As Katie wrote earlier, the Obama State Department has admitted that it deliberately deleted a portion of video from a 2013 press briefing, at which then-spokeswoman Jen Psaki appeared to confirm to Fox News correspondent James Rosen that misleading the press is sometimes a necessary element of secret diplomacy. That admission seems particularly damaging in light of recent revelations that senior White House national security aide Ben Rhodes intentionally and repeatedly manipulated the media and the public in selling the administration's controversial nuclear deal with Iran. Obama officials appear to have inaccurately portrayed key elements of the agreement -- from the circumstances under which talks began, to its terms pertaining to illegal ballistic missile tests, to the nature of its inspections regime. It seems as though somebody at the State Department realized that Psaki's answer in late 2013 might fuel the political controversy over Rhodes' deceitful "echo chamber" strategy, and ordered that the original tape be edited to excise the exchange. When this ex post facto bowdlerization was discovered by Fox News, State lied about it, claiming it was cause by a technical "glitch," as opposed to an intentional act. (Anyone with knowledge of television editing recognizes a so-called "white flash" edit as anything but accidental).
Put simply, when pressed about whether or not they were lying to the public in furtherance of their private discussions with Tehran, the Obama State Department briefly hinted at the truth: Yes, they were. When they subsequently determined that the resulting soundbyte might be damaging, especially in light of the Rhodes affair, they tried to expunge it from history, then lied about their actions when confronted with the deletion. While Rosen has magnanimously applauded chief State Department spokesman John Kirby for looking into the matter and coming clean, this matter should not be considered settled. State's new line is that yes, the edit was done on purpose, and we're taking steps to ensure that it never happens again -- but the person who executed this records-altering order cannot recall who issued it. Nonsense. Yet another lie. Whether federal crimes were committed here is unclear. That possibility should be thoroughly investigated. Regardless, somebody high-ranking within the administration -- Dana Perino believes it was a political appointee, not a career bureaucrat -- told someone else to doctor footage of a press conference during which important questions were raised about a high-stakes and unpopular accord President Obama was seeking with a sworn US enemy. This is extremely serious business. The identity of the person or persons who made that call must be unearthed, and the culprits should suffer consequences. Leaders of a free and open society must not be permitted to conduct their business in this manner. Two additional thoughts:
(1) This episode calls to mind an incident from earlier this spring, in which the White House was accused of sanitizing video of the French President's reference to "Islamist terrorism" in remarks delivered during a visit to Washington. The official transcript included those words, but the video cut out two sentences. When this discrepancy was discovered, the White House blamed a glitch, then restored the full clip. That may have been an innocent hiccup; this most recent episode makes one wonder. Also, don't forget that Hillary Clinton set up and used her unsecure bootleg email server for the express purpose of keeping certain "private" emails away from prying eyes vis-a-vis open records requests. Prior to finally and belatedly turning over her emails to the State Department, Clinton and her lawyers unilaterally deleted roughly 32,000 messages that they claimed had nothing to do with official business. Several of those scrubbed or withheld emails have since been proven to relate to US foreign policy and other public matters. This seems to be emerging is a pattern of behavior within the Obama administration, wherein politically problematic public records are tweaked, revised, or simply disappeared (e.g., Lois Lerner's 'lost' emails). Are their other instances of these Orwellian practices that have not yet come to light? This morning, Kirby conceded that he doesn't know whether similar edits were made elsewhere.
(2) Think about James Rosen's relationship with the Obama administration over the past few years. In 2013, it was revealed that the Justice Department had been monitoring Rosen's email account, in hopes of smoking out one of the reporter's sources. This spying was undertaken under the auspices of a warrant that treated Rosen as a potential criminal co-conspirator -- for the crime of practicing journalism. It also requested open-ended monitoring over an indefinite period of time to allow the DOJ to troll for other possible Rosen sources. We also discovered around that time that Justice Department officials had seized the phone records of Rosen's parents in connection with the same effort, and had separately cast a very broad net in monitoring the telephone records of up to 100 or more Associated Press reporters and editors over a two-month span. Considering the outrageous treatment to which Rosen has been subjected, and the shocking lengths to which the administration has gone to thwart his journalistic work on two different occasions, you'd think Rosen would be widely hailed as a hero of the profession. His name would be familiar to every journalism school student in the country. He'd receive awards and adulation from his colleagues in the press. But he's a Fox News correspondent, so don't hold your breath. I'll leave you with Kirby denying a cover-up on Fox & Friends: