In a remarkable admission this week the State Department acknowledged someone in the agency had disliked a press question so much they demanded it be edited out of the official video record.
The State Department tampered with a tape. Watergate style.
That is unacceptable and downright dangerous in a free society. American taxpayers need to know who gave the order to edit the video and that person(s) should be immediately fired and charged with a crime.
It’s just that simple.
Back in 2013, Fox News reporter James Rosen asked State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki whether there had been secret negotiations between the U.S. and Iran. Psaki responded, “There are times where diplomacy needs privacy in order to progress.”
That exchange was edited out of the official video record. Eight minutes of a blank screen appeared. When asked about it later, Psaki claimed there had been a “technical glitch.”
But Wednesday new State Department spokesman John Kirby admitted, “There was a deliberate request to delete the footage, this wasn’t a technical glitch.”
Psaki lied. She either knew who had requested the footage be deleted or she hadn’t been told the truth by Secretary John Kerry. But the department now admits the American people were not told the truth.
Kirby will not say who made the editing request.
Congressional Republicans are now discussing holding hearings to get to the bottom of it.
President Obama can put a stop to it by simply telling Kerry to make the information available. It’s very simple.
Sadly, making a case for transparency in this administration has been a struggle for the press. As I wrote in my book Front Row Seat at the Circus:
President Obama would end his first term by having held the fewest press conferences in history. He would rarely sit down with reporters for in-depth interviews, instead flying-in local news anchors from key battleground states and cities for four-minute chitchats on whatever issue he was working on that the campaign believed played well back home.
Remember how poorly my interview ended in 2007 when I took a few extra minutes with candidate Obama? Now as president, Obama’s ability to filibuster short interviews was becoming legendary. While Republicans grumble that Obama and the press are too tight, in reality, he doesn’t think any more highly of reporters than most conservatives do.
For our part, journalists and transparency advocates are not huge fans of his White House, which curbs routine disclosure of information and attempts to avoid any scrutiny. In fact, in 2015 the Associated Press concluded the Obama administration “more often than ever” censored government files or outright denied access to them under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. “What we discovered reaffirmed what we have seen all too frequently in recent years,” said Gary Pruitt, AP’s chief executive. “The systems created to give citizens information about their government are badly broken and getting worse all the time.”
More concerning is the prosecution of whistleblowers during Obama’s presidency and increased electronic surveillance programs to track down government employees who speak to the press. Robert Greenwald, director of the film War on Whistleblowers told me: “Journalists more and more are being targeted, are being threatened, pressure is being put on them. The Obama administration is literally punishing the whistleblowers, trying to pass laws that make it harder for whistleblowers, and the danger is the only way we find out about the national security state is by these people coming forward.”
Government transparency is not likely a word that future historians will attach to the Obama legacy.
In this matter we need to know who requested a government video be edited, with footage deleted, and we need consequences for that action.
President Obama can get to the bottom of this quickly. And he should.