NLPC Seeks NIAID Documents Regarding Wuhan Lab and Pandemic

Today, the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), a nonprofit public interest organization, filed a Freedom of Information Request (FOIA) with the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectiousness Diseases (NIAID) at NIH seeking all documents in its possession and that of Director, Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., regarding grants of $3.7 million first given in 2015 to the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China or through grants given to EcoHealth Alliance to experiment with bats and coronaviruses.

The FOIA request noted the Trump Administration recently terminated all funding to EcoHealth which was initiated during the Obama Administration.

“It is outrageous that U.S. taxpayers have been funding millions of dollars to the Wuhan, China laboratory, which had a history of safety problems since January 2018 that may have led to the release of the novel coronavirus causing a worldwide pandemic.” said Peter Flaherty, Chair of NLPC. The request also seeks documents related to the coverup by China for not fully and timely disclosing the novel coronavirus as well as the World Health Organization, which was complicit by praising China for its delayed disclosure and cooperation.

“The documents subject to the FOIA request will shed light on the timeline of NIAID’s knowledge of the existence and spreading of the coronavirus from China, WHO, the State Department and other agencies,” said Paul Kamenar, counsel for NLPC who drafted and filed the request. Here is the FOIA text:

April 28, 2020

National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Re: FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT REQUEST OF THE NATIONAL LEGAL AND POLICY CENTER- RE: NIAID GRANTS TO WUHAN INSTITUTE OF VIROLOGY REGARDING CORONAVIRUS EXPERIMENTS AND RELATED RECORDS

Dear Ms. Schofield:

            Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 USC 552, et seq. and Health and Human Services (HHS) FOIA regulations, 45 C.F.R. Part 5, the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) hereby requests the release of the following records: any and all grants and funding given by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in Wuhan, China or through other grantees including EcoHealth Alliance from 2014 to the present, including a $3.7 million grant given on or about 2015, for coronavirus experiments including those on mammals and bats, and all documents related to those grants, including but not limited to applications for the grants, studies, reports, audits, lab inspections, correspondence, memoranda, cables, and all emails to or from Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., the Director of NIAID related to the, including the recent decision by the Trump Administration to terminate such funding.[1]  

NLPC also requests all documents, including memoranda, correspondence, and emails, to or from Dr. Fauci from December 1, 2019 to the present from or to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, EcoHealth Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Deborah H. Birx, M.D., U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy-Department of State, or any employee of those agencies including NIAID, that refer to the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the epicenter of the coronavirus and its outbreak in Wuhan, China, and the coverup by China and WHO for failing to fully and timely disclose information on the extent of the novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China that led to a worldwide pandemic.

NLPC. Founded in 1991, NLPC is a non-profit public interest organization based in the Washington, D.C. area and promotes ethics in public life and government accountability through research, investigation, education and legal action. See www.nlpc.org.  NLPC has filed other FOIA requests and lawsuits on other matters of public interest as well as complaints with the Federal Election Commission and Congressional Ethics Committees for violations of election law and ethics rules as part of its Government Integrity Project

Of particular relevance to this FOIA request, NLPC has disseminated commentary and analysis on its website about Chinese Communist officials falsely accusing the United States as being the source of patient zero and spreading its propaganda via Twitter and social media. Twitter Should Remove the ChiComs for Lying About Coronavirus

NLPC also has taken action to oppose China’s crackdown on free speech and human rights in Hong Kong by organizing public protests against China. NBA Asked to Embrace Hong Kong Protests; Warriors-Wizards Game Scene of Pro-Freedom Demonstrations

NLPC is also bringing a spotlight on U.S. corporations doing business in China.  See, e.g., Amnesty International Joins Criticism of Apple CEO Tim Cook on China https://nlpc.org/2018/03/26/amnesty-international-joins-criticism-apple-ceo-tim-cook-china/

Wuhan Institute for Virology

The Wuhan Institute for Virology is suspected as being the source of the novel coronavirus as a result of experiments on mammals, including bats. See Epoch Times, Tracking Down the Origin of the Wuhan Coronavirus (Documentary, April 7. 2020)

Questions were raised as early as two years ago about the safety conditions of the WIV:

Two years before the novel coronavirus pandemic upended the world, U.S. Embassy officials visited a Chinese research facility in the city of Wuhan several times and sent two official warnings back to Washington about inadequate safety at the lab, which was conducting risky studies on coronaviruses from bats. The cables have fueled discussions inside the U.S. government about whether this or another Wuhan lab was the source of the virus — even though conclusive proof has yet to emerge.

In January 2018, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing took the unusual step of repeatedly sending U.S. science diplomats to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), which had in 2015 become China’s first laboratory to achieve the highest level of international bioresearch safety (known as BSL-4). WIV issued a news release in English about the last of these visits, which occurred on March 27, 2018. The U.S. delegation was led by Jamison Fouss, the consul general in Wuhan, and Rick Switzer, the embassy’s counselor of environment, science, technology and health. Last week, WIV erased that statement from its website, though it remains archived on the Internet.

