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July 6, 2023 COVID News


Top Fauci Aide Under Investigation for Evading FOIA Requests for Emails on COVID Origins

The U.S. House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic is investigating Dr. David M. Morens, a 25-year veteran of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, after it was revealed he used his personal email address to evade Freedom of Information Act requests for communications related to the origins of COVID-19.

david morens nih foia covid feature

Dr. David M. Morens photo credit: National Institutes of Health

A high-ranking official at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) is under congressional investigation after documents revealed that in order to avoid media scrutiny, he sought to evade Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests by using his personal email address and deleting messages from his government email account.

As reported on June 29 by The Intercept, Dr. David M. Morens, a 25-year veteran of the NIAID — which until recently was headed by Dr. Anthony Fauci — interacted by email with prominent scientists, including Peter Daszak, Ph.D., of the EcoHealth Alliance, about controversial topics such as the origins of the COVID-19 virus.

Morens is employed as a senior scientific adviser in NIAID’s office of the director.

The U.S. House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic has since launched an investigation regarding potential violations of federal record-keeping laws by Morens and more broadly at NIAID.

The committee obtained the 47-page set of FOIA documents as part of its investigation into the origins of COVID-19.

According to The Intercept, “Morens and his scientist correspondents denounced media coverage … concerning the origins of COVID and harshly criticized those who take seriously the possibility that the virus emerged from a research accident [lab leak] in Wuhan, China” and argued “in favor of a natural origin for the virus.”

Committee chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) on June 29 sent a letter to Morens stating that the documents “suggest that you may have used your personal e-mail to avoid transparency and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), potentially intentionally deleted federal records, and acted in your official capacity to disparage your fellow scientists, including by encouraging litigation against them.”

The emails raise “serious concerns about your objectivity while stationed in the Office of the Director of NIAID — an agency that obligates billions of dollars annually. The Select Subcommittee has questions about whether you made or influenced any funding decisions based on your personal motives or biases towards scientists,” Wenstrup wrote.

‘What do they have to hide?’

Legal observers, ethics experts and public health experts who reviewed the content of the emails suggested Morens’ conduct may violate agency and federal regulations, as well as civil and criminal record-retention laws.

Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight, told The Intercept, “His comments in that email are certainly worth an investigation by the agency, the agency inspector general, the National Archives and Records Administration, and the Department of Justice.”

Delaney Marsco, senior legal counsel for ethics at the Campaign Legal Center, told The Intercept, “When you evade laws that are meant to make government more transparent and accountable, that is very bad … It is bad for public trust in government. It is bad for agency culture. The ethical implications are bad.”

Caitlin Sutherland, executive director of Americans for Public Trust, told the New York Post:

“This flagrant disregard for record retention rules raises both legal and ethical questions about the lack of transparency from NIH [National Institutes of Health] officials … What do they have to hide? Everyone should be outraged by this casual dismissal of basic rules from a government official.”

NIH is the parent agency of NIAID.

Dr. Meryl Nass, an internist, biological warfare epidemiologist and member of the Children’s Health Defense scientific advisory committee, told The Defender:

“Conducting government business using private email accounts is illegal. What we can probably surmise is that he was not the only person in Fauci’s NIAID who used this practice.

“What other bombshells lie waiting to be discovered in U.S. government officials’ private email accounts? Access to the private emails of NIAID officials might tell us a lot about other gain-of-function experiments that they funded. It might tell us why NIAID was so interested in coronaviruses over the past 25 years.”

Francis Boyle, J.D., Ph.D., a bioweapons expert and professor of international law at the University of Illinois who drafted the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, told The Defender the emails provide evidence of a high-level cover-up.

Boyle said officials like Morens “obviously are all part of the plot to cover up these unsavory origins in order to evade criminal culpability and tortious responsibility for the roles that Fauci and NIAID and Daszak and EcoHealth played in financing and developing COVID-19.”

Rutgers University molecular biologist Richard Ebright, Ph.D., a critic of gain-of-function research who Morens referred to in disparaging terms in an email, told The Defender Morens’ conduct was inappropriate for a public official:

“It is dismaying to have malfeasant, malicious, and malevolent public officials — like Morens — being paid by my taxes. It is even worse to have them making decisions on my NIH grant proposals.

“Morens needs to be terminated for cause.”

Morens did not immediately respond to a request from The Intercept for comment.

‘Tony doesn’t want his fingerprints on origin stories’

According to The Intercept, the scientists Morens emailed include Daszak; Robert Garry, Ph.D., of Tulane University; Edward Holmes, Ph.D., of the University of Sydney in Australia; Kristian Andersen, Ph.D., of Scripps Research; and Angela Rasmussen, who works at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada.

