Republican senators blasted the National Institutes of Health for asking a court to retroactively seal the names of a Chinese researcher and an agency staffer involved in the deletion of data from its genetic sequencing library, calling the effort an ongoing “cover-up” that “further underscores the agency’s shady efforts to conceal pertinent data” on the origins of COVID-19.
NIH disclosed the pair’s names and actions 19 months ago to fulfill a public records request, also identifying multiple staffers who manage its Sequence Read Archive (SRA) and Chinese researchers who submitted sequences early in the pandemic.
“NIH’s cover-ups align them with the Chinese Communist Party whitewashes,” Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Miss.) told Just the News. The agency has “obstructed investigative efforts at every level” while inconsistently following FOIA requirements, “so I am not surprised that they released a name and are now trying to cover their tracks.”
“Time and again, the NIH has been dishonest about COVID’s origins and gain-of-function research at a Wuhan lab,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) told Just the News. “The American people deserve full transparency on information that could reveal how the pandemic began and who was involved — not more antics from an agency that takes zero accountability for its actions.”
NIH is seeking the dismissal of the FOIA lawsuit by whistleblower support group Empower Oversight, founded by former Senate Judiciary Committee investigator Jason Foster.
While the agency claimed it “conducted searches reasonably calculated to lead to responsive records” and that redactions were lawful “because of the amount of misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and its origins,” it treated two batches of produced emails differently.
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