3 Federal Agencies Hit With Lawsuits in Ongoing Quest to Uncover Origins of COVID


from Childrens Health Defense:

U.S. Right to Know last week filed three new Freedom of Information Act lawsuits against federal agencies as part of an ongoing effort to uncover what is known about the origins of COVID-19, leaks or mishaps at biosafety labs and the risks of gain-of-function research.

U.S. Right to Know (USRTK) last week filed three new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits against federal agencies as part of an ongoing effort to uncover what is known about the origins of COVID-19, leaks or mishaps at biosafety labs and the risks of gain-of-function research.

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The nonprofit investigative public health group has filed more than 90 state, federal and international public records requests since July 2020, seeking information related to the origins of SARS-CoV-2.

The group filed the three new lawsuits after federal agencies failed to respond to several FOIA requests, instead withholding documents and information that potentially shed light on the origins of COVID-19 and related issues.

“The public and global scientific community have a right to know what data exists about these matters,” USRTK said.

HHS, DARPA, National Library of Medicine targets of latest lawsuits

USRTK filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the National Library of Medicine (NLM) after they ignored USRTK’s request, submitted in June, for information about Basic Local Alignment Search Tool (BLAST) inquiries made before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Researchers commonly use BLAST to compare potentially new genetic sequences to a database of known sequences. The lawsuit seeks to uncover whether anyone was using BLAST to align a nucleic acid or amino acid sequence identical to parts of the SARS-CoV-2 genome before the pandemic.

USRTK Executive Director Gary Ruskin explained the significance of this investigation in a tweet:

In response to the original FOIA request, the NLM told USRTK it had “no responsive records,” but didn’t provide details about how it looked into the issue. NLM ignored USRTK’s appeal with follow-up questions, which led to the lawsuit.

USRTK filed another lawsuit against the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) when it didn’t respond to two FOIA requests from October 2020 and March 2021.

The first request sought records about funding contracts, grant agreements and communications about funding DARPA provided to Duke University in 2017, as part of DARPA’s Pandemic Prevention Platform program.

The funding granted to the Duke Human Vaccine Institute, housed in the Duke Regional Biocontainment Laboratory, provided $12.8 million over 30 months to develop a system capable of halting viral pandemics within 60 days.

The second FOIA request sought contracts, grants and communication pertaining to eight contracts funded by DARPA’s PREventing EMerging Pathogenic Threats program to develop technology to surveil and model viral pathogens in animals and insects with the potential for human spillover.

USRTK filed a third lawsuit against HHS and the NLM for ignoring an August 2022 FOIA asking the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to release all early SARS-CoV-2 sequences or SARS-like sequences that might be suppressed or withheld from public view.

The investigative nonprofit filed the FOIA request after researchers found NIH had deleted SARS-CoV-2 sequences from its databases.

In 2021, Jesse Bloom, Ph.D., an evolutionary biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, uncovered 13 sequences from early in the Wuhan outbreak that were deleted from the NIH Sequence Read Archive at the submitter’s request.

USRTK also reported that in July 2022, the NIH released 163 spike protein sequences from SARS-like coronaviruses originally submitted in 2018. Ten days later those sequences were removed from public view.

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