That’s, um, news. A suspicious once-in-a-century pandemic erupts next to a Level 4 virology lab in China, and over a year later we haven’t gotten around to looking at all the data? The New York Times gives us today’s confidence-builder:
President Biden’s call for a 90-day sprint to understand the origins of the coronavirus pandemic came after intelligence officials told the White House they had a raft of still-unexamined evidence that required additional computer analysis that might shed light on the mystery, according to senior administration officials.
The officials declined to describe the new evidence. But the revelation that they are hoping to apply an extraordinary amount of computer power to the question of whether the virus accidentally leaked from a Chinese laboratory suggests that the government may not have exhausted its databases of Chinese communications, the movement of lab workers and the pattern of the outbreak of the disease around the city of Wuhan.
In addition to marshaling scientific resources, Mr. Biden’s push is intended to prod American allies and intelligence agencies to mine existing information — like intercepts, witnesses or biological evidence — as well as hunt for new intelligence to determine whether the Chinese government covered up an accidental leak.
Good grief. The pandemic cost over 586,000 American lives over the past 16 months, and did trillions of dollars in economic damage. Businesses were ruined, Americans ended up in lockdowns for months on end, and we still haven’t gotten kids back to school in some areas, potentially setting them and us back on intellectual competitiveness for years.
Shouldn’t this data have been a priority in that light? Not the only priority, of course, but somewhere in the top three, maybe?
The failure to execute on this doesn’t just belong to Joe Biden, of course. Donald Trump was in charge for several months of the pandemic and could have accelerated review of this material, especially after he began to focus on the lab-leak theory himself. But Biden went out of his way to shut down those lines of inquiry at the State Department, apparently while intel agencies had data that could have indicated whether or not it was worth pursuing. And now we find out, just two days after that CNN scoop, that we haven’t bothered to look through the intel we already have on this question.
That’s insane. This pandemic might be a natural zoonotic transfer, but it could also be a lab leak from biological research either with benign intentions or for biological weapons, or even an intentional release. Those are the kinds of questions we expect our intel services to probe as a high national-security priority, and eventually to answer. Hopefully Congress will demand some explanations about why data already in hand about this pandemic went unexamined until the questions about origins of COVID-19 got to be too embarrassing to ignore any longer.