WASHINGTON – 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 body of unexamined evidence that required additional computer analysis that did that Solving puzzles could be given to senior administrative officials.
The officers declined to describe the new evidence. The discovery that they are hoping to use an extraordinary amount of computing power on the question of whether the virus accidentally leaked a Chinese lab suggests the government may be keeping its databases on Chinese communications, lab technician movement, and the pattern Has not exhausted the outbreak of the disease around the city of Wuhan.
In addition to gathering scientific resources, Biden's foray is designed to encourage American allies and intelligence agencies to dismantle existing information – such as wiretapping, witnesses, or biological evidence – and look for new information to determine if the Chinese government has covered up an accident leak.
Mr Biden committed Thursday to release the results of the review, but added a caveat: "Unless there's something I don't know about."
His call for study has both national and international policy implications. This led its critics to argue that the president rejected the possibility that the laboratory was the origin until the Chinese government refused this week to allow further research by the World Health Organization. And government officials said the White House hopes the American allies will do more vigorously in the serious exploration of a theory they previously believed unlikely at best and a conspiracy at worst.
So far, efforts to obtain evidence from intercepted communications within China, a notoriously difficult target to penetrate, have done little. Current and former intelligence officials have strong doubts that anyone will find an email, text message, or document containing evidence of a laboratory accident.
An allied nation leaked information that three workers in Wuhan's virology lab were hospitalized in the fall of 2019 with severe flulike symptoms. The information about the sick workers is considered important, but officials warned that it wasn't evidence that they caught the virus in the lab – maybe they brought it there.
The White House hopes that allies and partners can use their human resource networks to get additional information about what happened in the lab. While the United States has rebuilt its own wells in China, it did not fully recover from the removal of its network within the country a decade ago. As a result, having allies inform their informants about what is going on at the Wuhan Institute of Virology will be an integral part of the intelligence community.
The investigation has not reached an impasse, said a senior Biden administration official. The officers would not describe the type of computer analysis they would like to perform.
Administration and intelligence officials say it will be the job of scientists as well as spies to try to figure out how the pandemic started. The Biden administration has worked to improve its scientific expertise in the National Intelligence Council. Senior officials have told spy agencies that their science-based departments, which have been working on the issue for months, will play a prominent role in the revitalized investigation.
The new investigation will also tap into the federal government's national laboratories and other scientific resources that were not previously directly involved in the intelligence effort, the chief administrative officer said.
Mr Biden's announcement that he would need a report from the intelligence community had elements of the ostentation. On domestic politics, he's trying to take the initiative on an issue that Republicans have long focused on. Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, who has long argued the coronavirus might have accidentally emerged from the Wuhan lab, said Mr. Biden's order was "better late than never, but far from appropriate".
Internationally, Mr Biden urged Chinese discontent to work together on investigations to pressure Beijing to reverse course and to urge allies to focus their own intelligence efforts on investigating the theory that the coronavirus may have accidentally escaped from the Laboratory has leaked.
Like scientists and the general public, the intelligence community remains uncertain about the origin of the coronavirus. No final information has been released and some current and former officials have expressed caution that much more may be collected in 90 days. While the office of the director of the National Intelligence Service will issue a report before the end of the summer, the investigation will most likely need to be extended.
On Thursday, General Mark A. Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, told reporters that he had not seen conclusive evidence of the cause of the pandemic but supported efforts to look deeper. "The amount of death, pain and suffering that has occurred in this pandemic is enormous," he said. "We have to know the origin of how that happened."
Efforts to uncover the origins of the coronavirus began more than a year ago during the Trump administration. However, some officials were concerned about President Donald J. Trump's motives, arguing that his interest in the origins of the pandemic was either to divert the guilt away from his administration's treatment or to punish China.
Current officials say the key objective of the new intelligence push is to improve preparedness for future pandemics. As a result, Mr. Biden's message was calibrated this week to leave open the possibility of future cooperation with China.
White House frustration with China has increased after it was announced this week that Beijing would not participate in additional World Health Organization investigations. A Biden government official said that if the new investigation did not provide an answer, it would be because China was not transparent.
The government is not trying to isolate China, however, but is trying to draw a careful line between pressuring Beijing to cooperate and showing that in its absence the United States will step up its own investigation.
Administration officials also believe that China's new investigation and obstruction to the World Health Organization will create the opportunity for enhanced intelligence cooperation with allies.
Allies have been providing information since the pandemic began, an official said. But some, including UK intelligence, were skeptical of the laboratory leak theory. Others, including Australia, were more open to it.
As members of the so-called Five Eyes Partnership, Great Britain and Australia already largely share information with the United States. However, the new intelligence review and growing frustration over China's lack of cooperation with the World Health Organization could lead allies to focus more on the issue of the lab leak.
A British official declined to comment. A request for comment from the Australian government was not immediately returned.
In his announcement on Wednesday, Mr Biden said two intelligence agencies believed the virus was most likely naturally occurring, while at least one advocated the theory that it accidentally leaked from a laboratory in China. The president stated that no one had great faith in their assessments.
In a statement Thursday, Amanda J. Schoch, spokeswoman for the office of the director of the National Intelligence Service, said the intelligence services had partnered on the two likely scenarios, but there have not yet been any highly trustworthy assessments of the virus's origin.
"The US secret services do not know exactly where, when or how the Covid-19 virus was originally transmitted," said Ms. Schoch.
While 18 agencies make up the intelligence community, only a handful were key players in assessing the likely origins of the virus. Most of the broader intelligence community, including the C.I.A. and the Defense Intelligence Agency believe that there is not yet enough information to draw a conclusion about origin even with little confidence.
The intelligence community "continues to review all available evidence, consider different perspectives, and aggressively collect and analyze new information to identify the origin of the virus," Ms. Schoch said.
Eric Schmitt contributed to the reporting.