Whistleblower Claims CIA Bribed Analysts To Hide COVID Origins

[Kiwiev, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons]

A new whistleblower has come to Republicans in the House claiming to shed light on the inner workings of the intelligence community and its role in covering up the possibility COVID-19 was created in a lab and was accidentally leaked to the public. The whistleblower is a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency veteran and claims that the agency offered essentially bribes to get its analysts to change or hide their findings that COVID-19 likely originated at The Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The whistleblower testified to the House Intelligence Committee.

An unnamed CIA whistleblower has made the dramatic allegation that six analysts there were bribed to reject the theory that COVID-19 resulted from a research-related leak of a new coronavirus, according to a press release today from the office of the Republican leading a congressional investigation into the pandemic. The allegation was strongly rejected in a CIA statement released hours later, according to Science.

A majority of U.S. intelligence agencies has so far concluded that the COVID-19 pandemic mostly likely started when SARS-CoV-2 jumped from an infected animal host into people; a wildlife market in Wuhan, China, has received intense attention from researchers as the potential source. But the Department of Energy and FBI so far have favored the so-called lab-leak hypothesis, even though none of the agencies has expressed high confidence in their conclusions on COVID-19’s origin. CIA, for example, had reportedly said it was “unable to determine” whether SARS-CoV-2 made a direct jump from animals to humans—or came from a lab.

Now, Representative Brad Wenstrup (R–OH), who chairs the House of Representatives’s Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, says his panel and the House’s Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence have heard testimony from a whistleblower “who presents as a highly credible senior-level CIA officer.” According to the press release, the whistleblower testified that only the most senior analyst of a seven-member CIA team investigating the origin of COVID-19 supported the zoonotic transmission theory. The whistleblower alleged the other six team members supporting the lab origin then received “a significant monetary incentive to change their position,” wrote Wenstrup and Representative Mike Turner (R–OH), who chairs the intelligence panel.

In a statement to the magazine, CIA Director of Public Affairs Tammy Kupperman Thorp contested the whistleblower’s account: “At CIA we are committed to the highest standards of analytic rigor, integrity, and objectivity. We do not pay analysts to reach specific conclusions. We take these allegations extremely seriously and are looking into them. We will keep our Congressional oversight committees appropriately informed.”

According to the leaders of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic and Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the whistleblower, described as a “highly credible senior-level CIA officer,” contends that six of the seven CIA analysts that investigated Covid-19’s origins concluded that the virus likely originated from a lab in Wuhan.

Those six were allegedly offered financial incentives to “change their position,” the committee said in a statement.

“According to the whistleblower, at the end of its review, six of the seven members of the team believed the intelligence and science were sufficient to make a low confidence assessment that Covid-19 originated from a laboratory in Wuhan, China,” representatives and committee heads Brad Wenstrup and Mike Turner wrote in a letter to CIA director William Burns.

“The whistleblower further contends that to come to the eventual public determination of uncertainty, the other six members were given a significant monetary incentive to change their position.”

The CIA’s stance about the virus not originating in a lab was often used as a cudgel to attack conservatives who claimed otherwise. 

For example, in an article attacking former CDC chief Robert Redfield for claiming that he believed COVID-19 was created in a lab, The New York Times wrote, “The claims that the virus was created or modified intentionally in a lab were dismissed by scientists and U.S. intelligence officials. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence in the Trump administration concurred “with the wide scientific consensus that the Covid-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified.”

Although that statement was diplomatically worded, the message from the intelligence agencies was clear that, despite pressure from the Trump administration, they had no evidence that the coronavirus had escaped from the lab. And many intelligence officials remained far more skeptical than Mr. Pompeo, telling colleagues there was simply not enough information to say where the coronavirus came from, and certainly not enough to challenge the scientific consensus that was skeptical of the lab theory.

The C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies have been skeptical that China was sharing all that it knew about the virus, although that was at least in part because of local officials withholding critical information from Beijing at key moments at the beginning of the outbreak.”

The notion that COVID-19 spread from a lab was often pilloried as a “far right…virus conspiracy theory.”

A major push to muddy the waters over the lab leak theory may have come from the desire to hide the fact that Dr. Anthony Fauci steered American taxpayer money towards gain-of-function research in Wuhan, a practice that could have made the virus in the lab more deadly. 

New emails revealed through FOIA last week confirmed that “privately Fauci knew the magnitude of the coronavirus research going on at the coronavirus pandemic’s epicenter, even while publicly shrugging off suggestions the pandemic began with a research accident as conspiratorial.

This apparent deception has held back the public’s understanding of the matter and hindered independent investigations into the source of the worst pandemic in a century,” according to one watchdog group. 

Chairmen Wenstrup and Turner are urging the prompt release of all documents and communications pertaining to the CIA’s investigation into the origins of COVID-19 to be provided to the Committees. Furthermore, they are requesting that former CIA Chief Operating Officer Andrew Makridis willingly participate in a recorded interview scheduled for September 26, 2023. Any potential undue influence exercised by the CIA will undergo scrutiny to ensure accountability within the intelligence community.

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