The State Department on Wednesday acknowledged that an archived video of a 2013 press briefing was intentionally edited to remove a snippet of conversation about the Iran nuclear talks, an omission it had previously blamed on a “glitch.”
Earlier this year, journalists discovered that several minutes of the 2013 press briefing had been deleted from an archived video posted on YouTube. The deleted segment of tape included a discussion related to the nuclear deal with Iran, and a suggestion by spokeswoman Jen Psaki that negotiations for that deal had begun earlier than previously disclosed.
The State Department a few weeks ago blamed the missing portion of the video on a “glitch,” but did a rapid about-face on Wednesday.
In reviewing the events surrounding the missing videotape, State Department officials “learned that a specific request was made to excise that portion of the briefing,” spokesman John KirbyJohn KirbyRussia removing staff from Kyiv embassy: report Blinken to travel to Ukraine amid tensions with Russia Overnight Defense & National Security — Texas hostage situation rattles nation MORE told reporters. “We do not know who made the request to edit the video or why it was made.”
Officials “tried” to determine who ordered the edit, the spokesman added, “but it was three years ago and the individual who took the call [to edit the tape] just simply doesn’t have a better memory of it."
The order to edit the tape came from somewhere in the department's Public Affairs Bureau, he said.
Psaki, who is now the White House director of communications, denied that she was responsible for the scrubbing.
“I had no knowledge of nor would I have approved of any form of editing or cutting my briefing transcript on any subject while @StateDept,” she said on Twitter.
There were no formal policies in place prohibiting officials from meddling with recorded video briefings, Kirby claimed, so the department will not launch an investigation to determine who removed the minutes of video or why.
“There were no rules governing this sort of action in the past,” he maintained. “So I find no reason to press forward with a more formal or deeper investigation. What matters to me — and I take it seriously — is our commitment to transparency and disclosure.”
On Wednesday, Kirby said he did order new rules mandating videos and transcripts of briefings to be posted online in full, and preventing them from being edited except in the rarest of circumstances, and only with full disclosures.
“We believe that deliberately removing a portion of the video was not and is not in keeping with the State Department’s commitment to transparency and public accountability,” Kirby said.
The Wednesday admission is a humbling one for the State Department. Its refusal to further probe the matter is likely to incite outrage from conservative critics and public transparency advocates.
The revelation of the missing tape sparked outrage from the Obama administration’s critics, who accused it of covering up its own recent past.
The start date of the negotiations gained new prominence in recent weeks, after the publication of a New York Times Magazine profile of White House aide Ben Rhodes suggesting the White House manipulated the press with a false narrative about the Iran nuclear pact.
This story was updated at 5:36 p.m.