The transparency of our government is one of the foundational qualities of the United States. When members of the public want to learn more about how government works, they turn to the Freedom of Information Act.
As a political consultant and, more lately, as a writer, I've filed a slew of them. To this day, I have a number of outstanding FOIA requests relating to COVID, many of which have been delayed because my work as a journalist at RedState has been deemed "not legitimate journalism." Unfortunately, I lack the financial means to file a legal challenge to their claims, so I'll just have to wait in line until my desired information arrives.
Fortunately for us, some groups have the resources to take on the government's lying bags of crap, and "Public Health and Medical Professionals for Transparency" filed a lawsuit against the FDA and Pfizer for their intention to wait decades to share vaccination data. On Thursday, a US District Judge released a decision that ordered the FDA and Pfizer to release the vaccine data – data they had initially proposed to release at a rate of 500 pages per month – at an astounding rate of 55,000 pages per month. This accelerates the release by decades, with it to be completed within just a few years.
Pfizer and the FDA attempted to argue that the information was privileged and required review before it was released, thus requiring a longer release period. The Judge didn’t buy that:
Here, the Court recognizes the “unduly burdensome” challenges that this FOIA request may present to the FDA. See generally ECF Nos. 23, 30, 34. But, as expressed at the scheduling conference, there may not be a “more important issue at the Food and Drug Administration . . . than the pandemic, the Pfizer vaccine, getting every American vaccinated, [and] making sure that the American public is assured that this was not  rush[ed] on behalf of the United States . . . .” Accordingly, the Court concludes that this FOIA request is of paramount public importance. [emphasis added]
The court acknowledged a very similar point that I sought to make in my own FOIA petitions to the NIH and CDC, both of which were refused unilaterally. That point is that withholding facts and data may be just as terrible as denying it.
And “Congress has long recognized that ‘information is often useful only if it is timely’ and that, therefore ‘excessive delay by the agency in its response is often tantamount to denial.’” Open Soc’y Just. Initiative v. CIA, 399 F. Supp. 3d 161, 165 (S.D.N.Y. 2019) (quoting H.R. REP. NO. 93-876, at 6271 (1974)).
The irony of this remark is not lost on me, as Congress just refused another request for material I filed, this time relating to the January 6th riots and video coverage from them. What is Congress's reaction? The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) only applies to Executive Agencies.
“[S]tale information is of little value.” Payne Enters., Inc. v. United States, 837 F.2d 486, 494 (D.C. Cir. 1988). The Court, agreeing with this truism, therefore concludes that the expeditious completion of Plaintiff’s request is not only practicable, but necessary. See Bloomberg, L.P. v. FDA, 500 F. Supp. 2d 371, 378 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 15, 2007) (“[I]t is the compelling need for such public understanding that drives the urgency of the request.”). To that end, the Court further concludes that the production rate, as detailed below, appropriately balances the need for unprecedented urgency in processing this request with the FDA’s concerns regarding the burdens of production. See Halpern v. FBI, 181 F.3d 279, 284–85 (2nd Cir. 1991) (“[FOIA] emphasizes a preference for the fullest possible agency disclosure of such information consistent with a responsible balancing of competing concerns . . . .”).
The court determined that what I was told by the NIH – that I would just have to endure the delay in receiving the data I had sought – amounted to a refusal. After all of these interim COVID and future viral threat safeguards have been made permanent, no one will care in years to come. The moment has come to make this knowledge public. The information about financing at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which continues today in the absence of a thorough inquiry into the lab for a possible lab breach, is critical in order to discontinue that funding if the virus originated there. If vaccinations have long-term side effects, now is the moment to learn about them, not later when those side effects begin to wreak havoc on communities.
This verdict is likely to be challenged, so the tale isn't finished yet, but brace yourselves. Expect the order to be put on hold until the matter is heard by a higher court.