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State Department in Hot Water Over Briefing Video Edit

  • Pamela Dockins

Former U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki is seen in a screen grab taken from video. A removed portion of video in which she said that “There are times when diplomacy needs privacy in order to progress” has been under scrutiny.

Former U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki is seen in a screen grab taken from video. A removed portion of video in which she said that “There are times when diplomacy needs privacy in order to progress” has been under scrutiny.

The U.S. State Department is providing a House of Representatives panel with preliminary information about a deliberate edit of a public briefing, an issue that has raised questions about the Obama administration's transparency during Iran nuclear talks.

Spokesman Mark Toner said the department will provide the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee a "preliminary response" ahead of a late Wednesday deadline. He said the department expects to have a more extensive response in about a week or so.

The committee is seeking documents that identify the individual who requested that a portion of video from a 2013 briefing be removed. It also wants information on any other requests to edit State Department briefings.

At issue is a Dec. 2, 2013, briefing conducted by then-spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

Asked about the accuracy of a State Department denial earlier in the year of secret government talks between the U.S. and Iran, Psaki said, “There are times when diplomacy needs privacy in order to progress.”

“This is a good example of that,” she added.

The exchange was initially deleted from the posted video briefing, but remained in the department’s official transcript.

FILE - U.S. and Iranian delegations headed by Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (R) are seen meeting in Vienna, Austria, Jan. 16, 2016. Critics on Capitol Hill have accused the Obama administration of a lack of transparanecy during Iran nuclear talks.

FILE - U.S. and Iranian delegations headed by Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (R) are seen meeting in Vienna, Austria, Jan. 16, 2016. Critics on Capitol Hill have accused the Obama administration of a lack of transparanecy during Iran nuclear talks.

Accusations of ‘whitewash’

Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the oversight committee, has accused President Barack Obama’s administration of trying to “whitewash” the public about details of Iran nuclear talks.

Lawmakers have also called for Secretary of State John Kerry to testify about the incident, and for a State Department Inspector General probe.

Last week, Kerry called the video edit “stupid” and “inappropriate.” However, State Department officials have said it remains unclear who made the edit request.

Officials also say there was no State Department policy in place at the time to prevent such edits, but new guidelines were recently enacted.

Some U.S. lawmakers have remained skeptical of the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

They have voiced concerns that the Obama administration provided misleading information about the plan and that the deal could be destabilizing for the U.S and its Middle East allies.

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