The Donald Trump White House told the federal Department of Health and Human Services to classify all information from top-level coronavirus meetings.
The decision to keep all coronavirus deliberations classified made it hard for public health and medical professionals to access vital information. The restricted flow hampered the U.S. government's response to the contagion, Reuters reports, citing four Trump administration officials.
"The officials said that dozens of classified discussions about such topics as the scope of infections, quarantines and travel restrictions have been held since mid-January in a high-security meeting room at the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS)," report Wednesday Aram Roston and Marisa Taylor at Reuters:
Staffers without security clearances, including government experts, were excluded from the interagency meetings, which included video conference calls, the sources said.
"We had some very critical people who did not have security clearances who could not go," one official said. "These should not be classified meetings. It was unnecessary."
The sources said the National Security Council (NSC), which advises the president on security issues, ordered the classification."This came directly from the White House," one official said.
The White House insistence on secrecy at the nation's premier public health organization, which has not been previously disclosed, has put a lid on certain information – and potentially delayed the response to the crisis.