Mr. Biden instructed national security adviser Jake Sullivan to follow up, which he did in a meeting with intelligence officials in early March. The White House ordered a written assessment from intelligence officials. Delivered to Mr. Biden in May, the assessment showed one intelligence agency leaning toward the hypothesis that the virus leaked out of a lab and two intelligence agencies leaning toward the view that it arose naturally—all with low or moderate confidence. Most agencies said there wasn’t enough evidence to render a judgment.
The National Security Agency, the officials said, will look for clues in its vast stores of intercepted foreign electronic communications, most of which aren’t analyzed in real time. The effort is being aided by experts from government labs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and other parts of the Department of Health and Human Services. Experts outside the government are being consulted, as are allied intelligence agencies.
One outcome, Mr. Biden said in a May statement when he announced the review, could be a list of specific questions that the U.S. would put to China as well as recommendations on what additional inquiries might be needed.
Given the possibility that the intelligence review might be inconclusive, there are already calls by leading lawmakers, some experts outside government and a grass-roots group of people affected by Covid-19 for an independent national commission.
“This is not a major threat that the people of the United States should be worried about.” Dr. Anthony Fauci, January 21, 2020.
“I think you are going to see a dampening down of U.S. cases.” Dr. Anthony Fauci, February 3, 2020.
“In order to get a vaccine that’s practically deployable for people to use, it’s going to be at least a year to a year and a half at best.” Dr. Anthony Fauci, February 26, 2020
“There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask.” Dr. Anthony Fauci, March 8, 2020
Dr. Fauci was informed as early as February 2020 that Covid-19 exhibited unusual viral characteristics that suggested it could have potentially been engineered in a lab, according to emails recently obtained by the Washington Post and BuzzFeed.
Some Republican lawmakers have used the emails to accuse Dr. Fauci of having played down the lab-leak theory.
“Most of the people thought what all of us were thinking at the time—that it was very likely a natural evolution. But we never ruled out the possibility. We were very open about it. It wasn’t like we were trying to hide anything,” he said.
Dr. Fauci said misinformation that has been circulated about the virus, particularly around it being a hoax, has ultimately cost lives, because some people didn’t wear masks or social-distance as a result.
Beijing has a moral and legal obligation to take biosafety seriously, especially given the kind of research going on at WIV. In 2015, WIV’s Dr. Shi Zhengli co-wrote an article titled “A SARS-like Cluster of Circulating Bat Coronaviruses Shows Potential for Human Emergence” in which she admitted that her team had engineered “chimeric” and “hybrid” viruses from horseshoe bats. In a 2019 article titled “Bat Coronavirus in China,” Ms. Shi and her co-authors warned, “It is highly likely that future SARS- or MERS-like coronavirus outbreaks will originate from bats, and there is an increased probability that this will occur in China.” At the time, WIV housed tens of thousands of bat virus samples and experiment animals.
China resisted international monitoring at WIV. The lab was built with French assistance, but China abrogated its promise to allow French scientists to participate in essential research there. China then accredited WIV through its own agency as its only level 4 facility, and the country’s National Health Commission quickly approved it to handle some of the world’s most dangerous viruses. The Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology completed a comprehensive safety and management survey of China’s 75 bioresearch labs in 2016, finding that WIV didn’t even make the top 20 in terms of quality.
The People’s Liberation Army, or PLA, has admitted to developing bioweapons. In 2011 China informed the International Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention Review Conference that its military experts were working on the “creation of man-made pathogens,” “genomics laying the foundation for pathogen transformation,” “population-specific genetic markers,” and “targeted drug-delivery technology making it easier to spread pathogens.” A 2015 PLA study treated the 2003 SARS coronavirus outbreak as a “contemporary genetic weapon” launched by foreign forces. And in January 2021, the State Department confirmed that people had fallen mysteriously ill at WIV in fall 2019, and that WIV conducts secret bioweapons research with the PLA.
The negligence at China’s biolabs, especially WIV, was so dangerous that the PLA dispatched a general to take over the facility soon after the outbreak in Wuhan. Xi Jinping’s first speech on the outbreak highlighted “lessons learned” about “shortcomings” and “leaking holes” in China’s management of biological material and biological-security system. He demanded that “a new biological-security law” be made part of the “national-security system.”