fresh evidence regarding the origins of the virus.

“Officials and experts who could have helped equip their colleagues and the public… understand a novel and grave situation … instead overwhelmingly deflected,” former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Feith said in testimony to Congress earlier this year.

Feith mentioned that the experts emphasized the strong biosafety protocols implemented in Wuhan's laboratories. However, evidence that has emerged in subsequent years has undermined the validity of that assertion.

Sources include:



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