During a State Department briefing in 2013 on the Iran nuclear talks, then spokesperson Jen Psaki was asked by James Rosen of Fox News whether officials ever lie to the public to safeguard national security interests.
Psaki appeared to confirm that the government does occasionally mislead or deceive the public to protect national security. "James, I think there are times where diplomacy needs privacy in order to progress. This is a good example of that," Psaki stated.
A State Department official on Wednesday acknowledged that an archived video of that press briefing was intentionally edited to remove that revealing portion of the conversation about the Iran nuclear talks – a gap in the discussion that the government previously blamed on a technical “glitch,” according to media reports.
Some journalists earlier this year discovered that several minutes of the 2013 press conference had been deleted from an archived video that was posted on YouTube, according to The Hill. That vanished segment dealing with the time line of the nuclear deal with Iran included suggestions by Psaki that the talks had begun earlier than previously disclosed.
The Obama administration at first said the talks started in 2013, after newly elected President Hassan Rouhani and other moderate leaders took office in Iran. But evidence subsequently surfaced that the talks started much earlier, before Rouhani took power. Some critics view that as evidence that Obama wanted a deal at any cost to burnish his foreign policy record.
Indeed, Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser to Obama, indicated in an interview with The New York Times Magazine last month that the administration “largely manufactured” a dishonest narrative about the diplomacy surrounding the Iran nuclear deal in order to win public and congressional support for the controversial agreement.
The multi-national agreement negotiated by Secretary of State John Kerry and other international officials to curtail Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon was concluded in July 2015 and implemented in January 2016.
Several weeks back, the State Department blamed the missing portion of the video on a “glitch,” but abruptly changed course on Wednesday after officials reviewed the events surrounding the editing of the videotape. Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters Wednesday, “We do not know who made the request to edit the video or why it was made.”
Kirby said that officials had attempted to ascertain who ordered the edit, but noted that “it was three years ago and the individual who took the call [to edit the tape] just simply doesn’t have a better memory of it.” He did not say whether it was Psaki, who has since moved to the White House.
Kirby added that while it was wrong to edit the video, there's no basis for investigating the issue further. "There were no rules in place at the time to govern this sort of action, so while I believe it was an inappropriate step to take, I see little foundation for pressing forward with a formal investigation," he said.