Washington Post, State Department cables warned of safety issues at Wuhan lab studying bat coronaviruses (Apr. 14, 2020)

China Coronavirus Coverup

The epicenter of the novel coronavirus was Wuhan, China. When it became clear to Communist China leaders that they were facing a pandemic on or about January 13, 2020, they delayed warning the public for at least six crucial days and allowed mass gatherings, which allowed the virus to spread further.  As reported by the Associated Press:

In the six days after top Chinese officials secretly determined they likely were facing a pandemic from a new coronavirus, the city of Wuhan at the epicenter of the disease hosted a mass banquet for tens of thousands of people; millions began traveling through for Lunar New Year celebrations.

President Xi Jinping warned the public on the seventh day, Jan. 20. But by that time, more than 3,000 people had been infected during almost a week of public silence, according to internal documents obtained by The Associated Press and expert estimates based on retrospective infection data.

Associated Press, China didn’t warn public of likely pandemic for 6 key days (Apr. 15, 2020)  https://apnews.com/68a9e1b91de4ffc166acd6012d82c2f9

As bad as this coverup was, the World Health Organization was complicit with China for failing to take heed to earlier warnings about a dangerous novel coronavirus:

Beijing informed the WHO about pneumonia of unknown cause on Dec. 31, and by Jan. 4, the agency was publicly praising China for “responding proactively and rapidly to the current incident in Wuhan.” Yet even at that early stage, the WHO was ignoring warnings that the coronavirus was much more dangerous than Chinese officials admitted.

By the time China contacted the WHO, the coronavirus had already been spreading within the country since at least mid-November, something Beijing has still failed to disclose. The situation was so serious that Taiwan also notified the WHO about the coronavirus in late December.

Taiwan—which China has blocked from cooperating with the WHO—flagged the reality of human-to-human transmission occurring, meaning the virus had the potential to infect huge numbers of people. China had already reached the same conclusion, yet destroyed the evidence instead of reporting it.

The WHO completely ignored the Taiwanese warning, choosing to trust Beijing instead. On Jan. 14, the agency repeated the Chinese assertion that there was no “clear evidence of human-to-human transmission.” It maintained this position until after Jan. 20, when Chinese authorities finally acknowledged that the coronavirus was spreading between humans. Had the WHO acted earlier, the coronavirus could potentially have been contained in China.

The Federalist, Marion Smith, Timeline Proves WHO Helped China Make COVID-19 Pandemic Worse (Apr. 15, 2020)

Despite this clear evidence, Chinese officials spread propaganda that U.S. Army started the virus in the United States.  New York Times, China Spins Tale That the U.S. Army Started the Coronavirus Epidemic (March 13, 2020)

The documents requested by NLPC will shed light on the information that was available to NIAID and its Director about the novel coronavirus and the safety conditions of the Wuhan Institute of Virology..

Waiver of Fees

NLPC hereby requests a waiver of search and duplication fees for processing this FOIA request. Pursuant to 45 C.F.R. 5.54:

(a) Requesters may seek a waiver of fees by submitting a written application demonstrating how disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.

(b) We must furnish records responsive to a request without charge or at a reduced rate when we determine, based on all available information, that the following three factors are satisfied:

(1) Disclosure of the requested information would shed light on the operations or activities of the government. The subject of the request must concern identifiable operations or activities of the Federal Government with a connection that is direct and clear, not remote or attenuated.

(2) Disclosure of the requested information would be likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of those operations or activities. This factor is satisfied when the following criteria are met:

(i) Disclosure of the requested records must be meaningfully informative about government operations or activities. The disclosure of information that already is in the public domain, in either the same or a substantially identical form, would not be meaningfully informative if nothing new would be added to the public’s understanding.

(ii) The disclosure must contribute to the understanding of a reasonably broad audience of persons interested in the subject, as opposed to the individual understanding of the requester. A requester’s expertise in the subject area as well as the requester’s ability and intention to effectively convey information to the public must be considered. We will presume that a representative of the news media will satisfy this consideration.

(3) The disclosure must not be primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.

NLPC satisfies the three requirements to have any fees waived. 

First, the documents requested are clearly in the public interest and will “shed light on the operations or activities of the government” with a “connection that is direct and clear, not remote or attenuated” concerning the information the government had regarding the novel coronavirus.  45 C.F.R. 5.54(b)(1).

Second, the disclosure of the documents “would be likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of those operations or activities” because they are “meaningfully informative about government operation or activities.” 45 C.F.R. 5.54(b)(2). The public will better understand when, how and what information the NIAID received regarding the novel coronavirus and the operation of the WIV.  In addition, there can be no question that the information requested and distributed by NLPC will “contribute to the understanding of a reasonably broad audience of persons interested in the subject.”  NLPC intends to “convey the information to the public” and has the means to do so through its website and press releases.

Third, NLPC is not a commercial enterprise but a nonprofit public interest organization that will make public the results of this FOIA.

We look forward to NIAID promptly processing this FOIA request and providing us with a response within 20 business days.

If you have questions regarding this request, please contact the undersigned by email at [email protected] or by cell phone at 301-257-9435..

Sincerely yours,

/s/ Paul D. Kamenar

Paul D. Kamenar

Counsel for NLPC


[1] Politico, Trump cuts U.S. research on bat-human virus transmission over China ties (Apr. 27, 2020)   https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/27/trump-cuts-research-bat-human-virus-china-213076