US agencies in turf battle over classification level of COVID-19 meetings
- A number of United States government officials have expressed dismay about the White House’s treatment of top-level meetings about the coronavirus (COVID-19) as classified, a move described by some as “not normal”.
- On Wednesday the Reuters news agency cited “four Trump administration officials” in claiming that several dozen meetings to discuss COVID-19 were held in top-secret settings. This, they say, was unnecessary and posed barriers to coming up with an effective response to the contagion. Other sources, however, claim that the meetings had to be classified because they included secret information on China.
- The meetings in point have been held since mid-January at a high-security conference room located at the headquarters of the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) in Washington, DC.
- The HHS is largely in charge of the US government’s response to COVID-19, as it oversees several relevant agencies including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From the very beginning, the National Security Council —a White House decision-making body chaired by the president— ordered that the meetings be treated as classified. This meant that participants had to have top-secret security clearances in order to attend.