Nunes says U.S. intel failed on COVID, demands Biden probe Wuhan lab theory

Key lawmaker divulges there is evidence that U.S. spy agencies may have squelched dissenting opinions about the origins of CVID-19 last year.

Updated: May 17, 2021 - 11:03am

The House Intelligence Committee's top Republican declared Sunday that U.S. intelligence failed to properly investigate the origins of COVID-19, and pleaded with President Biden to launch a whole-of-government review to determine if the deadly virus emanated from a lab accident in China.

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., also disclosed in a letter to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines that there is evidence that U.S. spy agencies may have squelched dissenting opinions when early intelligence suggested the coronavirus had originated in the wild, something that is now in question.

"As Members of Congress responsible for overseeing U.S. intelligence agencies, we believe the IC failed to properly support policymakers with timely products and analysis," Nunes wrote Haines, just days after the Biden intelligence chief acknowledged that a lab accident was one of two prevailing theories about how COVID-19 started in China.

"Further, the IC has not been forthcoming about what processes it undertook to make seemingly authoritative statements early in the pandemic about the origins of the virus—conclusions that are now in question. This casts doubt on the validity of early judgments as well as the analytic integrity of COVID-19-related intelligence reporting.

"Moreover, evidence shows that the IC’s failures continued in the pandemic’s aftermath. Specifically, Republican Members are aware of allegations that the IC suppressed dissenting views related to the origins of the pandemic and that the community relied upon "outside" experts with concerning yet undisclosed entanglements," he added.

In a separate letter, Nunes asked Biden to launch a full-scale review to better determine how the pandemic started, saying there is stronger evidence than ever of a possible accident at the Wuhan Institute for Virulogy (WIV).

"We write to request that you initiate a whole-of-government effort to identify the origins of the virus and to direct federal agencies and departments to examine all plausible scenarios as part of such investigation," Nunes wrote the president. "During the course of our investigation, which is ongoing, we have identified substantial circumstantial evidence supporting the theory that a laboratory leak could have been responsible for the origination of COVID-19.

"It is critical that this possibility be thoroughly examined, particularly in light of the Chinese government’s obstruction of multilateral bio-forensic investigations and its destruction of important evidence," he added.

The letters come as top Biden administration officials have acknowledged in recent weeks that a Chinese lab leak -- something Democrats and world health leaders disputed last year -- could be responsible for the pandemic.

Nunes' letter asks Haines to address more than two dozen questions, including whether:

  • There is any intelligence "concerning collaboration between the WIV and the Chinese military."
  • Spy agencies have "any evidence, circumstantial or otherwise, that COVID-19 occurred naturally and spilled over directly from an intermediate host to humans in the fall of 2019?"
  • China has complied with Article X of the Biological Weapons Convention.
  • U.S. intelligence is aware of "collaboration between the WIV and its related entities or scientists and foreign scientists" or produced any threat assessments about such possible collaborations.
  • The WIV collaborated with any U.S. government entities or persons, including any potential ties to the Chinese military.
  • U.S. intelligence conducted "any interagency reviews concerning the appropriateness of U.S. government funding of research conducted at the WIV and its related facilities."