“In the way it was originally eliminated from public view, it was ‘withdrawn.’ And that’s the most difficult for people to access. The error that was made—and we found this out after a review of all of our processes—is, it should have been ‘suppressed,’” Dr. Lawrence Tabak, the acting NIH director, told members of Congress during a hearing in Washington.
Sequences that are withdrawn are kept, but only on a tape drive. In contrast, information that is suppressed can still be accessed by its identifying number, “and so researchers are still able to access that information,” Tabak said.
The doctor did not share more details about the error and the NIH did not respond to a request for comment.
The sequencing data was submitted to the Sequence Read Archive, a database managed by the NIH, in early 2020. The data showed sequences of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus. Also known as SARS-CoV-2, the virus causes COVID-19.
About three months after it was posted, the same researcher who submitted the data asked for it to be “retracted,” according to emails obtained by a nonprofit called Empower Oversight. The NIH agreed to take the information offline.
When the information was withdrawn, it could not be accessed by researchers or other members of the public. When it was changed to a suppressed status at a later time, researchers who knew its identifying number could view it.
Empower Oversight President Jason Foster told The Epoch Times that the way the data was handled effectively deleted it.
“NIH documents released with Empower Oversight’s report demonstrate that the sequencing data was deleted from public view by the NIH at the request of the Wuhan researcher,” he said.
In giving out the emails to the nonprofit and other organizations, the NIH redacted the name of the Chinese researcher who submitted and requested the retraction. Internal emails suggest it was Ming Wang, who works at the Hospital of Wuhan University and later included some of the data in a paper published by Small.
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