State Department refuses to reopen probe into edited video

State Department refuses to reopen probe into edited video
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The State Department won’t reopen an investigation to determine who ordered portions deleted from a video of a 2013 press briefing, despite pressure from Capitol Hill, the agency said Friday.

“We believe we have conducted an inquiry into this incident,” spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.

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“We have exhausted our efforts to look into the incident and responsibility.”

The State Department’s position does not mean that its inspector general, a separate entity, will not examine the incident, as the head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee has asked it to do.

The internal watchdog “will decide for itself whether it wants to look into this incident,” Toner said.

Nonetheless, the stance is likely to anger critics of the Obama administration, who accuse it of turning a blind eye to an attempted cover-up.

Earlier this week, the department revealed that an unknown official within the public affairs office ordered the scrubbing of roughly eight minutes from a video of the briefing, which included a discussion about negotiations related to the Iran nuclear deal and whether the administration has misled the public about the timing of those talks.

According to the State Department, the official who made the cut from the YouTube video did so on orders from someone in the public affairs office but that no one remembered who. The official ruled out former spokeswoman Jen Psaki, who was in the video, the department said. The edits were apparently made on the same day of the Dec. 2, 2013, press briefing, but the deleted section has since been restored.

The State Department originally credited the missing minutes to a “glitch,” before reversing itself this week.

Toner said Friday that phone records would have been deleted a day after the call had been made to edit the tape, so it was impossible to trace it that way.

The State Department has said there were no rules against editing of the video; however, the officials put new policies in place this week, since the intentional editing came to light.

While the YouTube video had been edited, the State Department also kept a separate archived copy of the briefing that had not been edited, and an online transcript also included the full, correct exchange.

Over the last day and a half, several prominent members of Congress have scolded the State Department over the episode, and demanded a full accounting.

The House Oversight Committee has launched an investigation into the episode, asking for a range of documents from the State Department. The head of the Foreign Affairs Committee also went to the inspector general on Friday, looking for it to open its own inquiry.