PPT Forced to Sue for Records of “Dangerous” Virus Research Involving the Wuhan Lab, EcoHealth, and Interior Department
- February 10, 2023
Despite media reports evidencing the relationship, DOI component refuses to provide information
Today, ethics watchdog Protect the Public’s Trust (PPT) announced a lawsuit against the Department of the Interior (DOI) for unlawfully withholding documents related to a DOI component’s involvement with research by the Wuhan Institute of Virology and EcoHealth Alliance (EHA). Public documents and published reports provide evidence of a connection between officials and actions of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) at DOI and the controversial researcher led by Peter Daszak that has been accused of conducting risky research at the Chinese lab that some believe could be linked to the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Media reports disclosed that Wuhan scientists as well as the USGS National Wildlife Health Center were listed as partners on a funding proposal EHA submitted to the U.S. government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). According to one report, the proposal showed that EHA “collaborated” with the Wuhan Institute of Virology to “carry out advanced and dangerous human pathogenicity Bat Coronavirus research.” The March 24, 2018, proposal listed among the subcontractors Dr. Tonie Rocke, a USGS National Wildlife Health center employee, stating, “USGS National Wildlife Health Center will optimize delivery of immune modulating biologicals, building on her vaccine delivery work in wildlife, including bats.”
On August 19, 2021, based upon open-source and whistleblower information, PPT submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records pertaining to grants by the USGS potentially provided to the Wuhan laboratory. A month later, USGS sent PPT a final determination that it had “no records,” which the watchdog immediately appealed.
In February 2022, PPT submitted a subsequent request to USGS seeking information about funding or resources, including personnel, provided to EHA or its president, Peter Daszak, and other records related to USGS’s possible involvement in EHA research. Despite the clear evidence of participation between USGS, EHA, and the Wuhan Institute of Virology, USGS has put PPT through more than 400 days of playing the waiting game with FOIA officers.
“It’s understandable that USGS would want to hide any involvement in research with the Wuhan Lab and EcoHealth Alliance,” stated Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust. “But an apparent desire to avoid accountability is not a legitimate justification for denying a valid request for information. In fact, it is under precisely these circumstances when the public interest in obtaining records may be most acute. Providing the records to expose what, if any, role USGS played in this research is a good start to beginning to restore the American public’s waning trust.”