Did U.S. government officials help finance the creation of COVID-19? And if they did, can the American taxpayers ever hope to hold them accountable? There is still a lot we don’t know about where COVID-19 came from, but what we have learned about the administrative state’s apparent efforts to avoid accountability for their own involvement should frighten every American.
On April 18, 2020, EcoHealth Alliance President Peter Daszak sent an email to National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci thanking him for dismissing the possibility that the COVID-19 virus came from a Chinese government run lab in Wuhan, China.
“I just wanted to say a personal thank you on behalf of our staff and collaborators, for publicly standing up and stating that the scientific evidence supports a natural origin for COVID-19 from a bat-to-human spillover, not a lab release from the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” Mr. Daszak wrote to Dr. Fauci referring to statements Dr. Fauci made during a nationally televised press conference just hours earlier.
This email was not Mr. Daszak’s first effort to cover up any links between “gain of function” research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the emergence of COVID-19. Thanks to other emails recently obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, we now know that Mr. Daszak appears to be the ringleader behind a February 2020 statement published in The Lancet medical journal. That statement, signed by 27 scientists from around the world, “strongly” condemned “conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.” It was signed by Mr. Daszak himself, concluding, “We declare no competing interests.”
We now know that nothing could be further from the truth.
It appears that not only had Mr. Daszak received $3.7 million from Dr. Fauci’s own NIAID for gain of function related research, but EcoHealth Alliance was pulling in close to $15 million a year from a broad array of federal agencies including the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Having spent over a decade within the vast Department of the Interior, I can assure you it is virtually certain that no government employee who approved any grant for EcoHealth Alliance wants to be viewed as helping to unleash COVID-19 on all of mankind. As Hudson Institute senior Fellow David Asher quickly learned when he was tasked with finding the true origins of COVID-19 “there is a huge gain-of-function bureaucracy” inside the federal government.
While there is plenty of strong evidence suggesting that COVID-19 did come from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, we may never get a definitive answer because the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) actively covered up the Wuhan Institute of Virology involvement from the beginning.
Unfortunately, the United States government’s possible role in financing the creation of COVID-19 is far from the lone example of unelected bureaucrats potentially unwittingly collaborating with progressive non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to use the American people’s tax dollars for horrific purposes.
For example, during my time as secretary of the Department of the Interior, we reviewed and investigated tens of millions of federal dollars allocated to NGOs like the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) for conservation efforts in Africa and Asia. We conducted the investigation after learning of allegations raised that grant funding had been used to support violations of human rights of indigenous people. The WWF yes, the organization with the cuddly panda logo had allegedly spent millions of taxpayer dollars on “armed guards, rangers and enforcement” that may have ended up torturing and killing people who lived near wildlife preserves in Cameroon and other areas.
We refused to provide any additional funds where the agency could not ensure future human rights violations would not occur, but in doing so, we faced strong resistance from the career employees at the Interior Department, the NGO’s and their Congressional allies every step of the way. As we explained at the time, “[t]hese allegations raise questions about both the adequacy of the controls in place to effectively and transparently monitor the use of U.S. taxpayer resources.”
Simply put, our federal government has had an accountability problem with grant funding for decades, and the continued growth of government has only added a new dimension to this problem.
It is hard enough to hold people accountable for domestic funding decisions they make at, say the Environmental Protection Agency or the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
But what kind of accountability can American citizens really hope to have over Health and Human Services grants funneled through NGOs spread throughout the entire planet? Truthfully, very little.
Now is the time for members of Congress and the American people to fundamentally reevaluate whether we as a nation want to continue to funnel Americans’ hard-earned money out of this country in ways that simply cannot ensure that greater good rather than harm will be done.
• David Bernhardt serves as director of the Center for American Freedom at the America First Policy Institute. He previously served as the 53rd secretary of the Department of the Interior.