We Need a Commission on Virus Origins

President Biden did a dramatic, public 180 this week on looking into the origins of the Coronavirus that has killed close to 600,000 Americans to date.  With growing public interest in recent news reports that this disease likely escaped a high-risk laboratory in Wuhan, China, notorious for "gain of function" research to make bat viruses more transmissible and lethal to humans, Biden as late as Tuesday continued to punt this mystery to the World Health Organization to solve.  The next day, Biden reversed course, announcing a new 90-day review of intelligence on this important question, and committed to releasing the findings publicly at its conclusion.

Setting aside that Biden is incredibly late to the party on this central issue, his commitment to reviewing the intelligence on the origins of the Coronavirus is not nearly enough given his Administration's weak record on that very question over the past four months.

In April, Biden confessed that he has yet to ask Chinese President Xi Jinping to explain the origins of the virus.  Biden's 200-page strategic plan on the virus, released in January, does not even mention China or the source of the pathogen. Further, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan did not raise questions on the virus's genesis in two days of meetings with their Chinese Communist Party counterparts in Anchorage, Alaska, last March. Instead, they let Chinese diplomats lecture them on America's record on race relations and alleged human-rights violations.  

This comes on top of reports that Biden's State Department shut down an in-depth investigation started late last year by Secretary Mike Pompeo into the origins of the virus.  Just before he left office, a fact sheet described the investigation's initial findings, noting that, "For more than a year, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has systematically prevented a transparent and thorough investigation of the COVID-19 pandemic's origin, choosing instead to devote enormous resources to deceit and disinformation." It concluded, "Any credible investigation into the origin of COVID-19 demands complete, transparent access to the research labs in Wuhan, including their facilities, samples, personnel, and records." Shutting down such an important investigation does not exactly signal a desire by Biden to push for that transparency. 

What's more, when asked Thursday whether he would commit to releasing the full report of the intelligence community's review after 90 days, Biden demurred, saying he would, "unless there's something I'm unaware of."  

Given this record, leaving the critical question of the virus origins to Team Biden will not cut it.  We need Congress right away to approve an independent, bipartisan commission along the lines of the 9-11 Commission to answer that critical question to the satisfaction of all Americans. There is no more urgent priority -- al-Qaeda killed 2,977 Americans in the devastating attacks on September 11, 2001, and to date, the Coronavirus has killed over 593,000 Americans, and over 3.5 million worldwide.  The monumental impact of this virus demands an independent process to determine, with all the information we can uncover, the best possible conclusion to where and how it was unleashed on our country and the rest of the world. Recommended CBS News' Interview with Climate Scientist Exposes the Whole Ruse Matt Vespa

If a commission determines that the Wuhan virus likely was released from a Chinese Communist Party lab instead of transferred from bats to humans, this will have untold implications on China's relations and future trade with the world community.  These could include possible legal liability for the deaths of millions, and calls to shut down relations and future trade between China and the rest of the world.  It could even topple the Chinese government. 

The intelligence community overseen by Biden's National Security Council simply cannot leave a question that impactful to an additional 90-day review.  It demands an independent, bipartisan commission at least as much as did the attacks on 9-11. Congress has begun to push for such a step, and it should follow through and set up an independent Coronavirus Commission when it returns after Memorial Day.

John Ullyot was Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and NSC Spokesman from 2019-2021.
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