Associated Press reporter Matt Lee on Wednesday sparred with a State Department spokesperson who insisted the administration was adequately briefed on a side deal between the IAEA and Iran, despite not having read it.
"We haven’t received a written copy of it, but we have been briefed on its contents," State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner said.
"So someone with a photographic memory has looked at it and copied everything down in their brain and then repeated it up on the Hill?" Lee asked.
The IAEA and Iran have reportedly negotiated a deal that limits inspections to Iran’s nuclear sites. This deal reportedly allows Iran to take its own environmental samples from suspect nuclear sites, a provision that could be exploited to hide nuclear cheating.
This deal has become the subject of controversy because its text has not been made available to administration officials or members of Congress tasked with reviewing the Iran nuclear deal. According to the Washington Post, not communicating these side deals to Congress is illegal.
The Washington Post reports:
In fact, the Obama administration’s failure to transmit these side deals to Congress is a violation of the law. The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which Obama signed into law, explicitly states that the president must transmit the nuclear agreement along with "all related materials and annexes." That clearly covers any side agreements covering the verification of Iran’s compliance.
The Obama administration has defended this anti-transparency measure, calling it standard practice and objecting to the term "secret deal."
Lee said the term was apt.
"If there is a written version of this and it’s not being made available [to the U.S.]—whether that’s standard practice for the IAEA or not—I don’t see how you can say there’s no secret deal," Lee told State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner. "That’s almost the very definition of secret."