US President Joe Biden on Monday signed a bill that requires declassification of information related to the origins of COVID-19, the White House said, according to the Reuters news agency.
Biden said he shared Congress' goal of releasing as much information as possible about the origin of COVID-19.
"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," Biden said in a statement quoted by Reuters.
The bill sailed through the Senate and House of Representatives without opposition before being sent to the White House.
The law follows media reports which said that the US Department of Energy had “low confidence” that the COVID-19 virus accidentally escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China.
White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said when asked about those reports, “The intelligence community and the rest of the government is still looking at this.”
“There’s not been a definitive conclusion, so it’s difficult for me to say, nor should I feel like I should have to defend press reporting about a possible preliminary indication here,” he continued. “What the president wants is facts. He wants the whole government designed to go get those facts. And that’s what we’re doing, and we’re just not there yet.”
Later, FBI Director Christopher Wray told Fox News in an interview that the COVID-19 pandemic was likely caused by a lab leak in Wuhan.
"The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan," Wray said, adding, "Here you are talking about a potential leak from a Chinese government-controlled lab."
The US began exploring the possibility that COVID-19 spread in a laboratory as early as April 2020, though the intelligence community has noted repeatedly that a lack of cooperation from Beijing has made it difficult to get to the bottom of the question.
A recent World Health Organization (WHO) investigation into the origins of the pandemic was roundly criticized for failure to penetrate into the opaque Chinese system. The delegation sent to China was not granted access to any of the sites or researchers it needed to examine in order to conduct anything even vaguely resembling a genuine inquiry.