State Department spokesman John Kirby announced to skeptical reporters last week that State was unable to determine who was behind the deletion of an eight-minute segment of video from a press briefing in 2013, or why it happened.
“We are confident that the video of that briefing was deliberately edited. … What we were not able to determine was why the edit was made in the first place,” Kirby said at the State Department’s daily press briefing on Thursday. “It was inconclusive.”
But Kirby had neglected to mention the section of the report captioned “Evidence of Purposeful Editing,” which was buried deep in the report and only made available to reporters after his briefing had concluded. Instead, he resurrected State’s “technical glitch” excuse.
The missing segment featured then State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki admitting that the government had lied about when the Iran nuclear talks began, in answer to a question from Fox News’ James Rosen. The original unedited video reappeared on the State Department website after Rosen drew attention to its disappearance last May. State initially tried to blame the missing segment on a “glitch,” before finally admitting on June 1 that it was intentionally altered.
While State Department spokesman Kirby said at the time that there would be no investigation because no laws were broken, an announcement was made one week later (on Secretary of State John Kerry’s orders) that they would investigate the edited video after all.
Via Fox News:
Kirby explained Thursday that a technician in the department’s Bureau of Public Affairs recalled receiving a telephone call from a female superior back in December 2013, ordering the editing of the video. The legal adviser’s report said that while the technician “did not believe” the call had come from Psaki, the technician was otherwise unable to remember the identity of the superior.
Kirby added: “There’s no evidence to suggest [the deletion] was made with the intent to conceal information from the public and … there is no evidence to indicate who might have placed that call or why.”
What Kirby omitted was that the legal adviser’s report — shared with news organizations on condition they not publish it in full — did indeed contain evidence to indicate why the unidentified supervisor demanded the deletion, in a section of the report captioned “Evidence of Purposeful Editing.”
“The technician did not recall a reason being given for the edit request,” the report stated, “but did believe that the requester had mentioned in the course of the call a Fox network reporter and Iran.” The report continued: “The technician indicated that the requester may also have provided the start and end times for an edit.”
The disclosure that the superior official specifically cited a Fox News reporter and his questioning about Iran when demanding the edit, and “may” even have provided the start and end times that ensured the relevant exchange would be excised, suggest the editing was a more deliberate act of censorship than State Department investigators and Kirby have publicly acknowledged.
In his briefing on the report’s findings, Kirby downplayed the importance of the deleted exchange. At one point, he said, “the content had been discussed in previous briefings.”
In fact, the excised exchange was notable because, as CNN has noted, “Psaki, now the White House communications director, admitted the administration lied in order to protect the secrecy of the negotiations.”
Fox News’ Rosen asked State Department spokesman Mark Toner today if he stood by Kirby’s statement that there was no evidence to indicate who placed the call to edit the video and why. Toner responded that he did. Toner answered that the specific mentioning of Fox News might have been a way for the caller to mark where the glitch was identifiable so the technician could fix it, but he stressed that the findings were inconclusive.
Rosen pointed out that Kirby had stated that there was “no evidence” to indicate why this call was placed. “That was false, wasn’t it? There was some evidence,” he persisted. “In fact, the mention of me and Iran appear in a section of the report entitled, ‘Evidence of Purposeful Editing.’ So there was not ‘no evidence,’ was there?”
“James, we all know …it was the segment in which you asked a question of Jen Psaki that was edited from this video….which was not as we have said many times the official transcript,” Toner answered haltingly. “What John was trying to convey…was that there was no smoking gun. There’s no clear indication that this was done with malicious intent.”