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WASHINGTON, D.C. (LifeSiteNews) – The acting director of the embattled National Institutes of Health (NIH) admitted to Congress on May 11 that the federal government restricted the availability of early genomic sequences of COVID-19, information that could help settle the origins of the virus, at the request of scientists from Communist China.

The New York Post reported that Lawrence Tabak admitted to a House Appropriations subcommittee that the data had been “eliminated from public view” at the Chinese scientists’ request, confirming a Vanity Fair report from March, though he stressed that the information was not destroyed but merely not “available for interrogation.”

“So wait, you have the information still?” Republican U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington asked.

“Anybody who submits to the Sequence Read Archive is allowed to ask for it to be removed,” Tabak answered. “And that investigator did do that. But we never erase it.”

Beutler followed up by asking if researchers could “apply to the NIH and get the information from you?”

“In the way that it was originally eliminated from public view, it was withdrawn, and that’s the most difficult for people to access,” Tabak explained. “The error that was made, and we found this out after a review of all of our processes, was it should have been suppressed. The distinction being that if it’s withdrawn, it is kept archivally on a tape drive — old technology, but that’s how it’s done. But when it is withdrawn, it can still be accessed by accession number, and so researchers are able to access that information.”

The genomic sequences of early strains of COVID-19 could help determine whether the virus leaked from a Chinese lab, a theory that was initially dismissed and condemned as misinformation by the political and media establishments, but finally began to receive mainstream acknowledgment in mid-2021.

In February 2020, Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the London-based Wellcome Trust, emailed National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases (NIAID) director Dr. Anthony Fauci and former NIH director Dr. Francis Collins to posit rapid evolution in a low-security lab, “accidentally creat[ing] a virus primed for rapid transmission between humans,” as a “likely explanation” for COVID’s origin. Top researchers privately acknowledged the theory was “likely,” but feared publicly admitting as much would undermine “science and international harmony.”

Since those emails, further evidence has emerged supporting the lab leak theory, as well as implicating the U.S. government. Last May, Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee released a report finding “significant circumstantial evidence” that COVID spread from a leak at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). “The U.S. Government must also provide a full accounting of any American cooperation with the Wuhan lab’s coronavirus research, including the support of these projects through U.S. Government funds,” the report declared.

As for NIH, this latest revelation follows a string of controversies in which the agency undermined public health, scientific inquiry, and medical ethics for the sake of left-wing ideology, from its support of research using aborted fetal cells and surgical and chemical “transitioning” of children, to its leaders’ attempts to discredit respected epidemiologists for their since-vindicated opposition to COVID lockdowns. Most recently, it was reported that NIH received $134 million in verified royalties from third parties such as drug companies between 2009 and 2014, with hundreds of millions more estimated to be unrevealed.