The State Department finally agreed Wednesday that the videos of its daily press briefings are government records, and said it is working with the National Archives and Records Administration on rules for how they should be kept.
As recently as Monday, the department had quibbled over whether the videos it records of its briefings were official government records. Spokesman Mark Toner said the video recordings are "not necessarily the official audio-visual record" of each briefing.
The question is critical, as the department has admitted to editing a briefing video from 2013 in a way that excluded a comment from a former spokeswoman, who seemed to admit that the officials sometimes lie in public. That admission could conceivably lead to criminal charges against the person who ordered the video to be edited, since it's against the law to alter government records.
But on Wednesday, spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said the department now agrees with NARA that videos of each day's briefing are government records.
"We agree with NARA," she said, after being told that NARA had told some press outlets that it does believe the videos are official records.
However, she said current rules don't set any guidelines for how these videos should be kept.
"The rules for how records need to be treated are set by record disposition schedules," she said. "Records can be permanent or temporary..."
"The transcript is addressed in a disposition schedule on a permanent record," she added. "There is no disposition schedule as of right now that covers how the daily press briefing videos need to be preserved. We are working with NARA right now to create a disposition schedule for them, at which point it will clarify if the videos will be temporary or permanent."
Trudeau didn't go so far as to say that the lack of a disposition schedule for videos means the official who ordered the video to be edited doesn't have to face any punishment. But for now, the question of punishment is moot, as officials have said they can't determine who asked for the video to be edited.