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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke June 4, 2021

Fauci’s emails didn’t ‘leak,’ they were obtained under federal law

If Your Time is short

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci’s emails didn’t ‘leak.’ They were obtained via the Freedom of Information Act. 

The Washington Post and BuzzFeed News both recently obtained and published emails to and from Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser on COVID-19. 

Some social media posts and news coverage have characterized the emails as "leaked," but that’s wrong. 

Both news organizations received them in response to Freedom of Information Act requests.  

These posts were flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The 1967 law, often referred to as "FOIA," is designed to let members of the public request access to federal records, including communications among government officials related to public matters. Federal agencies are required to disclose those records unless they fall under one of nine exemptions, such as information that is classified to protect national security. 

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Generally, anyone can make a FOIA request. In this case, it was BuzzFeed and the Post.

A leak happens when someone who has worked in government, such as an employee or contractor, shares secret information with the public. Whether a leak is illegal depends on the information that’s leaked. It’s a crime, for example, to leak national defense secrets to help another country.

Well-known examples of actual leaks: the documents published by Wikileaks that were leaked by U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, and 1.5 million documents that were leaked to journalists by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.   

We rate claims that Fauci’s emails leaked False.

CORRECTION, June 11, 2021: Chelsea Manning was an intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army. An earlier version of this post incorrectly characterized her rank.

Our Sources

Facebook post, June 2, 2021

The Washington Post, Anthony Fauci’s pandemic emails: ‘All is well despite some crazy people in this world,’ June 1, 2021

Buzzfeed News, Anthony Fauci’s emails reveal the pressure that fell on one man, June 1, 2021, What is FOIA?, visited June 3, 2021

Freedom of Information Act statute, 1967

Freedom Forum Institute, Leaks and the media, visited June 4, 2021

Business Insider, Declassified: From Snowden to Wikileaks to Crypto AG, these are the biggest leaks of the past decade and what we’ve learned from them, Feb. 24, 2020

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Fauci’s emails didn’t ‘leak,’ they were obtained under federal law

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