Coronavirus

The White House Made Coronavirus Meetings Classified. That's Idiotic.

It hampers transparency and means that relevant health officials who lack clearance can't participate.

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Federal health officials' coronavirus meetings should be treated as classified, according to a White House order first reported by Reuters.

As a result, relevant health experts who lack the necessary security clearances have been kept out of meetings since January. This is a serious, idiotic act of self-sabotage on the part of the Trump administration. It will not only hamper transparency—it will compromise the efficacy of the government's coronavirus prevention strategizing.

Four Trump officials told Reuters that dozens of coronavirus meetings have been held in a high-security room at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and that "staffers without security clearances, including government experts, were excluded from the interagency meetings, which included video conference calls."

As a result, "some very critical people who did not have security clearances" were kept out of the meetings.

The HHS coronavirus meetings are held in a Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facility (SCIF), a type of secure room where cell phones and cameras are forbidden. SCIFSs are typically used for government officials to discuss sensitive intelligence reports or plan military operations.

The coronavirus pandemic originated in China, and thus it does carry national security implications. But secrecy should not be a higher priority than expediency. The slower the government's response, the more widely the disease will spread throughout the U.S. Lives are quite literally on the line. Quite obviously, the Trump administration should not be putting up obstacles for federal health experts to overcome, and yet the classification order came "directly from the White House," according to Reuters.

A National Security Council spokesperson disputed this characterization of the meetings, and HHS voiced support for greater transparency:

An NSC spokesman did not respond to questions about the meetings at HHS. But he defended the administration's transparency across federal agencies and noted that meetings of the administration's task force on the coronavirus all are unclassified. It was not immediately clear which meetings he was referring to.

"From day one of the response to the coronavirus, NSC has insisted on the principle of radical transparency," said the spokesman, John Ullyot. He added that the administration "has cut red tape and set the global standard in protecting the American people under President Trump's leadership."

A spokeswoman for the HHS, Katherine McKeogh, issued a statement that did not address questions about classified meetings. Using language that echoed the NSC's, the department said it that it agreed task-force meetings should be unclassified.

In that case, the administration should clarify immediately that all coronavirus meetings are unclassified, and all relevant personnel should participate in them. Nothing is made better by pointless red tape. The government's knee-jerk impulse to conceal information from the public is a bad habit in the worst of times; at present, it's an actual threat to public safety.

Unfortunately, as Reason's Ron Bailey pointed out in a recent post, federal agencies have also thwarted an infectious disease researcher's early efforts to detect the coronavirus in Seattle. These missteps by the government are embarrassing, and among the many reasons why The Atlantic's absurd straw-man contention that "There Are No Libertarians in an Epidemic" is self-evidently wrong: It is precisely in times of crisis that the incompetence of large and unwieldy federal bureaucracies is most evident. (Read Reason's Eric Boehm for more on this subject.)

NEXT: Would Italian-Style Lockdowns to Curtail the Spread of Coronavirus Pass Legal Muster in the U.S.?

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  1. Well Trump is a moron so can’t say I’m surprised. How will his blind, sycophant supporters rationalize this? It was a good thing because these health officials are deep state? Coronavirus is a liberal reptilian hoax? But what about Obama? Can’t wait to find out!

    1. Politik über alles.

    2. Hey, Pence is going to pray the evil virus away.

      Any day now.

      you fucking libtard atheist

      1. Can he pray your pedophilia away while he’s at it?

        1. Fuck you it’s hebephilia.

          Get it right.

          you fucking slack jawed rube

          1. Ahh, so twelve-year-olds instead of ten.

            1. hahaha you got me at there. 12 years instead of 10. lol you’ve made me breathed faster with my nose in my computer screen.. nice..

    3. Considering the way Democrats find any excuse to misrepresent Trump and disparage him, I’m not surprised that his staff is making the meetings classified. That leaves Democrat criticizing his actions rather than criticizing ideas that are brought up and second guessing the decision making.

      1. My thought exactly. There are so many leaks, lies, anonymous sources peddling horseshit. It is an unfortunate, but necessary response.

      2. Yes – after all, protecting decisionmaking from criticism by people who disagree with you is the best way to make the right decisions. We might call it the “echo chamber” effect.

      3. Maybe trump always finds his own way to FUCK UP any and every thing he does…like that shitty uncle in the family nobody’ll comment on because he’s still family? I work for the railroad and I knew about this 13 weeks ago which tells me tRump knew 4 weeks prior!! Warren Buffett got us the wrenching news on the dam tracks why didnt trump say it on national television then? He was worried that his ratings would falter!! His election campaign is more important then your health…take your flu shot and take your kids to a tRump rally….enjoy!!!

