FOIA Update
April 29, 2024

WASHINGTON – Since 2021, Empower Oversight has been seeking records related to COVID-19 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to shed light on what the NIH knew about the American taxpayer-paid research done at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in China. NIH resisted transparency and delayed releasing document on the research, the subsequent spread of the disease, the role of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and failures to properly oversee EcoHealth Alliance.

Empower Oversight has now released document that the NIH recently produced on the grant to WIV through EcoHealth Alliance pursuant to Empower Oversight’s Jan. 5, 2022 and Feb. 6, 2023. FOIA requests.

The most recent documents received by NIH can be found here and here.

The documents released pursuant to the Jan. 2022 request are related to the EcoHealth Alliance’s compliance with NIH regulations regarding WIV.

The documents pursuant to the Feb. 2023 request show communications regarding the EcoHealth Alliance grant and any communications between Dr. Anthony Fauci and Peter Daszak of EcoHealth Alliance in the middle of 2019, around when an enhanced growth notification should have been made to the federal government from EcoHealth Alliance.

Daszak will be appearing before Congress on Wednesday, May 1, to address EcoHealth Alliance’s relationship with WIV, as well as the discrepancies between his previous closed-door transcript and information reviewed by the committees.

Of note in the heavily redacted, 600-plus pages:

  • In a 2021 investigation, The Intercept reported that NIH documents showed the EcoHealth Alliance reported in 2019 that their sub-grantees at the Wuhan Institute of Virology created dangerous chimeric MERS viruses. This was year 5 of the EcoHealth Alliance grant titled “Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence.” In a letter to Congress, the NIH said these experiments were conducted during the 2018 – 2019 grant period. However, the documents received by Empower Oversight show a 2016 letter to the NIH in which Daszak proposed the same research for year 3 of the grant. This means the research may have been conducted during a time in which the White House had placed a pause on such research, which was not lifted until 2017. In congressional briefings, NIH Deputy Director Larry Tabak claimed the risky virus research happened in year 5 of the Ecohealth Alliance grant.
  • The NIH sought to contain the fallout of revelations regarding its funding for EcoHealth Alliance. The day before The Intercept published its investigation, NIH officials began sharing “flip cards” for Anthony Fauci that contained a timeline of EcoHealth Alliance grants and talking points he could use responding to op-eds in the Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times.

When The Intercept published its investigation, emails show the NIH scrambled to prepare a reactive statement for the media and Congress as well as an approved Q&A so NIH officials could address the press.

  • NIH carefully coordinated with EcoHealth Alliance on communications regarding the grant renewal, including help from NIH to edit the NIH grant database, and reviewing Daszak’s press statement.

Empower Oversight continues to probe the NIH for communications regarding the controversial grant money to EcoHealth Alliance. In March 2023, Empower Oversight filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS-OIG – pdf) calling for documents that may provide background on the agency’s failure to enforce proper procedures to review the COVID-19 research conducted by EcoHealth Alliance that was funded by grants from the NIH and the NIAID.

Empower Oversight work on the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic since also includes releasing a COVID-19 origins timeline in September 2021. In January 2022, Empower Oversight sent a letter to Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt regarding that state’s civil suit against China and its Community Party, along with the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Chinese Academy of Sciences for their roles in the global pandemic.

In August 2021, Empower Oversight sent Members of Congress a briefing document outlining congressional authorities to investigate the origins of the pandemic and urging them to put partisan differences aside for the sake of more Americans killed by the virus.

If you have first-hand information you’d like to disclose to assist Empower Oversight with these inquiries, please contact us confidentially here.