Unanimous Senate to Biden: Declassify the intel report on COVID lab-leak probe

Not that Joe Biden has much choice after the last few days of walk-backs and exposures. Nevertheless, the Senate unanimously approved a bill that demands that any intelligence report on the lab-leak origin hypothesis for COVID-19 be made fully public.

It still has to pass the House, but the point has been made nonetheless:

The Senate has unanimously approved a measure requiring the federal government to declassify intelligence on the origins of COVID-19.

The bill, offered by Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), was passed late Wednesday evening by unanimous consent, a method which expedites proceedings if no present member of the Senate objects.

The rare moment of bipartisan agreement came one day after President Biden ordered US spy agencies to do a 90-day investigation into whether COVID-19 was released by a Chinese lab. …

Should the measure also pass the House and be signed by Biden into law, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence would be given 90 days to declassify “any and all information relating to potential links between the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the origin of the coronavirus disease.”

One measure of how this has accelerated in recent days: the bill has been floating around the Senate for more than a month. Until yesterday, its prospects appeared rather dim, at least until CNN reported that the Biden administration torpedoed a State Department probe of the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Within hours, as outrage erupted, Biden ordered the US intel community to dig deeply into the WIV and China’s role in obfuscating the origins of the pandemic. As Allahpundit noted yesterday, giving this task to the intel community underscores the futility of going through normal scientific channels, as China has locked down any reliable resources for such an inquiry.

The House could refuse to pass the bill, and/or Biden could refuse to sign it if it comes to him. It’s perhaps possible that Biden could claim this bill as an infringement on executive authority and either veto the bill or just ignore it. The unanimous nature of the Senate vote would make that politically fraught, however, especially in light of the earlier White House effort to stop Mike Pompeo’s investigation. China may already be covering up the origins of COVID-19; does Biden want to make his administration an accessory to that? What would it gain him?

For that reason, Biden would probably have declassified the conclusions of this report either way, while protecting sources and methods. If the intel community concludes that this was a zoonotic transfer, then there won’t be a confrontation with China. If the report concludes that it was a laboratory leak, either accidental or purposeful, then Biden gets a chance to get tough with China, and would be joined by countries that have good reason to ally in that cause now. If they can’t reach a conclusion in 90 days — which seems like the most likely outcome — then we’re left with the status quo.

For the moment, Biden gets to punt this controversy for three months, which helps him dial down the spike in controversy. It also gives China ninety days to find ways to be more cooperative elsewhere to buffer the reaction from an adverse report. A strategic-thinking president would make good use of this breathing room, but … this isn’t a strategic-thinking president. Adjust expectations accordingly.

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