Federal records recently accessed by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic indicate that Dr. David Morens, a senior scientific adviser at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), may have circumvented Freedom of Information Act requests by using a personal email account. Moreover, some emails are believed to have been erased during the COVID-19 crisis.
Dr. Morens, a long-serving member of the National Institutes of Health with a tenure spanning 25 years, worked under the supervision of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the now-retired director of NIAID. The discovered correspondence could potentially point to a breach of legal protocols.
A troubling piece of communication involves Morens informing Bloomberg reporter Jason Gale about constraints placed on him by the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services. He had been barred from discussing the origins of COVID-19 for public record, though recently, he was granted some leeway on the matter, as long as he refrained from implicating his superior. He wrote in the July 29, 2021 email, “Tony doesn’t want his fingerprints on origin stories.”
The disclosed emails also include communications with scientists who penned a controversial paper in Nature Medicine, which aimed to dismiss the “lab leak theory.” Dr. Kristian Andersen, the lead author, was among the recipients. In a later communication, Peter Daszak, President of EcoHealth Alliance, contacted Morens regarding The Intercept’s report on the research undertaken in Chinese labs related to the coronavirus.
Morens also received correspondence concerning millions in subgrants from NIH and the US Agency for International Development, directed to the Wuhan Institute of Virology by the EcoHealth Alliance, as discovered by the Government Accountability Office earlier this month.
Morens allegedly informed his colleagues of his preference to communicate through his personal email account, reasoning that his official NIH email was constantly under Freedom of Information Act requests. He expressed his intention to erase any communications he did not wish to appear in the public domain.
Brad Wenstrup, Chairman of the COVID subcommittee, responded to the revelations by demanding further documents and a recorded interview from Morens, stating, “Public health officials are not above the law — especially in times of crisis.” The Chairman expressed serious concerns about Morens’ objectivity while serving in his role in the Office of the Director of NIAID.
Dr. Morens has yet to respond to these developments.