QUESTION: Is it the policy of the State Department, where the preservation or the secrecy of secret negotiations is concerned, to lie in order to achieve that goal?MS. PSAKI: James, I think there are times where diplomacy needs privacy in order to progress. This is a good example of that. Obviously, we have made clear and laid out a number of details in recent weeks about discussions and about a bilateral channel that fed into the P5+1 negotiations, and we’ve answered questions on it, we’ve confirmed details. We’re happy to continue to do that, but clearly, this was an important component leading up to the agreement that was reached a week ago.
The president set out the timeline himself in his speech announcing the nuclear deal on July 14, 2015: “Today, after two years of negotiations, the United States, together with our international partners, has achieved something that decades of animosity has not.” While the president’s statement was technically accurate — there had in fact been two years of formal negotiations leading up to the signing of the J.C.P.O.A. — it was also actively misleading, because the most meaningful part of the negotiations with Iran had begun in mid-2012, many months before [President Hassan] Rouhani and the “moderate” camp were chosen in an election among candidates handpicked by Iran’s supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
A portion of the State Department’s December 2nd, 2013 press briefing was missing from the video that we posted on our YouTube account and on our website. That missing portion covered a series of questions about U.S negotiations with Iran. When alerted to this, I immediately directed the video to be restored in its entirety with a full and complete copy that exists and had existed since the day of the briefing on the Defense Video and Imagery Distribution system website otherwise known as DIVIDS. I also verified that the full transcript of the briefing which we also post on our website was intact and had been so since the date of the briefing. I asked the office of the legal advisor to look at this including a look at any rules that we had in place. In so doing, they learned that a specific request was made to excise that portion of the briefing. We do not know who made the request to edit the video or why it was made. To my surprise, the Bureau of Public Affairs did not have in place any rules governing this type of action therefore we are taking immediate steps to craft appropriate protocols on this issue as we believe that deliberately removing a portion of the video was not and is not in keeping with the State Department’s commitment to transparency and public accountability. Specifically, we are going to make clear that all video and transcripts from daily press briefings will be immediately and permanently archived in their entirety. In the unlikely event, that narrow compelling circumstances require edits to be made such as the inadvertent release of privacy protected information, they will only be made with the expressed permission of the Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs and with an appropriate level of annotation and disclosure. I have communicated this new policy to my staff and it takes effect immediately.