• State Department Tries to Send Embarrassing Press Video Down the Memory Hole

    June 7, 2016 // 14 Comments »

    jen psaki.resized

    Last week the State Department revealed that an unknown official within its public affairs office ordered the scrubbing of roughly eight minutes from a video of a State press briefing, which included a discussion about negotiations related to the Iran nuclear deal.


    In the deleted portion, then-spokesperson Jen Psaki (above) was asked whether her predecessor lied when she said secret bilateral talks with Iran had not yet begun, when later U.S. officials said they were already ongoing at that point.

    A few days later, after the news broke of the deletion, Secretary of State John Kerry said that whoever called for deleting the several minutes of video was being “stupid, clumsy and inappropriate.” Kerry emphasized that he intends to find out who was responsible, adding that he didn’t want someone like that working for him.

    No One is Responsible

    However, on the same day Kerry issued his intention to find the responsible person, the current State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said the investigation to determine who ordered portions deleted from a video was over.

    “We believe we have conducted an inquiry into this incident,” Toner told reporters. “We have exhausted our efforts to look into the incident and responsibility.”

    According to State, the investigation learned that the technician who made the cut from the YouTube video did so on orders from someone in the public affairs office, but that no one remembered who. Despite no one remembering who gave the order, State was clear that its investigation ruled out former spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

    Toner also added in his briefing to reporters that there was no rule or regulation barring such editing, and it was thus allowed. Toner’s statement mirrors almost exactly the language Hillary Clinton has used to justify her use of a private email server while Secretary of State.

    When the editing was first uncovered by a journalist at Fox News, the State Department blamed the missing minutes on a technical “glitch.”



    Anything Familiar Here?

    We have become all-too-used to government lies; they are now expected and quickly dismissed as business as usual. Still, State’s actions deserve special note for their utter contemptuous nature.

    To begin, the deletion was actually not that big of a deal. The statements cut out were made in 2013, and the video itself was buried on YouTube. The events have passed, and the false statement could have easily be brushed away as necessary during secret negotiations. In the broad scope of things, they really didn’t matter, yet State felt compelled to hide them anyway. Even the hiding was crude, a simple edit of an event witnessed by a room full of journalists. Not exactly subterfuge.

    That contempt was carried forward into 2016, when State tried to blow the whole affair off by claiming it was a technical glitch. When they got caught in the lie, the next step was a faux-investigation that revealed nothing, except to purport to clear the senior person involved in the mess and the one who presumably had the most to gain from the deletion (Psaki now works in the White House.)

    The State Department then doubled-down with new lies, allowing Secretary Kerry to demand resolution while simultaneously announcing the issue is closed and no further “resolution” is going to happen, absent a Congressional inquiry that will no doubt be stymied by slow responses from State and cries that it is all just another political attack by the Republicans.

    Any of this sound familiar?


    BONUS: The White House was also caught this week deleting an embarrassing line from the official transcript of a press briefing on the same topic. Probably just a coincidence…



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    Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

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    Posted in Democracy, Embassy/State

    State Department Now Just Making It Up to Explain Away Clinton’s Excesses

    March 27, 2015 // 26 Comments »

    ?????

    State Department spokesdrone Jen Psaki is now just straight out making things up to explain away the questions surrounding Clinton and her email, and the State Department’s complicity.

    Her “misstatements” can now be debunked with a click of a mouse, which we will do in a moment.

    The devil is in the details on these things, as no one expects to find a notarized document that reads “Yes, I did it all to hide embarrassing stuff from the Freedom of Information Act because dammit it is my turn to be president, signed, Hillary”).

    So let’s drill down.



    The OF-109 Form

    Outgoing State Department personnel are required to sign a statement called an OF-109. I signed one when I retired from the State Department.

    Though the possibility exists some folks get out the door without signing for whatever reason, mostly negligence, I can find no stated exceptions to having to sign. The document is straightforward; read it here. Basically it says you turned over “all [classified and] unclassified documents and papers relating to the official business of the Government acquired by me while in the employ of the Department or USIA.” The rest has to do with acknowledging you understand disclosure laws relating to those documents.

    Clinton, somewhat infamously, never signed an OF-109. Had she done so, she would have committed perjury, at the minimum, because as we now know she did not turn over her emails upon exiting the job. She did not do what every other outgoing State Department person is required to do. Clinton has a large staff, and no doubt had the attention of State’s HR people, so it seems there was near zero chance her not signing was some mere oversight.

    What Jen Psaki Said

    But here’s what Jen Psaki said instead of all that:

    The State Department spokesperson also explained why Clinton would not have signed the OF-109 separation statement. Psaki said that former secretaries of state “want to remain accessible” to future secretaries and presidents, which is why they maintain their security clearance. Psaki added that former secretaries may also want access to their files for future books.

    See, none of that is true. Signing the OF-109 has nothing at all to do with retaining one’s security clearance. That is a fully separate, independent process. Signing the OF-109 has nothing at all to do with remaining accessible to future secretaries and presidents. Signing the OF-109 has nothing to do with accessing files for future books. As a private citizen, Clinton has no more special access to State Department files than you do.

    It was all a lie. Psaki is the spokesperson. She has been asked about this matter numerous times, and has the full resources of the State Department behind her to research an answer. There is near zero chance she was uninformed. She just lied.

    But It’s Just Some Form

    One true thing Psaki did say was “that there has long been a responsibility placed on the outgoing employee to account for his or her emails.” Indeed. That accountability is embedded in the OF-109 form; that’s where the outgoing employee certifies she has done what she is required to do.

    Of course signing or not signing the form does not change the underlying law and regulation requiring outgoing personnel to turn over their stuff, so there is also that independent of the form itself.

    In rebuttal you will no doubt hear someone say “Yeah, yeah, it’s just another government form, so let’s focus on the important stuff.” This is the important stuff. Judging character, honesty and intent requires understanding the details.


    BONUS: Sounds like somebody is leaning forward hoping for that sweet, sweet White House spokesperson job in 2016. Also, an unexplored side of all this is the complicity of the State Department in Clinton’s email “issues.” State allowed her to operate outside its rules and regulations, perhaps outside the law, for four years.




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    Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

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    Posted in Democracy, Embassy/State