Empower Oversight: NIH Can’t Evade Truth on COVID Data Deletion

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  • Source: UncoverDC
  • 09/19/2023

On July 14, 2021, Empower Oversight filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) seeking answers on why—at the request of China's Wuhan University—the agency deleted crucial information about the SARS-CoV-2 gene sequencing in June 2020. After failing to sufficiently meet Empower Oversight's FOIA deadline, the NIH improperly withheld information gathered in response to critical questions from Senate lawmakers seeking answers on why the agency deleted the sequencing data. Here we are now, a year later, and the NIH has made clear it has no intention of cooperating further, arguing the FOIA doesn't require a perfect search but "only a reasonable one."

On June 10, 2022, insisting it provided all the information it could, the NIH filed a motion for summary judgment, seeking to evade forever providing full transparency on why it deleted the data. The filing is in response to an ongoing lawsuit by Empower Oversight, which was initiated in November 2021, four months after the NIH failed to respond to its FOIA request. Since then, Empower Oversight has filed an amended complaint, challenging the improper redactions of information in answers drafted but never transmitted to Senate lawmakers Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.).


On July 11, 2022, opposed to the NIH's ongoing effort to keep secrets, Empower Oversight—a nonpartisan organization dedicated to enhancing independent oversight of government and corporate wrongdoing—filed its opposition to the summary judgment. Without question, a transparent explanation from the NIH for the deletions is crucial because the in-depth sequencing data may help understand how the pandemic began and because the deletions were made at the request of Chinese researchers. In a press release summarizing its latest action, Jason Foster, Founder and President of Empower Oversight, stated:

"The NIH has flouted deadlines and ignored its legal obligations to be transparent with Congress and the public. The agency gathered answers to the Senators' specific factual question but did not transmit them, and then it blacked-out entire paragraphs rather than disclose the information pursuant to our FOIA request."

As previously reported by UncoverDC, Empower Oversight's FOIA request followed a June 22, 2021, article written by virologist Jesse Bloom. The article revealed that the agency responsible for inflicting draconian pandemic restrictions on the American population had quietly deleted information about COVID-19 genetic sequencing from its Sequence Read Archive (SRA) database. The deletions are in stark contrast to the SRA's stated policy of scientific openness and collaboration. Indeed, with the mistrust surrounding the origins of COVID-19 (think "gain-of-function" and EcoHealth Alliance as two examples), the deletions are especially troubling. Thus, it can't be overstated that legitimate justification from the NIH for the deletions is imperative.


Empower Oversight's Incredible COVID-19 Origins Timeline

Resolute in obtaining answers, Empower Oversight has methodically focused on the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. In September 2021, it released a compelling COVID-19 origins timeline. According to the timeline, the first SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) viruses leaked from labs several times in 1977, including at least twice from the National Institute of Virology in Beijing. The timeline highlights the 1977 leaks, their potential to cause a pandemic, and vaccine research, quoting articles by The New York Times and Nature Medicine, who separately wrote:

"Scientists think it had been frozen for years in a lab, and it actually was sensitive to temperature, which happens to viruses used in vaccine research.

In 2004, virologist Peter Palese wrote that a virologist from the Chinese Academy of Sciences told him that "the introduction of this 1977 H1N1 virus" was thought to be caused by vaccine trials that involved "the challenge of several thousand military recruits with live H1N1 virus."

"For the first time, science itself seemed to have caused a pandemic while trying to prepare for it."

With the prediction of dire consequences, the timeline notes that in February 2005, two professors published an essay in the Boston Globe warning against the expansion of U.S. bioweapons labs. The esteemed professors (one was a 1985 Nobel Peace Prize recipient) cautioned that the U.S. was heading in the opposite direction of securing the nation against the threat of biological weapons. Instead, they wrote the country was on a path toward "a U.S. secret research program on offensive bio-weapons." Elaborating on the Boston Globe article, the Empower Oversight timeline explains, "the Pentagon has stated that its goal is to develop genetically engineered biological weapons in order to discover defenses against them. These inevitably will have offensive capabilities." In 1969, President Nixon renounced biological weapons and scrapped the U.S. research program on the grounds that "mankind already carries in its hands too many of the seeds of its own destruction." Six years later, the Biological Weapons Convention was passed."

While this article barely scratches the surface, a thorough scan through Empower Oversight's detailed timeline leading up to (and following) China's December 13, 2019, initial notice to the WHO of "cases of pneumonia of unknown etiology" is like reading the script for a science fiction movie. Yet, shockingly, it is the reality we are living. The incredible timeline paints a powerful picture of how we got to where we are today and leaves little doubt that past pandemic preparedness strategies and bioweapons research involving China, U.S. government agencies, and other strategic partners have played a pivotal role. And then—accident or not—the coverup began.

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