Administration and intelligence officials say it will be as much the job of scientists as spies to try to figure out how the pandemic started. The Biden administration has worked to improve its scientific expertise within the National Intelligence Council. Senior officials have told spy agencies that their science-based divisions, which have been working on the matter for months, will play a leading role in the revitalized investigation.
The new investigation will also tap national laboratories and other scientific resources in the federal government that previously were not directly involved in the intelligence effort, the senior administration official said.
Mr Biden’s announcement that he would demand a report from the intelligence community had elements of staging. In terms of domestic politics, he’s trying to take the lead on an issue Republicans have long focused on. Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who has long argued that the coronavirus could have accidentally emerged from the Wuhan lab, said Mr Biden’s order was “better late than never, but far from sufficient” .
And internationally, Biden called on China’s reluctance to cooperate in investigations both to pressure Beijing to turn the tide, but also to push its allies to focus their own intelligence efforts on examining the theory that the coronavirus could have accidentally leaked from the lab.
Like scientists and the general public, the intelligence community remains uncertain about the origins of the coronavirus. No definitive information has emerged, and some current and former officials have warned that much more can be gathered in 90 days. While the office of the director of national intelligence will issue a report before the end of the summer, the investigation will most likely have to be extended.
Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Thursday told reporters he had seen no conclusive evidence on the cause of the pandemic, but supported the effort to dig deeper. “The number of deaths, pain and suffering that have been experienced in this pandemic is enormous,” he said. “We have to know the origin, how it happened.”