“They have all been outspoken proponents of the natural origin theory of COVID’s emergence,” The Intercept reported. “Jason Gale, a journalist at Bloomberg, also participated in the email exchanges.”

In a September 2021 email to Gale, Daszak and other scientists Morens wrote, “As you know, I try to always communicate on gmail because my NIH email is FOIA’d constantly. Stuff sent to my gmail gets to my phone, but not my NIH computer.”

In the same message, however, Morens said that his Gmail “was hacked, probably by these GoF [gain-of-function] a**holes.”

As a result, he told the recipients of his message, “Don’t worry, just send to any of my addresses and I will delete anything I don’t want to see in the New York Times,” implying that he also wished to evade potential media scrutiny of his emails.

The same email contained a footer stating: “IMPORTANT: For US-government related email, please also reply to my NIAID address.”

In a July 29, 2021, email exchange between Morens and Gale, Morens suggested he received approval from “Tony” — a likely reference to Anthony Fauci — to give an interview regarding the origins of COVID-19.

“Sometimes they are touchy about certain issues and say no,” Morens wrote. “For many months, I have not been approved to talk about the ‘origins’ on the record. But today, to my total surprise, my boss Tony actually ASKED me to speak to the National Geographic on the record about origins.”

“I interpret this to mean that our government is lightening up … but that Tony doesn’t want his fingerprints on origin stories.”

In a Sept. 7, 2021, email to Morens, Daszak wrote, “The lab leakers are already stirring up bull**** lines of attack that will bring more negative publicity our way — which is what this is about — a way to line up the [gain-of-function] attack on Fauci, or the ‘risky research’ attack on all of us.”

“Do not rule out suing these a**holes for slander,” Morens wrote to Daszak in response, referring to journalists who questioned what was, at the time, the prevailing establishment narrative regarding the “natural” or “zoonotic” origins of COVID-19.

As part of that same email exchange, Daszak referred to “one of the ‘journalists’ who got the ‘scoop’” — namely, Mara Hvistendahl, who that month had obtained hundreds of pages of documents from the NIH — about EcoHealth Alliance’s collaboration with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, for a report published in The Intercept.

“We’re spending a huge amount of staff time dealing with the BS from these FoIA requests,” Morens wrote in response.

The exchanges between Morens and journalists like Gale suggested a potentially high level of comfort and amiability between the two. Gale frequently has written about COVID-19 for Bloomberg, including the March 22 article, “Where Are We in Hunting for the COVID Coronavirus’s Origin?

Published less than a month after the U.S. Department of Energy concluded that COVID-19 likely emerged from the Wuhan Institute of Virology and a subsequent congressional vote to declassify documents on the origins of COVID-19, the article argued that theories such as the lab-leak hypothesis are “politically charged” and lack the support of “the full U.S. intelligence community.”

Boyle, responding to the characterizations about gain-of-function critics contained in Morens’ emails, told The Defender:

“Guilty as charged! I have been a ‘GOF a**hole’ since Jan. 24, 2020, when I first alerted the world that COVID-19 is an offensive biological warfare weapon with gain-of-function properties that leaked out of the Wuhan BSL4 [biosafety level 4] laboratory.”

According to Fox News, the Government Accountability Office last month revealed that EcoHealth Alliance provided more than $2 million in subgrants from the NIH and the U.S. Agency for International Development to the Wuhan Institute of Virology between 2014 and 2021.

In another email, Morens expressed sharp criticism of scientists such as Ebright, who have been critical of gain-of-function research, calling them “harmful demagogues” espousing “amateurish, disingenuous bull****” and who “need to be called out” for “knowingly promoting false equivalences [sic].”

In response to such exchanges, Wenstrup wrote in a statement that “fully examining this suspicious and potentially unlawful behavior is a critical step towards accountability and transparency for the American people. Public health officials are not above the law — especially in times of crisis.”

The committee asked Morens to sit for an interview and to provide additional records, including messages from his personal Gmail account and his cellphone.

In March, the committee heard testimony from public health experts, several of whom were highly critical of the government’s response to COVID-19.

And last month, the committee questioned Dr, Rochelle Walensky, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for potential teachers’ union interference in federal guidance on school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic and on her potentially misleading public health messaging during this period.

Boyle told The Defender that such a stance on the part of federal government scientists like Morens has not been victimless. He said:

“1.5 million Americans, and well over 6 million human beings around the world, have died because of these officials’ criminal and tortious activities. We Americans must hold these ‘death scientists’ accountable for this Nuremberg-esque crime against humanity.”

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