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State Department Won’t Reopen Investigation Into Edited Tape

The headquarters of the U.S. Department of State in the Harry Truman Building / Wikimedia Commons
• June 3, 2016 5:29 pm

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The State Department said Friday that it would not revive a probe to discover who was responsible for ordering the deletion of press footage from the agency’s public video archives.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the agency had "exhausted" its efforts to investigate the incident through an earlier inquiry, The Hill reported.

The deleted section of the 2013 press briefing showed Jen Psaki, a top administration spokeswoman, acknowledging that the administration had misled media about secret nuclear talks between the United States and Iran in 2012.

"There are times where diplomacy needs privacy in order to progress. This is a good example of that," Psaki told Fox News reporter James Rosen in the deleted exchange.

Rosen later attempted to dig up the exchange, but found that eight minutes from the video had been deleted from the State Department’s website while the transcript remained intact.

The State Department initially said the deletion was a technical "glitch" before admitting Wednesday that the video had been deliberately edited at the request of an unnamed press official.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R., Calif.) called on the State Department’s inspector general to look into the edit on Friday.

Toner said the agency's watchdog could still decide to launch its own probe, but noted that any phone records potentially leading to the official responsible would already be deleted.

"In tampering with this video, the Bureau of Public Affairs has undermined its mission to ‘communicate timely and accurate information with the goal of furthering U.S. foreign policy,’" Royce wrote in a letter to State Department Inspector General Steve Linick. "This is all the more troubling given that the video in question dealt with hugely consequential nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic of Iran."

State Department spokesman John Kirby revealed Wednesday there had been a "deliberate request" to scrub the footage.

Psaki has denied involvement in ordering the edit.

Secretary of State John Kerry weighed in on the issue Friday, saying that whoever was responsible for editing the tape was "stupid and clumsy and inappropriate." He also said that he "would like to find out exactly what happened and why."