Biden’s WHO Debacle Highlights Need for More Transparency
Before World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was re-elected without opposition this week at the World Health Assembly, House Freedom Caucus members took the Biden administration to task for not proposing an alternative candidate. What’s worse, as they wrote in their letter, the Biden team is “now attempting to hand him more control.” Tedros first attained the office after heavy lobbying by the Chinese Communist Party, and his ties to China remained strong through the COVID pandemic. The Biden administration has proposed amendments to the World Health Assembly’s international health regulations which would strengthen the Director General’s unilateral authority. So, House Freedom Caucus members demanded the Biden administration “provide the American people with total transparency and respect for our nation’s sovereignty. Under no circumstances should you cede our government’s operational control in a public health emergency to an international body.”
The Biden administration’s problems with transparency stretch beyond their proposed amendments to the World Health Assembly to hamstring American sovereignty on public health affairs; they also can’t seem to tell the whole truth on how the COVID pandemic got started to begin with. Once again, China proves a major player.
Two professors at Columbia University—hardly voices of the fringe right—wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed journal, “no independent and transparent scientific scrutiny to date of the full scope of the U.S.-based evidence” has been performed on the origin of COVID-19. Professors Neil Harrison and Jeffrey Sachs explained, “the relevant U.S.-based evidence would include the following information: laboratory notebooks, virus databases, electronic media (emails, other communications), biological samples, viral sequences … and interviews … together with a full record of U.S. agency involvement in funding the research on SARS-like viruses.” They insist the U.S. intelligence community either has not made their investigation into these materials transparent or has simply “fallen far short of conducting a comprehensive investigation.” Basically, they expect the rest of us to take their word for it, something Americans object to strongly.
Harrison and Sachs lay out the mounds of evidence suggesting someone in the U.S. should have a notion about what happened in Wuhan. The “active and highly collaborative U.S.-China scientific research program” was “funded by the U.S. government,” they wrote, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Did no American officials consider the government could have been bankrolling the research of a Chinese bioweapons program? Other U.S. agents participating include EcoHealth Alliance (EHA), the Universities of North Carolina and of California at Davis, the NIH, and the USAID. These and “other research partners have failed to disclose their activities,” they complained. “The precise nature of the experiments that were conducted … remains unknown.”
“Blanket denials from the NIH are no longer good enough,” Harrison and Sachs continued. “A steady trickle of disquieting information has cast a darkening cloud over the agency.” The NIH “resisted the release of important evidence” and “continued to redact materials released under FOIA [the Freedom of Information Act], including a remarkable 290-page redaction in a recent FOIA release.” Yet FOIA requests and leaked documents have slowly but steadily revealed an unflattering picture, which prompts people to ask, what else are they trying to hide?
Among the most suspicious facts uncovered so far, research proposals “make clear that the EHA-WIV [Wuhan Institute of Virology]-UNC collaboration was involved in the collection of a large number of so-far undocumented SARS-like viruses [of the same type as COVID] and was engaged in their manipulation.” The insertion of a gene sequence found in COVID, but not other known viruses of the same type, “was a specific goal of work proposed by the EHA-WIV-UNC partnership within a 2018 grant proposal.” That proposal was not funded by the agency from whom it was requested, “but we do not know whether some of the proposed work was subsequently carried out in 2018 or 2019, perhaps using another source of funding.” Harrison and Sachs said there was a “very low possibility” of such a gene sequence occurring naturally. Less scientifically, we know that high-level employees like Dr. Anthony Fauci seemed suspiciously eager to direct public scrutiny away from their publicly funded projects in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
“There’s no doubt that greater transparency on the part of Chinese authorities would be enormously helpful,” the paper argued, but that doesn’t get the U.S. government completely off the hook. “We call on U.S. government scientific agencies, most notably the NIH, to support a full, independent, and transparent investigation of the origins of SARS-CoV-2.” From NIH to WHO, the Biden administration could use more transparency all around. If they would start tackling real problems instead of always aiming at the public relations problem, perhaps they could win back the trust of the American people.
Joshua Arnold is a staff writer at The Washington Stand.