Republican senators ask US intelligence chief for evidence behind latest assessment of Covid-19 pandemic origins
Washington (CNN) Eight Republican senators are urging Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to provide them with the raw materials that informed the intelligence community’s latest assessment of the origins of Covid-19, according to a letter they sent to Haines Monday.
“We are writing to request that you promptly submit to Congress any IC assessment that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) uses and relies on for its consensus releases,” the senators wrote to Haines, adding that you Haines by 20. provide them with the requested information.
Earlier this year, Congress received a summary of the findings of the intelligence community’s continued investigation into the origins of Covid-19. But Republican senators — who are now expressing skepticism about the summary report itself — are specifically calling for “the actual individual IC ratings” rather than a summary of what those ratings found.
The request was prompted by a recent low-confidence assessment by the Department of Energy that Covid-19 most likely originated from a laboratory leak in China. The assessment — which corresponds to a moderate confidence finding from the FBI — remains the minority view within the intelligence community but has reignited debate about the origins of the global pandemic.
“DNI Haines currently faces a critical decision – whether to be transparent to Congress and no longer restrict agencies involved in IC assessments from sharing their findings, or continue to hide important details from the American people and their elected officials . There are many questions about the process of ODNI that need to be answered. Was it tainted by outside experts who had conflicts of interest? Why wasn’t Congress updated in real time with new assessments? I will continue to seek the truth for Kansans and all Americans,” Sen. Roger Marshall, a Kansas Republican who signed the letter, said in a statement to CNN.
While Democratic sources familiar with the intelligence community have downplayed the importance of the new DOE rating, Republicans want to use it to delve deeper into the intelligence community and ask questions about the intelligence process to draw conclusions. Biden administration officials and intelligence sources have repeatedly said the conclusions are simply inconclusive, noting the lack of information the Chinese have shared about the origins of the virus.
“Congress should be able to review the independent assessments without filters, ambiguities or interpretations of the information. There is clear bipartisan support in Congress to make these assessments fully available immediately, as evidenced by the Senate’s unanimous passage of COVID-19 on March 1, 2023. 19 Origin Act to release information related to the origin of COVID-19,” the senators wrote.
In addition to Marshall, the senators who signed the letter include Sen. Chuck Grassley, Sen. Joni Ernst, Sen. Rick Scott, Sen. Susan Collins, Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Sen. Roger Wicker and Sen. Mike Braun.
CNN has reached out to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for comment.
Please provide a detailed briefing
Senators are also calling for a detailed briefing from ODNI on the process behind analyzing intergovernmental material on the issue. In particular, they want to know how ODNI synthesized and processed the information, especially material not sourced from the intelligence community, such as information from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They also want to know if each IC rating was given equal weight and how “any differences in analytical judgment were fully accounted for and brought to the attention of the White House.”
As they deal with this investigation, senators allege that when the intelligence agencies were mandated by the White House to conduct a 90-day review in March 2021 to assess the origins of Covid-19, the decision to focus on the intelligence agencies to leave — instead of units across government — “all but eliminated the US government’s ability to openly and openly share assessment findings with meaningful transparency.”
The third set of questions from Senators relates to the credentials and experiences of those involved in the ODNI summary.
“Finally, we are concerned that the ODNI reviewers have not achieved the world-class credentials of scientists and other IC device experts,” the letter reads. “Where ODNI does not provide all individual IC assessments to Congress, it is important for ODNI to provide full descriptions of the qualifications, training, experience, and job titles of each person involved in ODNI’s synthesis of IC assessments to provide full details to include , individuals with interagency staffing agreements, unpaid consultants, federal contractors, and policy appointees.”
A congressional source familiar with the letter stated that the Department of Energy has some of the best scientists in the world and expressed concern about the ability of anyone without those credentials to accurately summarize their findings.
The senators write that the investigation into the origins of the pandemic has been “obscured” by the Chinese communist government’s lack of cooperation.
Government officials have said they agree with this opinion, but they have also said that the US government has no consensus on the origins of the virus.
“What the President wants are facts. He wants the whole government to aim to get those facts. “And if we’re already there and have something that’s ready to be communicated to the American people and to Congress – then we will do it.”
A 2021 report issued by ODNI revealed that the National Intelligence Council, along with four other unidentified agencies, assessed with low confidence that the initial Covid-19 infection “most likely came from natural exposure to an infected animal or a close one.” ancestors was caused virus.”
But Republican senators argue that “ODNI has failed to be transparent with Congress and the American people” about their process for reviewing the various assessments.
“It is time for the administration to declassify the reviews, make the information available to the public, and begin to build public trust through transparency,” they wrote.
The congressional source familiar with the letter echoed those sentiments.
“We have sources who know that what has been presented in these summaries – not only in this but in the larger classified report – that there is reason to question the completeness and objectivity of the representativeness of the information,” said the source.