Nonprofit Organization Sues Defense Intelligence Agency for COVID-19 Records under FOIA
Written by: Sam Orlando
FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA - US Right to Know (USRTK), a nonprofit investigative research group, has filed a lawsuit against the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The case, filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), seeks to compel the DIA to produce records related to the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan, China.
The lawsuit, referenced as Case No. 1:23-cv-1528, alleges that the DIA has failed to lawfully respond to a FOIA request made by USRTK on June 6, 2023. USRTK claims that the requested records are crucial for understanding the political and legal aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which holds significant public interest.
USRTK, known for promoting transparency in public health, argues that the DIA's failure to provide the records within the 20-day time limit set by FOIA, as well as its refusal to grant a fee waiver, constitutes a violation of the act, according to their legal filing. The organization points to precedent from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) v. Federal Election Commission to support its case.
The DIA, a federal agency within the Department of Defense, has its correspondence directed to and from the Pentagon, located in the Eastern District of Virginia, which USRTK argues makes the district a proper venue for the lawsuit.
The complaint includes a demand for the court to compel the DIA to search for and release records responsive to the FOIA request. Additionally, USRTK seeks an index of any material claimed as exempt by the DIA for further judicial review.
USRTK's lawsuit emphasizes the importance of transparency and public access to government records, especially concerning global health issues. The organization seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, along with an award for attorney fees and costs.
This lawsuit represents a significant effort to shed light on the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and the government's response to it.