    4. America has no enemies that would love to take advantage of a pandemic in the USA.
      /s

      If government meetings are classified to keep Americans from holding the government accountable-problem.

      If government meetings are classified to protect military responses and schedules to protect America from enemy nations-acceptable.

  2. BTW I voted for the Russian Asset yesterday.

    1. Which one? Last I heard they are all Russian assets (assuming we are talking presidential candidates)

    2. Putin’s favorite Democrat?

  3. God damn we are going to find every little nit to pick about this whole episode, aren’t we?

    I don’t understand what Reason’s angle is here, other than to try and carry water for all the liberals who want to turn this into Trump’s Katrina. But this is not helping the libertarian cause.

    The simple fact is that with or without government, hurricanes and epidemics occur. And while I expect government to be effective at responding, I cannot expect them to be perfect.

    When you start criticizing every little thing that went wrong, and saying that because of some officials not being allowed in meetings, or because of some slow roll of tests, ALL THIS IS TRUMPS FAULT, then you are conceding the argument that some government is able- nay required- to prevent all our ills.

    It also leads to all of this TSA-esque kabuki theatre, where politicians are incentivized to DO SOMETHING- ESPECIALLY SOMETHING BIG AND VISIBLE- rather than get criticism for not acting.

    1. Trump farted in a room of CDC officials. They winced. Some waved their hands. Others made faces. Trump is clearly losing control and the confidence of his most trusted experts and scientists, would read the “Reason” headline the following day.

    2. Reason’s angle is to criticize bad decisions that could exacerbate the epidemic.

      The immediate complaint that people are saying “all of this is Trump’s fault” is a strawman accusation specifically designed to suppress any and all criticism.

      And you’re overgeneralizing. Sharing information is pretty clearly a good policy that doesn’t necessarily involve “doing something”. People at all levels will be able to make better choices with more information.

      1. “Reason’s angle is to criticize bad decisions that could exacerbate the epidemic.”

        “Exacerbate”? In what way does some people meeting in classified meetings make this epidemic worse? Because where I stand, if government had done nothing, this epidemic would be tons worse than it is today. So, at the worse, these few meetings (compared to hundreds of other meetings that are fully transparent) failed to make the epidemic some tiny bit less bad. That is different from exacerbating the situation.

        And yes, there are many liberals specifically calling this Trump’s Katrina, or Trump’s Chernobyl. So that isn’t a strawman. They want to pin every death on Trump by pointing out some “mistake” that may or may not have contributed to some percent increase in the epidemic.

        I am not overgeneralizing. The CDC and the Trump administration has been sharing information like crazy. These people have discovered “Dozens” of meetings that have been held in secret. What was the contents of these meetings? Who knows? Was information later shared from the meetings? Don’t know. Were decisions being made that required these “critical health officials who lacked security clearance?” Not clear.

        No, they have nothing. Something would be “Because Dr X was disallowed from attending the meeting, he was able to brief these people of key information, leading to a major mistake in guidance sent to the CDC. As a result a bunch of infected people were released, making the epidemic worse (exacerbating it, one might say”. But there is no such trail of cause and effect, because these people are just throwing everything at the wall to make it seem like this “crisis” is being HORRRRRIBLY mismanaged.

        1. Amen.

      2. If I may modify your sentiments slightly.

        Reason’s angle is to classify *all* Trump decision as preemptively “bad decisions” without sufficient information at hand to truly determine whether the decision is bad, or good, or neutral.

        In this case, how can any Reason staff member possibly conclude that there is nothing genuinely confidential being discussed at these meeting? They literally have no idea what is being discussed, or why it is confidential, or how any of the discussions bear upon any actions of the government in response to the virus.

        So, what the fuck is this article really about?

        “Ugh … Trump is doing some secret stuff and … I don’t know, I’m like just not … like, you know … comfortable with it … therefore, EVERYONE IS GOING TO DIE!”

        Is that really fucking reasonable?

        1. You clowns can’t get much worse. In what universe does it make sense to keep medical meetings secret? Yours, idiot. If Obama had done the same thing, Reason would have roasted him too.

          There is no need to keep Coronavirus meetings secret, and it doesn;t help fight it. In that respect, yes, it does make the problem worse. If you cannot understand that — and your persistent ramblings about delayed testing show that — then you are about as ignorant as the idiot who says tariffs are not taxes.

          1. If you’re not going to contribute some new facts, but simply repeat an unsupported conclusion, why even bother?

            Killing yourself is far more productive and better use of your time than posting shit that, on a good day, will hardly reach the threshold of qualifying as an unhinged bromide.

