State Dep’t Grilled on Footage That Took a Walk

     (CN) — A government watchdog has filed suit for records on the mysterious disappearance of press-briefing footage that reportedly embarrassed the White House.
     Though the press briefing occurred on Dec. 2, 2013, news of the deleted footage appeared only last month, according to the complaint, filed Tuesday in Washington.
     The edit allegedly removed an eight-minute portion that in which Fox News chief Washington correspondent James Rosen questioned State Department spokesman Jen Psaki about Iran nuclear talks.
     A Fox News article on the exchange at the time interpreted “Psaki’s responses to Rosen’s questions deleted from the video [as] statements where she ‘acknowledges misleading the press on the Iran negotiations,'” the 18-page complaint states.
     But the American Center for Law and Justice, the nonprofit behind this week’s lawsuit, says coverage of the gaffe has been bipartisan.
     “After a spokesperson of defendant initially claimed the deletion or alteration at issue was ‘a glitch,’ and after defendant’s receipt of plaintiff’s FOIA request, a different spokesperson of defendant conceded it was a ‘deliberate step to excise the video’ — and not a ‘glitch,'” the complaint states, citing the Washington Post.
     The American Center for Law and Justice submitted its request under the Freedom of Information Act on May 12 — just three days after Rosen blew the whistle on the deleted footage.
     Though Rosen’s report allegedly prompted the State Department to restore “the full, unedited video” on the its website by May 10, the center contends that the edited footage still remained on the State Department’s YouTube channel.
     A transcript of press briefing on the State Department’s website does not appear altered.
     The center’s FOIA request seeks various categories of records concerning discussions about the Dec. 2, 2013, briefing.
     Citing a 20-day deadline, the group says it should have received a determination by June 10.
     With no sign of the records, the center notes it is not holding its breath on the State Department’s compliance.
     The complaint cites a Justice Department report that said “defendant took 111 days on average to respond to FOIA requests in 2014, far longer than any other agency and the time specified by statute.”
     State Department officials even allegedly warned the center not to hold its breath.
     They sent a letter on May 18 noting that “unusual circumstances (including the number and location of department components involved in responding to your request, the volume of requested records, etc.) may arise that would require additional time to process your request,” according to the complaint.
     Meanwhile news blog the Hill quoted the State Department as saying on June 9 “that it would not comply with requests from the House Oversight Committee for emails concerning the deleted or altered video, unilaterally deciding, apparently, that the emails it reviewed ‘aren’t relevant,'” according to the complaint.
     The State Department has not returned requests for comment.The American Center for Law and Justice is represented by chief counsel Jay Alan Sekulo.

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