State Department spokesman John Kirby admitted a week ago that a key exchange in a video from a December 2013 press briefing was deliberately removed by an unknown entity at the State Department, but because the removal of the 8-minute segment didn’t break any rules the internal investigation into the affair was concluded.
“We do not know who made the request to edit the video or why it was made,” Kirby told flabbergasted reporters. “The recipient of the call, who is one of the editors, does not remember anything other than that the caller was passing on a request from somewhere else in the bureau.” He explained that “there were no rules in place at the time to govern this sort of action so while I believe it was an inappropriate step to take, I see little foundation for pressing forward with a formal investigation.”
State is now switching gears on Secretary John Kerry’s orders.
“We’re going to continue to look at additional troves of information in an effort to find out, again, what happened,” spokesman Mark Toner told reporters on Wednesday. “That is basically because the secretary said he wants to dive deeper into this, look more into what happened, and try to get to the bottom of what happened.
“And so, what our office of legal adviser did was go back and look at what are other areas where there could be information.”
Criticism has mounted on the State Department following the revelation early this month that someone within the public affairs office had ordered portions of the video be deleted. The missing video snippet — which has since been restored — featured a discussion between then-spokeswoman Jen Psaki and a Fox News reporter about nuclear negotiations with Iran, and whether it would be appropriate for the government to lie in order to advance diplomacy. So far, the department has been unable to determine who ordered the edit.
The House Oversight Committee has since launched an investigation into the incident and demanded that Kerry testify. The head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee has also requested the State Department’s inspector general open an investigation into the episode.
As part of the continuing investigation, the department is looking into “all the relevant people who were occupying leadership positions,” Toner said, including multiple spokespeople and bureaucrats. Psaki and Marie Harf, another former spokeswoman, have both said they were not responsible for the edit.
“There are always other leads you can follow,” Toner told reporters on Wednesday. “And so given the secretary’s strong interest, given Congress’s strong interest and given the media’s strong interest, we’ve decided to continue to look at that.”
A reporter asked Toner why the legal adviser’s office didn’t initially carry out a more rigorous review, since obvious avenues like emails and phone calls were not looked into. He suggested an independent probe would be better since the investigation by the legal adviser’s office was “manifestly not as rigorous as it might have been.”
Toner responded by saying that calling the probe an investigation “may be overstating it” and reiterated that “no rules were broken, no laws were broken, no policies were broken.”
He added, “But we are trying to get to the bottom of what happened.”
The State Department initially blamed the missing segment on a “glitch,” which didn’t satisfy skeptical reporters. James Rosen, the Fox News reporter who first discovered that the video in question had been altered, said at the time that State was “just hoping this goes away.”