As part of our reporting, we requested several Deloitte contracts unrelated to the vaccine system from the US Food and Drug Administration. That agency also redacted similar information.
“It’s basically a rubber stamp“
All the redactions cite a rule in the Freedom of Information Act commonly referred to as Exemption 4, which allows companies to hide “commercial information” such as trade secrets from the public.
The contractor, rather than the government, decides what is considered sensitive information. When a government agency receives a request for records, it sends that request to the contractors, who mark what they want to keep secret.
Companies have essentially free rein to call contract details “confidential business information,” thanks to a 2019 decision by the Supreme Court. Before that, companies had to explain why releasing the information would cause “substantial harm” to their business.
“Now all the agency has to do is get an affidavit from someone at the company that says, ‘We treat this as confidential business information.’ Period. Full stop,” says Victoria Baranetsky, the general counsel at the Center for Investigative Reporting. “It’s basically a rubber stamp.”