      3. Reason’s angle is to criticize bad decisions that could exacerbate the epidemic sell advertising.

        Fixed

  4. Of course such meetings should kept secret and exclude many health and science experts. Because… give me some time…. I am sure I can think of some reason….

    1. A very good reason for classifying some of the policy meetings on this virus is because a good chunk of the threat this virus poses will be based on Chinese data, and not all of that data is public. Much of the reliable case data concerning China may not be public, and revealing that data will compromise existing sources and collection methods.

      Or its probably due to the FEMA death trains they have planned. LOL.

      1. Stretch it, streeeetch it!

      2. I hadn’t thought of that. If we have accurate sources of information on China, we wouldn’t want the Chicoms to know where we got the information.

        1. A few years ago they found out who all our assets were there.
          They were all killed

          1. Having the IT guy who runs the systems for the two ranking Senators and Representatives who—officially—are supposed to be briefed on every clandestine operation: having that guy be a Pakistani intelligence service asset? That will have the sort of effects you mention.

            Hilarious, only because I like dark humor, that some nuke EM1 can get the book thrown at him for taking some pictures in a submarine, with no malice intended, while the Awans and their enablers walk away free.

          2. This is new info for me, though I suppose I can’t say I’m surprised. 🙁

  5. Everything Trump does is wrong! Clearly, all internal meetings and briefings need to be categorically blasted out to the public! Preferably, on loudspeakers in Times Square. And, if the message relayed to the public is anything less than “you’re all going to die,” or anything more than “we’re going to be fine,” it means that Trump is incompetent!

    IMPEACH NOW!

    1. Are you reading articles or are you just using some sort of magic 8 ball to come up with comments?

      1. Considering there have no been about six articles, consecutively published, whining irrationally about something Trump has or hasn’t done in response to the virus, I have concluded that Reason’s new narrative is that everything Trump does it wrong.

        I predict we see a proliferation of such mindless articles in the coming weeks, and months, until the virus fiasco blows over and everyone returns to their fucking senses.

        It’s the same shit Reason did with their impeachment coverage … until impeachment crashed and burned, and they never mentioned it again.

        Red meat for retards. Take a big bite, buddy.

      2. I think he’s a one-ball, considering how focused he is.

        You know who else had just one ball?

        1. Your father, which explains why you were born with half a brain.

  6. They’re self-quarantining. So sue them.

  7. There are serious issues, and then there are complaints about meetings about serious issues. Such complaints are at least 2 steps removed from being serious.

  8. secrecy should not be a higher priority than expediency.

    Shades of “Dr. Strangelove”.

  9. The Democrats have impeached Trump over nothing in the past. Why would he subject himself to that again unnecessarily? If President Trump says anything that might be misconstrued in that meeting,
    they’ll use it against him–especially if he wins reelection. If the Democrats don’t like it, there’s an election in November, and they’re free to vote against him just like the rest of us plebeians. In the meantime, losing impeachment votes has consequences.

    1. Takes some serious mental gymnastics for such a stupid take. Way to go Ken.

      1. Ken is spot on.

      2. No mental gymnastics necessary.

        If it isn’t in President Trump’s best interests to open this meeting up to the public, then it is what it is.

        Mental gymnastics might be necessary to explain why President Trump should want this meeting made open to the public in an election year. The Democrats and the news media are just looking for a gotcha moment for between now and November, and he would have to be stupid to want these meetings open despite that.

        Is that’s mental gymnastics to you, then you should work on your thinkin’ skills.

        1. Remember, this is the resident racist. Republicans can do no wrong, unless it’s depriving healthcare from children. Lol, let’s take virus advice from ken!

          1. Which racism would that be?

  10. Um…welcome to the Trump admin? Like this since day 1.

  11. If the whole thing is a hoax, who cares who’s in the meetings?

  12. Did they use the Cone of Silence?

  13. With so many, including Reason, desperate to find flaws with any and everything related to coronavirus and this administration, having totally transparent meetings would only give them chances to set their hair on fire even more often.
    One minute we hear from political foes, including Reason that the administration is not taking this seriously enough and the next we hear it is causing unnecessary panic.
    You’re beclowning yourselves.

    1. Amen, my thoughts exactly. Keeping their plans private will keep the unfounded criticisms down. I read the hateful vitriol here and it amazes me.
      The liberal trolls think they are funny because a libertarian site will not censor them, but if you go on the HuffPo and just disagree, you will be blocked in two posts. If they think trolling will change anyone’s mind they are just foolish. Thoughtful cognizant posts might sway people, but ugly trolling never will do that, it only strengthens peoples convictions about “the other side”.

