Days of secrecy around Defense Secretary Austin’s hospital stay raise questions

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in Tel Aviv, Israel WASHINGTON (AP) — Senior Biden administration leaders, top Pentagon officials and members of Congress were unaware for days that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had been hospitalized since Monday, U.S. officials said Saturday, as questions swirled about his condition and the secrecy surrounding it. READ MORE: Defense Secretary Austin hospitalized due to complications after minor procedure, Pentagon says The Pentagon did not inform the White House National Security Council or top adviser Jake Sullivan of Austin’s hospitalization at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, until Thursday, according to two administration officials. The officials were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity. The Pentagon’s failure to disclose Austin’s hospitalization for days reflects a stunning lack of transparency about his illness, how serious it was and when he may be released. Such secrecy, at a time when the United States is juggling myriad national security crises, runs counter to normal practice with the president and other senior U.S. officials and Cabinet members. In a statement issued Saturday evening, Austin took responsibility for the delays in notification. “I recognize I could have done a better job ensuring the public was appropriately informed. I commit to doing better,” said Austin, acknowledging the concerns about transparency. “But this is important to say: this was my medical procedure, and I take full responsibility for my decisions about disclosure.” Austin, 70, remained hospitalized due to complications following a minor elective medical procedure, his press secretary said, as it became increasingly clear how closely the Pentagon held information about his stay at Walter Reed. In his statement, Austin said he is on the mend and is looking forward to returning to the Pentagon […]

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