On Wednesday, Lawrence Tabak, the acting director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), confirmed during congressional testimony that officials at the NIH deliberately withheld crucial information about early genomic sequences of the COVID-19 virus on the orders of Chinese scientists.
As reported by the New York Post, Tabak told the House Appropriations subcommittee that the agency “eliminated from public view” all the data from the location of the virus’s origin, Wuhan, while adding that researchers can still access the information through a “tape drive.”
When asked by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) why the NIH would take orders from the Chinese, Tabek responded by admitting that “there’s no question that the communication that we had about the sequence archive — Sequence Read Archive — could have been improved. I freely admit that,”
“If I may, the archive never deleted the sequence, it just did not make it available for interrogation,” Tabek added.”
“So wait, you have the information still?” Beutler then asked.
“We have the information,” Tabek responded. “Anybody who submits to the Sequence Read Archive is allowed to ask for it to be removed. And that investigator did do that. But we never erase it.”
The congresswoman followed up with another question confirming that the information was never fully erased, but instead hidden from public view, which Tabek confirmed.
Vanity Fair initially reported that the information in question could have ultimately determined whether or not the virus was formed naturally, or if it originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV); this debate remains highly contentious in the United States and around the world, although other evidence seems to point to the WIV as the more likely origin of the virus that has since spread across the globe.