The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project has sued the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for allegedly not complying with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request related to its COVID-19 lab leak theory investigation.

This is an action under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552,to compel production of CIA records relating to allegations that members of the CIA’s COVID Discovery Team, a group of employees tasked with analyzing the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, received monetary incentives to change their position on the origins of the virus,” the complaint read.

On September12, 2023, COVID Select Subcommittee Chairman Brad Wenstrup and Rep. Mike Turner, Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote a letter to CIA Director William Burns requesting documents and information related to alarming allegations brought to their attention by a whistleblower about the CIA’s assessment of the origins ofCOVID-19,” the complaint added.

According to the complaint, the letter noted:

A multi-decade, senior-level, current Agency officer has come forward to provide information to the Committees regarding the Agency’s analysis into the origins of COVID-19. According to the whistleblower, the Agency assigned seven officers to a COVID Discovery Team (Team). The Team consisted of multi-disciplinary and experienced officers with significant scientific expertise. According to the whistleblower, at the end of its review, six of the seven members of the Team believed the intelligence and science were sufficient to make a low confidence assessment that COVID-19 originated from a laboratory in Wuhan, China. The seventh member of the Team, who also happened to be the most senior, was the lone officer to believe COVID-19 originated through zoonosis. The whistleblower further contends that to come to the eventual public determination of uncertainty, the other six members were given a significant monetary incentive to change their position.

The Daily Caller reports:

Heritage’s original FOIA request sought records from the creation of the discovery team and all records shared among team members associated with COVID-19’s origins. In addition, the conservative group demanded records of any financial bonuses and communications between discovery team members and officials from numerous agencies across the federal government.

The lawsuit asks the court to compel the CIA to produce all non-exempt records under Heritage’s prior FOIA request and to cover Heritage’s costs incurred.

In September, a whistleblower came forward to the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic alleging the CIA provided financial rewards to six agents on the COVID discovery team to change their position and come out against the possibility of the virus originating in a lab in Wuhan, China.

Republican Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Rick Scott of Florida and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin wrote a letter on Sept. 12 to CIA Director William Burns requesting information on the whistleblower allegations.

“The Biden Administration has refused to be transparent with Congress and the American people over the origins of COVID-19,” said Kyle Brosnan, chief counsel for the Oversight Project, according to the New York Post.

“A CIA whistleblower has made serious allegations that the agency bought off employees of the agency to further obstruct efforts to get to the truth of the virus’s origins. This obstruction cannot stand and we’re fighting in federal court to get to the bottom of this,” he added.

The New York Post added:

The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project filed its FOIA request for records related to the internal CIA analysis on Sept. 20 — but has yet to receive the documents or an explanation for the delay, the complaint states.

Wenstrup has since alleged that the former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, was secretly “escorted” into CIA headquarters to “influence” the findings of those analysts at one point.


In February, the FBI became the first US intelligence agency to conclude the coronavirus pandemic most likely began with a lab leak.

The Energy Department delivered the same assessment that same month, citing new intelligence.

But months later, in a 10-page report, the entire US intelligence community, which includes those agencies along with others, declassified its COVID origins findings, which had most “agencies assess that SARS-CoV-2 was not genetically engineered.”

The report, however, found “biosafety concerns” and “genetic engineering” took place at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where several scientists became sick in the fall of 2019 with symptoms “consistent with but not diagnostic of COVID-19.”

A Government Accountability Office report in June found that US taxpayers footed the bill for more than $2 million of risky gain-of-function research with coronaviruses at the Wuhan lab, made possible through grants provided by the National Institutes of Health, which included Fauci’s NIAID, and the United States Agency for International Development.

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