- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The National Security Council pushed back Wednesday on a report that the White House has ordered federal health officials to treat high-level coronavirus meetings as classified.

NSC spokesman John Ullyot called the story “fake news.”

“The White House has never ordered any agency ‘to treat top-level coronavirus meetings as classified,’ as a Reuters story alleges,” Mr. Ullyot said in a statement. “From day one of the coronavirus response, NSC has insisted on the principle of ‘radical transparency,’ and NSC and [Health and Human Services Department] senior leadership agreed specifically in January at the creation of the interagency task force that coronavirus meetings should be held at the unclassified level. As a result, White House Coronavirus Task Force meetings have all been held at the unclassified level.”

Reuters, citing four administration officials, reported that the NSC since mid-January had ordered the meetings classified, a move that source said restricted information and hampered the government’s response.

The report said the meetings in question took place in a high-security room at the Department of Health and Human Services, not at the White House Situation Room, where Vice President Mike Pence has led task force meetings such as a conference call with governors on Monday.

Mr. Ullyot said the “transparent U.S. interagency coordination and unprecedented whole-of-government approach to coronavirus has cut red tape and set the global standard in protecting the American people under President Trump’s leadership.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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