The Daily Caller News Foundation filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Monday.
The filing specifically seeks any communications of National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci with World Health Organization (WHO) officials as well as any of Fauci’s communications concerning the WHO’s handling of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“This virus has killed hundreds of thousands of people and turned the whole world upside down,” Daily Caller News Foundation Co-Founder and President Neil Patel said in a press release.
Patel insisted that the press has “a legitimate and urgent news purpose for seeking these documents regarding U.S. officials’ communications with WHO.” He demanded “that the agencies in question stop stalling and start following the law that entitles us to this vital information.”
In addition to the request targeting Fauci, the Daily Caller is seeking similar records from NIAID Deputy Director H. Clifford Lane “concerning the novel coronavirus.”
The lawsuit comes on the heels of a prior FOIA request submitted on April 1 of this year seeking any such responsive records from HHS and the National Institute of Health (NIH).
“Specifically, the [Daily Caller] requested emails, memoranda, reports, and other correspondence between the two doctors and World Health Organization officials as well as emails, memoranda, reports and other correspondence of the two doctors concerning WHO, WHO official Bruce Aylward, WHO Director General Tedros Anhanom, and China,” the lawsuit notes.
The Daily Caller is not asking for an exhaustive accounting of Fauci’s and Lane’s communications with the WHO, however, the FOIA request cites the three months spanning January 1, 2020 through April 1, 2020 as the responsive time period.
The initial FOIA request was acknowledged by the agency, but in line with the federal government’s serial inattention to such requests, has not responded within the statutorily mandated deadline.
“By letter dated April 1, 2020, NIH acknowledged receiving The [Daily Caller’s] FOIA request and informed The [Daily Caller] that it had assigned the request FOIA Case Number 53853,” the lawsuit continues, “NIH also informed The [Daily Caller] that it had granted The [Daily Caller’s] request for expediated [sic] processing.”
Under the current FOIA statute, federal agencies are required to respond to expedited FOIA requests “within 10 days after the date of the request.” The Daily Caller’s lawsuit notes that this timeline tolled on April 11 and claims that, to date, the relevant agencies have failed to abide by their duties under the federal transparency law.
“As of the date of this Complaint, NIH has failed to: (i) produce the requested records or demonstrate that the requested records are lawfully exempt from production; (ii) notify Plaintiff of the scope of any responsive records NIH intends to produce or withhold and the reasons for any withholdings; or (iii) inform Plaintiff that it may appeal any adequately specific, adverse determinations,” the lawsuit alleges.
The conservative online publication founded by Tucker Carlson is being represented by the conservative government accountability watchdog organization Judicial Watch.
In a statement, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton blasted the NIH for its apparent failure to abide by mandatory oversight laws.
“It is urgent that the NIH follow transparency law during the coronavirus crisis,” Fitton said. “It is of significant public interest to learn what WHO was telling our top medical officials about the coronavirus that originated in China.”
Read the full FOIA lawsuit below:
[image via Alex Wong/Getty Images]
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