STATE DEPARTMENT —
The State Department has launched a new policy for how it handles video and transcripts from daily briefings after admitting that a portion of a briefing video about Iran nuclear talks had been deliberately removed.
Spokesman John Kirby announced the changes Wednesday after disclosing that a department technician removed a portion of the Dec. 2, 2013, briefing video posted on the agency's website.
He said the technician was responding to a phone request initiated on behalf of another individual in the agency's Public Affairs Bureau. However, he said the technician could not remember who made the call.
A portion of the video, which has since been replaced, deals with U.S. engagement with Iran in the early days of Iran nuclear talks.
A reporter asks then-State Department spokesman Jen Psaki if direct government-to-government contact between the U.S. and Iran had been going on much longer than previously disclosed.
In particular, the reporter questions a statement made by former State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland in a February 2013 briefing.
Nuland, asked if the U.S. had previously conducted "secret bilateral talks" with Iran, said there had been no government-to-government talks. She said the U.S. had made it clear that it was prepared to talk to Iran in the context of the "larger P5 + 1 framework," a reference to the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany.
Kirby said the motive for removing the excerpt remains unclear but that the removal did not violate State Department guidelines.
"There were no rules in place at the time to govern this sort of action," he said.
Kirby said he was not aware of other instances where excerpts had been removed, but could not say with certainty that it had never occurred. However, he said he considered the removal inappropriate.
"It was not an appropriate step to take," Kirby said. It was not, he said "in keeping with our obligations to be transparent and to be publicly accountable for the information that comes from this podium."
Under new guidelines, Kirby said, the State Department would make it clear that videos and transcripts from briefings be permanently archived in their entirety, unless there were compelling circumstances for edits such as the "inadvertent" release of information protected under privacy regulations.
He also said he was exploring provisions to have the guidelines included in the agency's policy manual.