House Republicans are investigating a claim from a CIA officer that agency leadership offered hush money to members of the CIA team investigating the COVID pandemic to get them to shift their position on the origins of the virus, the Washington Examiner reported.
The CIA officer-turned-whistleblower alleges that six of the seven members of the CIA’s COVID Discovery Team initially concluded that the virus originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology but were paid to change their conclusion to the zoonotic origin theory.
Chairman Brad Wenstrup of the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Pandemic and House Intel Committee Chair Mike Turner sent letters to CIA Director Bill Burns and former Chief Operating Office Andrew Makridis saying that the whistleblower is a current “senior-level” officer with decades at the agency and the information comes from a “seemingly reliable source.”
The Republican chairmen have asked both Burns and Makridis to agree to voluntary interviews by September 26 and are requesting all payment histories, including bonuses, given to members of the COVID Discovery Team.
The CIA confirmed to ABC News last week that it is “looking into” the accusations but said its analysts are not paid to arrive at “specific conclusions.”
In a statement to ABC News, CIA spokeswoman Tammy Kupperman Thorp said while the agency is committed to the “highest standards” in its analysis, it is taking the allegations “extremely seriously.” She said the CIA would look into the claims and keep the committees “appropriately informed.”
The whistleblower claims came as a surprise to Democrats on the two committees.
In a statement to ABC News, a spokesperson for Intel Committee Democrats said neither the ranking member nor Democrat staff were informed about the allegations before the letters were sent to Director Burns and former COO Makridis.
Similarly, a spokesperson for the Democrats on the COVID select committee said they were not given prior notice of the existence of the CIA whistleblower, “let alone testimony.”