The White House has ordered intelligence agencies to investigate whether China and the World Health Organization covered up the coronavirus outbreak in its initial stages, NBC reported on Wednesday.
The Trump administration has sent a “tasking” order to the National Security Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency, directing the bodies to compile data on the outbreak from communications intercepts, satellite imagery, human sources and other means. The agencies were ordered to determine what the WHO knew about two research labs in Wuhan that study infectious diseases, including coronaviruses.
President Trump has not confirmed the order, but told reporters at a Monday press conference that “we’re doing very serious investigations” into the outbreak’s origins.
“We are not happy with that whole situation, because we believe it could have been stopped at the source, it could have been stopped quickly, and it wouldn’t have spread all over the world,” Trump said.
U.S. intelligence already suspects that China is hiding the extent of its coronavirus outbreak from foreign nations.
While the WHO has stated that the coronavirus originated in a seafood market in Wuhan, the city also is home to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which studies coronaviruses. This fact has led to suspicions that the coronavirus may have leaked from a lab.
Trump announced earlier this month that he would cut U.S. funding to the WHO pending a review of the organization’s handling of the pandemic. Senator Rick Scott (R., Fla.) has called for an investigation into ties between the WHO and China.