State Dept. investigation of video edit 'inconclusive'

It has been quite a day for the State Department. In addition to their admission that the release of $400 million in cash to Iran was contingent on Iran’s release of U.S. prisoners, the State Department also revealed the results of its internal investigation into the edit of the daily briefing video that was discovered in May. Their conclusion? They still don’t know who asked for the edit. Politico reports:

Current State Department spokesman John Kirby said State’s Office of Legal Adviser interviewed more than 30 current and former employees and reviewed a variety of records, but could not reach a firm conclusion about who, if anyone, ordered the deletion of the December 2013 exchange between then-spokeswoman Jen Psaki and Fox News reporter James Rosen.

“We are confident that the video of that briefing was deliberately edited … what we were not able to determine was why the edit was made in the first place,” Kirby said as he announced the results to a skeptical audience at the State Department’s daily press briefing. “It was inconclusive.”

Recall that when the edit was initially discovered the State Department claimed it was just a technical “glitch,” i.e. not an intentional edit. Approximately three weeks later the Department admitted the edit was not a glitch but an intentional edit made because there was a request to remove it. Here’s what I wrote about that admission at the time:

[State spokesman John] Kirby had a whole long statement on this in which he said, “a specific request was made to excise that portion of the briefing.” He added, “We do not know who made the request to edit the video or why it was made.”

So three weeks ago the Department said the missing video was a glitch. Today they say it was deliberate but don’t know who requested it. It should go without saying that this is also, almost certainly, a lie. They may not have a signed document asking for the deletion, but someone knows who it was. Probably only a handful of people could ask for and get something like that done. They just don’t want to say who did it because that could result in real consequences, something the State Department tries to avoid.

Now here we are 10 weeks later and the State Department is still claiming they don’t know who ordered the deletion. In addition, they are actually suggesting once again that maybe this was a glitch after all. Politico reports Kirby said today, “A glitch is possible.” He added, “It is possible the white flash was inserted because the video had lost footage due to technical or electrical problems that were affecting out control room servers around that time.” Politico reporter the reporters in the room reacted in disbelief at Kirby’s return to this explanation.

The audacity of Kirby’s explanation really is breathtaking. He isn’t denying what he said previously about a call coming in to remove “that portion” of the briefing. He’s now suggesting the call may have come in after some sort of tech glitch accidentally removed exactly the same portion of the briefing the unknown caller would (later) ask to remove. Presumably the editor sat down at his computer sometime later and, realizing the requested edit had already been accomplished as if by divine intervention, added a flash transition to the gap. I think we can all agree that’s an incredible, amazing (one might even say unbelievable) coincidence.

But still, the least believable part of Kirby’s story is that no one knows who ordered this edit. If you’ve forgotten why the administration might have wanted to make this go away, watch this Fox News report explaining the significance of the deleted video: