New whistleblower testimony to Congress alleges the Central Intelligence Agency bribed six officers investigating the origins of COVID-19 with hush money to bury their conclusion that the virus likely originated from a Chinese lab.
U.S. House lawmakers on the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic and Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence said on Tuesday that an anonymous “highly credible senior-level CIA” official alleged that six members with “significant scientific expertise” in the federal agency tasked with investigating the roots of SARS-CoV-2 found that the virus likely originated in a Wuhan laboratory.
“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,” House panel chairmen reps. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) and Mike Turner (R-OH) wrote.
But after the officers concluded their findings, the CIA whistleblower claims the intelligence agency offered financial incentives to six of the seven experts involved in the investigation to change their narrative on the virus, according to a letter sent Tuesday to CIA Director William Burns.
“The seventh member of the Team, who also happened to be the most senior, was the lone officer to believe COVID-19 originated through zoonosis,” the letter continued. “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 committee sent a separate letter to former CIA chief operating officer Andrew Markridis, requesting that he participate in a “voluntary transcribed interview” on September 26, 2023. According to the whistleblower, Markridis “played a central role” in the formation and conclusion of the COVID investigation.
Markridis retired from the agency in 2022 after concluding his agency’s response to COVID.
Lawmakers also set a deadline on the same day for the CIA to turn over all records regarding the establishment of the COVID Discovery Teams, pay history that includes the awarding of any financial or performance-based incentive/financial bonuses, and all communications from those teams with all members of federal government agencies, including the FBI, State Department, Health and Human Services, Energy Department.
The Department of Energy and the FBI were among the first federal agencies earlier this year to assess with moderate confidence that the pandemic’s origins were most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence declassified a long-awaited report in June about potential links between the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the origins of COVID. The report found that three lab workers who became ill in 2019 could not be directly linked the source of the pandemic as their symptoms were “consistent with but not diagnostic of COVID-19.”
“The I.C. has no information, however, indicating that any [Wuhan Institute of Virology] genetic engineering work has involved SARS-CoV-2, a close progenitor, or a backbone virus that is closely related enough to have been the source of the pandemic,” the report said.
But Former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe testified before Congress in April that “a lab leak is the only explanation credibly supported by our intelligence, by science, and by common sense.”
“If our intelligence and evidence supporting a lab leak was placed side by side with our intelligence and evidence pointing to a natural origins or spillover theory, the lab leak side of the ledger would be long, convincing, even overwhelming — while the spillover side would be nearly empty and tenuous,” added Ratcliffe.