It was stupid, clumsy and inappropriate for someone to edit the video of a State Department briefing in 2013, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday as two U.S. lawmakers demanded information about the incident.
A Republican congressman asked the State Department inspector general to investigate why part of a public briefing that dealt with Iran nuclear talks was cut before it was posted online while another demanded documents about the incident.
The excised portion of the Dec. 2, 2013, briefing included a question about whether an earlier spokeswoman for the department had misled reporters about whether the United States was holding secret direct nuclear talks with Iran.
The spokeswoman had denied there were such talks, which were later made public. The State Department this week said she did not know about the secret talks when she denied their existence.
Speaking to reporters in Paris, Kerry sounded chagrined about the episode, which has drawn Republican criticism.
"Whatever happened was both clumsy and stupid and inappropriate," Kerry said. Asked if he wanted people who tampered with the historical record working for him, he replied: "Of course not. I just said, it's inappropriate."
The State Department initially said it believed a "glitch" caused the gap but on Wednesday said an internal inquiry found it was a deliberate omission. However, it said no rules were broken because none existed governing the integrity of the briefing video. Rules are now being put in place.
U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said the technician who excised part of the video told investigators she got a call asking her to do so, discussed the request with her supervisor and concluded it came from a "level of credibility and authority" high enough that they should act on the request.
The State Department has said the technician does not remember who called her. On Friday the department said it cannot use internal phone records to trace who requested the cut to the briefing video because it keeps such data for only 24 hours.
Top officials in the Bureau of Public Affairs in late 2013, including former Assistant Secretary Doug Frantz, former spokeswoman Jen Psaki, former deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf, and deputy assistant secretaries Dana Smith, Valerie Fowler and Moira Whelan have all denied asking for the video to be excised.
"In tampering with this video, the Bureau of Public Affairs has undermined its mission to 'communicate timely and accurate information with the goal of furthering U.S. foreign policy'," House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce said in a letter released by his office that asked the department's inspector general, Steve Linick, to investigate the matter.
Separately, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, also a Republican, on Tuesday wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry asking for documents related to the edited video to be turned over to his panel by Wednesday.
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