President Biden on Monday signed legislation to declassify information related to the origins of COVID-19 after the measure was passed unanimously in Congress.
The House had passed the bill earlier this month, but the White House had been non-committal about whether Biden would sign it into law.
“We need to get to the bottom of COVID-19’s origins to help ensure we can better prevent future pandemics,” Biden said in a statement. “My Administration will continue to review all classified information relating to COVID–19’s origins, including potential links to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
“In implementing this legislation, my Administration will declassify and share as much of that information as possible, consistent with my constitutional authority to protect against the disclosure of information that would harm national security.”
The president noted that he directed intelligence agencies in 2021 to investigate the virus’ origins.
The legislation, titled the COVID-19 Origin Act, was originally sponsored by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). The bill directs the Director of National Intelligence to “declassify any and all information relating to potential links between the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the origin” of COVID-19.
That, according to the measure, includes “activities performed by the Wuhan Institute of Virology with or on behalf of the People’s Liberation Army” and “coronavirus research or other related activities performed at the Wuhan Institute of Virology prior to the outbreak of COVID-19.”
The bill passed the House a short time after reports indicated that the Department of Energy determined a lab leak was the most likely cause of the COVID-19 pandemic, though the White House denied that there was any clear consensus.
“The intelligence community and the rest of the government is still looking at this,” John Kirby, a White House national security spokesperson, said at a press briefing in late February.
Republicans in particular have long held that COVID-19, which has killed more than 1 million Americans since the onset of the pandemic two years ago, began to spread after it leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China.
Some experts and government officials have been more cautious in their language, arguing it is not clear whether the virus originated in a lab or spread from animals to humans.