A government watchdog Tuesday took the next step in its battle to expose Chinese connections to the National Institute of Health (NIH).
“Empower Oversight filed an amended complaint today against the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation for documents related to a request by Chinese researchers to remove genetic sequences related to the SARS-CoV-2 virus from a database controlled by NIH,” that group said in a press release.
The mission of Empower Oversight, a nonprofit, is to promote “independent oversight of government and corporate wrongdoing.”
The group said that the NIH, headed by Dr. Anthony Fauci, slow-rolled the process of providing documents it requested about the deletion of data relating to the Chinese researchers’ work. It also noted that the government organization failed to turn over similar documents requested by several U.S. senators, including Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).
When the statutory deadline passed for the NIH to deliver those documents to Empower Oversight, the group sued. That was back in November.
In response to that lawsuit, the NIH eventually sent 17 pages of documents – far fewer than expected – most of which were heavily redacted.
“The redacted paragraphs almost certainly contain factual information responsive to the senators’ questions that is not legally exempt from FOIA and is being improperly withheld by NIH,” the group said, explaining why it chose to amend its complaint to obtain unredacted versions of the documents.
“With China’s failure to cooperate with investigations into the origins of COVID-19, the public has a right to learn everything it can about the NIH’s decision to delete genetic information at the request of Chinese researchers in the midst of a worldwide pandemic,” said the watchdog group’s Founder and President Jason Foster in the press release. “NIH owes answers to the U.S. Senate and the American public. Empower Oversight will keep working to enforce transparency through FOIA and help ensure that they get it.”
Empower Oversight did not return The Tennessee Star’s request for comment.
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Pete D’Abrosca is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Follow Pete on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].