State Department review into doctored video is inconclusive


    State Department doctored video to hide Iran deal


State Department doctored video to hide Iran deal 02:18

Story highlights

  • The video in question concerned an exchange over talks between the US and Iran
  • The clip posted on the State Department's website replaced the exchange with a bright white flash

(CNN)The State Department on Thursday revealed the results of a two-month long investigation into what they say was the deliberate editing of a press briefing video -- but the review left many questions unanswered.

"What we were not able to determine was why the edit was made in the first place," State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters. "There's no evidence to suggest it was made with the intent to conceal information from the public, and while the (video) technician recalls receiving a phone call requesting the edit, there is no evidence to indicate who might've placed that call or why."
The video in question was brought to the department's attention by Fox News reporter James Rosen, who noticed that a noteworthy exchange he'd had with then-spokeswoman Jen Psaki in December 2013 had been removed from the video posted to the department's website.
    Rosen had asked Psaki to explain why the administration previously denied talks were taking place between the US and Iran -- talks that subsequently came to light. Psaki, now the White House communications director, admitted the administration lied in order to protect the secrecy of the negotiations.
    The full exchange was included in the official briefing transcript, as well as versions of the video posted to the State Department's YouTube channel and a separate Defense Department video database. But the video posted on the State Department's website was altered so the exchange on Iran was replaced with a bright white flash.
    "The white flash that many of you have noticed yourselves in that portion of the video is evidence enough of human involvement," Kirby said.
    The Office of the Legal Adviser, which conducted the review, interviewed more than 30 current and former employees.
    They found that the video "likely was shortened very early in the process only minutes after the briefing concluded and well before the technician who recalled making the edit believes the request was made to make the edit," Kirby said.
    But their inability to pinpoint the official who ordered the edit, or determine their motivation, was met with conspicuous incredulity in the briefing room.
    "I understand that these results may not be completely satisfying to everyone," Kirby conceded. "I think we would all have preferred to arrive at clear and convincing answers but that's not where the evidence or the memories of so many employees about an event, which happened more than two and a half years ago, have taken us."
    While the review was not conclusive, the authors suggest the edit may have been to cover a technical issue. But the report also acknowledges there's no way to rule out the possibility the edit was made to conceal information from the public.
    It's a possibility Kirby seemed to dismiss Thursday, saying, "It would have been a pretty ham-fisted and sloppy approach to do it" because the transcript and other versions of the video were not altered.
    Kirby said the State Department will work with the National Archives and Record Administration to determine whether there need to be changes to the department's record-keeping practices.
    Because there were no rules in place prohibiting the editing of briefing videos, no employees have been disciplined over the incident.