FOIA Update
August 12, 2022

WASHINGTON — At a hearing today in Empower Oversight’s lawsuit against the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a judge in the Eastern District of Virginia ordered the agency to provide unredacted copies of certain documents in order to determine whether information was improperly redacted and should be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The judge’s order was issued in connection with NIH’s motion for summary judgment, which Empower Oversight contests.

By Monday, the NIH must provide to the court unredacted versions of the exhibits cited by Empower Oversight. In the lawsuit, Empower Oversight is seeking information on the NIH’s deletion of COVID-19 genetic data at the request of a Chinese researcher.

Efforts by Empower Oversight to probe deletion of COVID-19 data by the NIH have been ongoing for more than a year, with the initial FOIA request filed in July 2021, and the lawsuit filed in November 2021.

Empower Oversight amended its lawsuit in March to challenge improper redactions of answers to questions posed by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.).

Earlier this year, Empower Oversight released the latest iteration of its COVID Origins Timeline, a crowdsourced research document that tracks virus research and how the pandemic unfolded, and this was delivered to all Members of Congress.

Additionally, the judge has left in place, for now, a magistrate’s order issued last month that Empower Oversight argued had erroneously sealed information that was already available to the public, namely the name of a Chinese researcher, which NIH had previously disclosed in other litigation and was referenced in an article cited in the NIH’s own filings.

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