WaPo sues State Department for access to diplomatic cables regarding coronavirus

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The Washington Post sued the State Department Friday night after the federal agency allegedly denied timely processing of the paper’s request to see diplomatic correspondence regarding safety issues at a coronavirus research lab in the city of Wuhan, China. 

The complaint was filed with the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., and allegedly revolves around two cables that the Post says U.S. diplomats at the American Embassy in Beijing sent to the department after U.S. scientists had made multiple visits to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The institute reportedly conducted studies on strains of coronavirus that originated from bats, the same kind of strain that is believed to have caused the global pandemic.

On April 14, Post columnist Josh Rogin reported on the existence of the cables that written and sent in 2018, roughly two years before the outbreak in Wuhan began. The cables were labeled sensitive, but unclassified.

The paper allegedly asked for the transmission of the cables via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on April 3. The news source allegedly requested expedited processing, something that publications often ask for when reporting on time sensitive matters.

On April 12, Nicholas Cormier, the State Department’s chief of requester communications, allegedly denied the Post’s request for expedited processing in an emailed letter, reportedly saying that there was no “compelling need” to provide the cables quickly. The Post’s request was instead reportedly put on the routine FOIA request track.

“The government’s compliance with transparency laws like FOIA shouldn’t be an afterthought in times of crisis — if anything, it’s more important than ever,” Kris Coratti, the Post’s vice president of communications, said in an emailed statement.

The lawsuit reportedly demands that the documents in question be transmitted expeditiously as initially requested.

The Hill has reached out to the State Department for comment.

Tags Coronavirus FOIA request State Department State Department The Washington Post

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