Columns

State Dept.: 'Whether We Like It Or Not, No Rules Broken' with Video Edit

WASHINGTON — The State Department insisted today that they see no more reason to investigate the intentional cutting of briefing footage about the Iran nuclear deal since no rules were broken.

Several minutes of a December 2013 briefing with then-press secretary Jen Psaki were cut before the department posted the video online. The section edited out included questions about a 2012 State Department press briefing in which then-spokeswoman Victoria Nuland denied that the U.S. and Iran had launched nuclear talks in secret.

Press secretary John Kirby told reporters Wednesday that someone called a video department technician to request the edit. “We do not know who made the request to edit the video or why it was made,” Kirby said.

Now the White House communications director, Psaki tweeted Wednesday, “I had no knowledge of nor would I have approved of any form of editing or cutting my briefing transcript on any subject while .”

Today in Paris, Secretary of State John Kerry called the cut “clumsy and stupid and inappropriate.”

Reuters cited an unnamed source detailing that the technician who received the editing request ran it through her supervisor, who decided that the request came from a high enough “level of credibility and authority.”

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) sent a letter to Kerry on Thursday night requesting all documents and communication related to the video edit and any similar actions to delete parts of press briefings from Jan. 1, 2012, onward.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) today called on the State Department inspector general to investigate.

“The missing excerpt – which has since resurfaced – contained a tacit admission by then-spokesperson Jennifer Psaki that the Department concealed information from the public about the commencement of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program,” Royce wrote to IG Steve Linick.

“While the Department has clarified that what was initially described as a technical ‘glitch’ was no such thing, the explanation provided by the spokesperson at a press briefing this week raises disturbing questions. For instance, it remains unclear why the exchange between Ms. Psaki and reporters was stricken from the video recording. How is it not possible to determine who in the Administration ordered that the video be altered, as the current spokesman has asserted? Will there be no accountability? Have there been other instances where the State Department has altered the public record?”

State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters today that no accountability is needed because no rules were broken.

He said they received Chaffetz’s documentation request and are “in the process of seeing how we can be responsive and under what time constraints.”

As far as Royce’s letter to Linick, “the OIG operates as a separate entity, and so it will decide for itself whether it wants to look into this incident.”

“Doing audits, investigations, what have you, but also that there was no, as we talked about at length yesterday, there was no rules broken here. We did conduct an internal investigation, but you know, the letter has been sent to the I.G. and it’s up to the I.G. to make that — make that call,” Toner said.

“…We still don’t know who made the request. But we also said if there is more information that comes to light, we’re going to look at it and we’re going to consider it.”

A reporter noted that “there’s a difference between like standing and hoping that information drops out of the sky into your hands and actively going out and looking for it.”

“Whether we like it or not, whether we agree with it or not, there were no rules or regulations broken,” Toner asserted. “We believe that we have investigated the incident to the point where — to which we can. And what we have sought to address is the fact that there was an absence of a clear policy about this and we have addressed that.”

“…We believe we have conducted an inquiry into this incident. We have — to the extent that we can, that — given that no rules or regulations or policy was broken, that we have sought to correct that going forward. But that we believe we have exhausted our efforts to look into the incident and responsibility.”