Defense Secretary Aide's 911 Call Reveals Attempt To Conceal Health Emergency

January 16, 2024

An aide to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin asked a 911 operator that an ambulance retrieving the secretary not use lights and sirens to keep things "subtle."

"Can I ask—can the ambulance not show up with lights and sirens? Uhm, we’re trying to remain a little subtle," said the aide, according to the Daily Beast, which obtained audio of the Jan. 1 call via a Freedom of Information Act request.

The operator replied that ambulances usually turn off their sirens and lights while they're in residential neighborhoods but that they must turn them on while driving on main roads.

The report comes a day after Austin left Walter Reed National Military Medical Center following a two-week hospitalization of which both the public and President Joe Biden were unaware for days.

The Pentagon announced on Jan. 5 that Austin had been admitted to Walter Reed on New Year's Day after experiencing complications from an "elective" procedure in December. Reports later revealed that Biden did not know about his status until three days after he entered the hospital, but the administration said the president had no plans to fire Austin for his lack of transparency.

Doctors at the medical center later revealed that Austin underwent a procedure in December to treat early-stage prostate cancer and that he returned on Jan. 1 with a urinary tract infection and a collection of intestinal fluid impairing his abdominal function.

After Republicans had called for Austin's job, Rep. Chris Deluzio of Pennsylvania became the first Democrat to demand his resignation, saying that he had "lost trust in Secretary Lloyd Austin’s leadership of the Defense Department due to the lack of transparency about his recent medical treatment and its impact on the continuity of the chain of command."

The Pentagon's initial revelation to the public about Austin's health came less than a week before the United States and United Kingdom conducted strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen over the group's attacks on merchant ships in the Red Sea.