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Judicial Watch Sues HHS for Records on Preparation for and Response to Covid-19 Pandemic

(Washington, DC)Judicial Watch announced today it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for records from the Assistant Secretary for the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) regarding after action reports, review of procedures, or studies concerning the preparation for and response to the Covid-19 pandemic (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (No. 1:24-cv-01352)).

Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit after HHS failed to comply with an August 19, 2022, FOIA request for:

Records and/or communications of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, Department of Health and Human Services, that refer to and/or document any after action reports, lessons learned, after action reviews, review of procedures, analysis, studies, [or] “hot washes,” concerning preparing and/or responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In January 2022, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its report titled “COVID-19: HHS and DOD Transitioned Vaccine Responsibilities to HHS, but Need to Address Outstanding Issues,” which included “Recommendations for Executive Action” such as:

In July 2022, HHS stated that as it conducts after-action reviews and gathers lessons learned, it aims to include key stakeholders including, but not limited to federal partners, manufacturers, and others as appropriate. In January 2024, HHS provided an update on its lessons learned activities, noting that it had completed its efforts to obtain and incorporate input from these stakeholders. We reviewed the documentation and in February 2024, requested additional specificity on how HHS conducted the lessons learned effort and with which agencies they coordinated. As of April 2024, we have not yet received HHS’s response.

 In May 2022, DOD stated that it is supportive of gathering and documenting lessons learned. It further stated that HHS, as the sole successor organization to the CAG, should assume responsibility to obtain and incorporate additional inputs from key external stakeholders. In April 2024, DOD stated that it does not plan to take action in response to the recommendation. We recognize HHS’s role, and agree that it should take lead responsibility for obtaining and incorporating input from external stakeholders. We further recognize the critical role that DOD played as part of the CAG and the important functions that several of its component agencies provided, such as acquisition support. As such, we continue to believe that DOD’s coordination on obtaining and incorporating lessons learned will be an integral aspect of HHS’s efforts. We will continue to monitor this recommendation until HHS conducts any further lessons learned outreach to external stakeholders, including the extent to which it coordinates with DOD in doing so. As of April 2024, we have not yet received HHS’s clarifying information on its efforts to conduct lessons learned.

“The Fauci-led federal response to the pandemic was panicked, political, and harmed the lives and liberties of Americans,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “This new lawsuit aims to get the bottom of this disaster.”

Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuits and investigations have uncovered much of what the public knows about many Covid-19 controversies:

  • In April 2024, Judicial Watch uncovered FBI records that showed an April 2020 email exchange with several officials in the bureau’s Newark Field Office referring to Dr. Anthony Fauci’s National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) grant to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in China as including “gain-of-function research” which “would leave no signature of purposeful human manipulation.”
  • Emails between U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and top Facebook executives in 2021 regarding the censorship of user posts about Covid controversies showed Facebook leadership seeking to “better understand the scope of what the White House expects from us on misinformation going forward.”
  • Records from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) showed that a Pfizer study surveyed 23 people in 2021 to gauge reactions to its Covid vaccine booster before asking the FDA to approve it.
  • Records from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) included the initial grant application and annual reports to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from EcoHealth Alliance, describing the aim of its work with the Wuhan Institute of Virology to create mutant viruses “to better predict the capacity of our CoVs [coronaviruses] to infect people.”
  • HHS records included emails of then-Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Francis Collins showing a British physicians’ group recommended the use of Ivermectin to prevent and treat Covid-19.
  • Heavily redacted HHS records showed that just two days prior to FDA approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine a discussion was held between U.S. and UK health regulators regarding the Covid shot and “anaphylaxis,” with the regulators emphasizing their “mutual confidentiality agreement.”
  • Judicial Watch obtained HHS records regarding data Moderna submitted to the FDA on its mRNA Covid-19 vaccine, which indicated a “statistically significant” number of rats were born with skeletal deformations after their mothers were injected with the vaccine. The documents also revealed Moderna elected not to conduct a number of standard pharmacological studies on the laboratory test animals.
  • Heavily redacted records from the FDA regarding the Covid-19 booster vaccine detailed pressure on Covid booster use and approval.
  • HHS records detailed internal discussions about myocarditis and the Covid vaccine. Other documents detailed adverse “events for which a contributory effect of the vaccine could not be excluded.”
  • Judicial Watch uncovered HHS records detailing the extensive media plans for a Biden administration propaganda campaign to push the Covid-19 vaccine.
  • HHS records revealed previously redacted locations of Covid-19 vaccine testing facilities in Shanghai, China. The FDA had claimed the name and location of the testing facilities were protected by the confidential commercial information exemption of the FOIA.
  • NIH records showed an FBI “inquiry” into the NIH’s controversial bat coronavirus grant tied to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The records also showed National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) officials were concerned about “gain-of-function” research in China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology in 2016. The Fauci agency was also concerned about EcoHealth Alliance’s lack of compliance with reporting rules and use of gain-of-function research in the NIH-funded research involving bat coronaviruses in Wuhan, China.
  • Texas Public Information Act (PIA) records showed the former director of the Galveston National Laboratory at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), Dr. James W. Le Duc, warned Chinese researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology of potential investigations into the Covid issue by Congress.
  • HHS records regarding biodistribution studies and related data for the Covid-19 vaccines showed how a key component of the vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNTech, lipid nanoparticles (LNPs), were found outside the injection site, mainly the liver, adrenal glands, spleen and ovaries of test animals, eight to 48 hours after injection.
  • Records obtained from HHS through a FOIA lawsuit related to hydroxychloroquine and Covid-19 revealed that a grant to EcoHealth Alliance was cancelled because of press reports that a portion of the grant was given to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
  • HHS records revealed that from 2014 to 2019, $826,277 was given to the Wuhan Institute of Virology for bat coronavirus research by the NIAID.
  • NIAID records showed that it gave nine China-related grants to EcoHealth Alliance to research coronavirus emergence in bats and was the NIH’s top issuer of grants to the Wuhan lab itself. The records also included an email from the vice director of the Wuhan Lab asking an NIH official for help finding disinfectants for decontamination of airtight suits and indoor surfaces.
  • HHS records included an “urgent for Dr. Fauci” email chain, citing ties between the Wuhan lab and the taxpayer-funded EcoHealth Alliance. The government emails also reported that the foundation of U.S. billionaire Bill Gates worked closely with the Chinese government to pave the way for Chinese-produced medications to be sold outside China and help “raise China’s voice of governance by placing representatives from China on important international counsels as high level commitment from China.”
  • Judicial Watch’s four-part documentary regarding the coordinated effort by the government and Big Tech to censor and suppress information on topics such as Hunter Biden’s laptop, Covid-19, and election debates is available here.

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