- Earlier this week, Biden announced a revived push to determine the origins of the coronavirus.
- The 3-month probe was prompted by a mine of unexamined intelligence, according to The New York Times.
- The White House hopes the efforts will press US allies to probe their sources in China.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
President Joe Biden’s Wednesday push for the intelligence community to “redouble their efforts” in determining the origins of the novel coronavirus was prompted by intelligence officials who alerted the White House to a mine of COVID-19 evidence that has still yet to be examined, according to The New York Times.
Though officials did not describe the evidence, they did tell the outlet that they expect to use an “extraordinary amount” of computer power to analyze and ascertain whether the virus originated in a Chinese laboratory leak — a cause that many experts have called “unlikely,” but one that they have also been unable to rule out completely.
The president’s three-month dash to find a conclusive answer is also meant to press US allies and intelligence agencies to reexamine relevant evidence while also pursuing new intelligence that may provide an answer as to whether the Chinese government covered up a leak, The Times reported.
A World Health Organization team conducted a month-long investigation in Wuhan and determined that the “most likely” origin of the virus was a natural jump from bats to people via an intermediary animal host. But the group was unable to definitely prove that possibility, and neither could they definitively disprove a laboratory leak.
Insider’s Aylin Woodward did a comprehensive breakdown of the evidence for each theory.
In his Wednesday announcement, Biden said two intelligence agencies think the virus was most likely naturally occurring, while at least one other believed an accidental lab leak was likely, though he noted neither were certain.
Though Biden reportedly hopes the 90-day study will bolster intelligence contributions from American allies, the effort thus far has proven mostly futile, according to The Times. Officials said it’s unlikely intercepted Chinese communications will yield a text message or email that points toward evidence of a lab leak.
Allied intelligence did, however, find that three researchers at a lab in Wuhan fell sick with COVID-19 symptoms in November 2019, prompting them to seek hospital care. The news, which was reported by The Wall Street Journal earlier this week, was included in a US intelligence report. But experts have stressed that the information does not prove evidence of a lab leak theory as the researchers could have caught the virus elsewhere and brought it into the lab.
The White House is pushing American allies to probe their sources in China for information about what might have happened in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, especially as the US continues to rebuild its own base of informants in the country, according to The Times.
China announced earlier this week that Beijing would not cooperate with any further World Health Organization investigations.
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