(Daily Caller)—The Pentagon deflected questions about a newly disclosed audio recording of the 911 call between an aide to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and the dispatcher, despite pledging to be transparent about why Austin apparently hid his hospitalization.
As questions swirl over whether Austin deliberately secluded his cancer diagnosis and hospitalization due to complications from the earlier medical procedure, a recording obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation revealed the aide asked the ambulance to avoid attracting attention. An internal review is ongoing into the breakdown in communication following Jan. 1, but the Pentagon on Wednesday could not confirm whether that review would be disclosed to the public.
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“Again, as I highlighted, we’re conducting a review. The secretary has publicly come out and taking responsibility in terms of the need to do better — in terms of transparency as it relates to his medical treatment. So I’ll just leave it there,” Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said at a briefing Wednesday afternoon.
Recording of the call, which took place at 7:11 p.m. on Jan. 1 and was obtained by the DCNF via a Freedom of Information Act request, is mostly redacted. In it, an unnamed aid to Austin asks the dispatcher if the ambulance coming to pick up Austin from his residence in Virginia would dim lights and mute sirens.
“Can the ambulance not show up with lights and sirens? Um, we’re trying to remain a little subtle,” the aide says.
The dispatcher explains that it’s standard procedure to reduce lights and alarms inside residential areas, but that the emergency services department is required by law to run the flashing lights and sirens on main roads, citing Georgetown Pike and Leesburg Pike.
The Pentagon would not say on Wednesday if Austin requested the aide to press for the low-profile transit or if his security team or staff came up with the idea on their own. Austin maintains 24/7 security and staff support, Ryder said.
The 911 call was first reported by The Daily Beast.
I want to thank the doctors and nursing staff at Walter Reed for their professionalism and superb support during my stay. Now, as I continue to recuperate and perform my duties from home, I’m eager to fully recover and return as quickly as possible to the Pentagon.…
— Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (@SecDef) January 15, 2024
The Pentagon announced plans on Jan. 9 to conduct a 30-day internal investigation into the circumstances surrounding Austin’s disappearance, focusing on identifying whether officials lapsed in communicating when and how the secretary delegated responsibilities, Kelley Magsamen, Austin’s chief of staff, said in a memo. Austin’s second-in-command, Deputy Secretary 0f Defense Kathleen Hicks, had carried out some routine duties on his behalf while on vacation in Puerto Rico, seemingly without knowing that her boss was out of commission.
“This review will help to ensure clarity and transparency when a determination has been made that certain authorities have been transferred, and that proper and timely notification has been made to the President and White House and, as appropriate, the United States Congress and the American public,” Magsamen wrote.
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