Biden in May ordered aides to work to resolve disputes among intelligence agencies examining rival theories about how the novel coronavirus started, including a once-dismissed theory about the possibility of a laboratory accident in China, as well as that the virus originated naturally with animals, such as bats or birds.
A 90-day intelligence review the president ordered is due on Tuesday, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, with the release of unclassified portions likely to take a few days longer.
Yet three US government officials and a fourth person familiar with the scope of the investigation said they did not expect the review to lead to firm conclusions after China stymied earlier international efforts to gather key information on the ground.
Instead, one official said the report would likely point to additional lines of inquiry that officials could pursue, including demands of China that are likely to further ratchet up tensions with Beijing at a time when the country’s ties with Washington are at their lowest point in decades.
“It’s basically impossible to have a proper investigation if one of the main parties doesn’t want to cooperate,” said Thomas Wright, Brookings Institution senior fellow and co-author of “Aftershocks,” a book about the pandemic with Biden’s Under Secretary of Defense Colin Kahl. “We need to proceed as if both hypotheses are true.”
The report also comes as the U.S. intelligence agencies have come under pressure from within the administration and Congress over issues related to the handling of Afghanistan after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban came faster than many U.S. intelligence, defense and diplomatic analysts predicted.
Covid-19 has killed 4.6 million people worldwide, according to a Reuters tally, but its precise origins remain shrouded in mystery.