In another example of partisanship, Democrats and Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee released separate reports on COVID-19. The committee’s work is supposed to be nonpartisan, but the dueling reports highlight what each party has expressed concern about. For Democrats, their concerns are intelligence collection and how the Trump administration handled it. For Republicans, it’s COVID-19’s origins and the lab leak theory.
There are a few key takeaways from both reports. Democrats note the intelligence community’s focus on health security and pandemic warning was “inconsistent at best” before COVID-19. It found the intelligence community today is still not properly positioned to collect information regarding global health security or biological threats.
To fix this, the committee recommends a dedicated global health security center in the office of the director of national intelligence, investments in open source intelligence and better collaboration between the intelligence community and public health agencies.
The Democrat’s report pushed back on claims from the Trump administration that the intelligence community didn’t see far enough ahead. The report found they provided “increasingly dire” assessments of a looming pandemic in late January and early February of 2020, well before President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency on March 13, 2020.
As per the lab leak theory, the Democrat’s report said they don’t have intelligence to reach a definitive conclusion.
“But while we do not know whether the virus was the result of a lab accident or natural transmission, one thing is clear — a future pandemic could result from either phenomenon and we need to prepare against both,” the report states.
The Republican report states the scientific community largely accepts that its feasible COVID-19 may have emerged from a lab-related event involving Chinese scientists experimenting with coronaviruses. They point to a world health organization advisory group and a publication in the medical journal “The Lancet” that states it’s a possibility.
They said the intelligence community downplayed the possibility of COVID-19 being connected to a Chinese bioweapons program because of input from outside experts who have conflicts of interest due to grant funding and professional entanglements.
There’s one important place where the reports converge, the intelligence community did not provide all the requested intel.
“The IC continues to obstruct the Committee’s oversight by engaging in a pattern of refusing to provide information,” The Republican report states.
Republicans said they will work to release more information when they take the majority. They contend some information remains classified that would not harm national security if it was made public.