Old and busted: We did the best we could in investigating ourselves! New hotness: Hey, let’s take another crack at this mystery! Just days ago, State declared that their probe into the surreptitious editing of a 2013 briefing that removed a controversial exchange with a Fox News reporter was at a dead end. After an outcry from the media, Secretary of State John Kerry has ordered a new investigation into the redaction:
“We’re going to continue to look at additional troves of information in an effort to find out, again, what happened,” spokesman Mark Toner told reporters on Wednesday. “That is basically because the secretary said he wants to dive deeper into this, look more into what happened, and try to get to the bottom of what happened.
“And so, what our office of legal adviser did was go back and look at what are other areas where there could be information.”
Criticism has mounted on the State Department following the revelation early this month that someone within the public affairs office had ordered portions of the video be deleted. Themissing video snippet — which has since been restored — featured a discussion between then-spokeswoman Jen Psaki and a Fox News reporter about nuclear negotiations with Iran, and whether it would be appropriate for the government to lie in order to advance diplomacy. So far, the department has been unable to determine who ordered the edit.
The Hill’s Julian Hattem points out that the initial investigation more closely resembled Inspector Clouseau than Lt. Columbo:
The department’s initial probe appeared to be pockmarked with a few glaring omissions, such as failing to look for emails discussing the deleted portion of video or see whether phone records from the day might still exist. In response to prodding from journalists, the State Department has since said that telephone records would have been long deleted.
Additionally, the only person to have been interviewed in the investigation was the unidentified technician who reported receiving the call to edit the tape.
Golly, they really pulled out all the stops, didn’t they? This follows the sterling Obama administration tradition of having agencies investigate themselves, only to discover that they did nothing wrong or couldn’t figure out who did. Whether it’s Eric Holder’s Department of Justice (Fast and Furious), James Clapper’s ODNI (lying to Congress about surveillance), the “Accountability Review Board” on Benghazi that refused to question political appointees at State, or the IRS looking for Lois Lerner’s hard drives, nothing says most transparent administration evah like an Obama administration self-acquittal. Who needs constitutional checks and balances, anyway?
Actually, er, we do. Kerry’s announcement came after the House Oversight Committee announced that they might want to perform an investigation that involved talking to more than one person. Another House chair asked the Inspector General to look into it, too:
The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee wrote the State Department asking for more information, and the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee asked the State Department inspector general to investigate the matter.
In a letter to Kerry released on Friday, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, asked for documents identifying the official or officials involved in editing out the portion of the Dec. 2, 2013, daily press briefing. Chaffetz, the oversight and government reform panel’s chairman, said he was making the request “to better understand the facts and circumstances surrounding the deletion.”
Separately, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., asked State Department Inspector General Steve Linnick on Friday to open an investigation, saying that the department’s explanation “raises disturbing questions.”
That’s a somewhat important detail to remember when considering why Kerry suddenly changed his mind on an investigation, as well as a good reason not to wait for him to get around to it. Linnick needs to take up the probe himself, and House Oversight needs to make sure the investigation doesn’t take 75 years to complete, too. Anyone trusting Kerry to “dive deeper” into a corrupt act designed to protect his legacy-building Iran agreement has to have been asleep the past seven-plus years.