  14. >>These missteps by the government are embarrassing

    scold on! don’t yet know the results

  15. This article starts from the unstated premise that the federal government could do anything effective about this virus in the first place. Starting from false premises, it’s not surprising that you get to untrustworthy results.

    It’s a virus. For all the bleating and the self-serving hype by media and politicians alike, there’s very little you can or should do other than what the CDC has been saying all along.

    And by the way, people, you’re supposed to wash your hands even when there’s not a global panic!

    1. “And by the way, people, you’re supposed to wash your hands even when there’s not a global panic!”

      We can agree on that much, absolutely.

      1. I just piss on my hands, I’m learned enough to know urine is sterile.

        Well, mine is, anyway, I don’t know about the rest of you syphilitic crackhead sonsabitches.

    2. “you’re supposed to wash your hands even when there’s not a global panic!”

      It’s frightening how many people don’t wash their hands in public restrooms, I’ve noticed. So I’ve stopped using public restrooms until this thing dies down.

  16. You’re certainly no scientist, Robbie. The New England Journal no doubt applauds this effort to prevent research parasites from glomming onto free data for their own ends.

    A second concern held by some is that a new class of research person will emerge — people who had nothing to do with the design and execution of the study but use another group’s data for their own ends, possibly stealing from the research productivity planned by the data gatherers, or even use the data to try to disprove what the original investigators had posited. There is concern among some front-line researchers that the system will be taken over by what some researchers have characterized as “research parasites.”

    You hear that? If you’re only interested in getting your hands on the data so that you can critique the researchers, you have no business calling yourself a scientist, because that’s not how sciencing fucking works these days!

    1. NEJM = No Editing? Jerkass Motherfuckers!

      Or possibly New England Journal of Medicine, not just New England Journal as above.

    2. Aaron Swartz would have agreed.

  17. I don’t think Robby Soave is moron, I think he just knows how to play the role. The reason the meetings were held in a SCIF is because they are classified. And the reason they are classified is almost certainly because the reports they are discussing contain the most sensitive vulnerabilities in the US health care system. These vulnerabilities are no joke, they’re not something you want an enemy to know.

  18. Wow! Look at all the words in this article! Would you call it a plethora of words? Yes, El Jeffe… I’d call it a plethora of words! All those words just to fill white space with an opinion. When you wrote this weak expose, did you even find out WHO was at the table? Which critical professionals WERE there? And WHY? WHY were some players excluded? It doesn’t matter to you because that wasn’t the point of your pathetic article; your point was to ridicule and exacerbate the situation. So tell us exactly who WAS present at the so-called classified meetings and tell us which critical professionals weren’t. NEXT, tell us exactly what information was “concealed”. Your article is nothing but wasted speculation on protocol and bureaucratic jealousies. Try again and come back with a real story when you can actually find out some of the facts. Even the article you referenced barely corroborates this feeble attempt at making your point. YES, red tape and bureaucracy slow the system down. But, this administration was relying on protocol and holdovers from Obama’s administration and following interagency management rules. Yes, it took an extra five days. But Trump was way out ahead of this when he ordered flights from China cancelled back in January when the first U.S. case was discovered. He didn’t wait until there were 1,000 cases like Obama did. And for some perspective please recognize that the 2019-20 flu season has already killed more than 18,000 Americans compared to 31 from COVID-19. Did you write a story ridiculing the bureaucracy on that figure? Cut the crap and do some meaningful investigating. Dittos to what James K. Polk said above.

  19. I think we all owe the preppers an apology. If I have to wipe my ass with a washcloth Reason will hear about it.

  20. Because of the magnitude of the situation, potential weakponts in our shared infrastructure are being discussed, so that efforts can be made to keep them from failing.
    Also, information about the effects of the virus in other countries might include information from classified sources.
    Military capabilities are certainly a topic under discussion, like how many decon facilities might be ready to deploy, and what the military’s states of readiness are.

  21. I am boss of my own will. Come to join under link to earn $75 per hour by watching tv with family in spare time. Earn as much as you spent time. If so please copy the link and full fill your dream……… Read more

  22. The reality is all administration want to control the message and they do this through message discipline. A skill lacking in President Trump and his administration. As a result this need to hide what they do in classified meeting and record conversations on secure servers. We will get through this crisis. It will be more difficult that it needs to be, but in November we can put competent people back in the WH.

  23. NG

    I think we all owe the preppers an apology. If I have to wipe my ass with a washcloth Reason will hear about it.

  24. NG

    I think we all owe the preppers an apology.

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