(CNSNews.com) – Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit against the State Department Thursday for the release of records related to an edited video of a press briefing regarding the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran.
Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the conservative watchdog group asked for documents relating to “the decision by State Department officials to delete from the State Department website and YouTube channel a December 3, 2015 exchange between Fox News reporter James Rosen and State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki regarding Iranian nuclear negotiations.”
In the Dec. 2, 2013 State Department press briefing, Rosen pressed Psaki on the department's earlier denial that secret talks between Washington and Tehran were held.
“Is it the policy of the State Department where the preservation of the secrecy of secret negotiations are concerned to lie in order to achieve that goal?” Rosen asked at one point during the briefing.
“James, there are times when diplomacy needs privacy in order to progress. This is a good example of that,” Psaki replied.
However, eight minutes of the video, including that exchange, were deleted from the State Department's video archive and YouTube channel, where it was replaced with a white flash.
The State Department’s official transcript of the press briefing did contain the full exchange either.
Judicial Watch’s lawsuit follows up on the group's June FOIA request for records of all communications related to the deletion of Rosen's question and Psaki's answer. It also requests records regarding the State Department’s subsequent investigation into the deletion.
The lawsuit notes that the State Department has failed to respond to the June FOIA request by either producing the requested records or demonstrating that they are lawfully exempt from production.
State Department spokesman John Kirby admitted in June that the deletion of the exchange between Rosen and Psaki was deliberate, saying 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."
Kirby also claimed that the video editor no longer remembered the name of the person who called to request the deletion.
Kirby announced at a press briefing on Thursday that the State Department had questioned 30 of its employees and completed an internal review of the incident. But “there is no evidence to suggest that it was made to conceal evidence from the public,” he said.
“There is no evidence to suggest who might have placed that call or why,” Kirby added.
“It is possible that the white flash was inserted because the video had lost footage due to technical or electrical problems that were affecting our control room servers around that time,” he suggested.