State Department warns video purporting to show Indian envoy's strip search is 'hoax'
The State Department warned Friday that a video circulating online purporting to show federal agents strip-searching an Indian diplomat is a "dangerous" hoax.
The video appeared online in late December, with the text claiming that it showed "raw footage" of diplomat Devyani Khobragade's strip search. Khobragade is the New York-based envoy at the center of a diplomatic dispute between India and the United States -- after she was arrested last month on charges of lying on federal forms about her maid.
But State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the graphic video is "absolutely not footage" of Khobragade.
"We would call it a dangerous, provocative fabrication," Harf said. "This hoax video, which I think has appeared on some news website without obviously confirming its authenticity because it's not. We find it deeply troubling, irresponsible and reckless -- and condemn, again, this dangerous fabrication."
She said the department confirmed with the U.S. Marshals that the video does not depict their employees.
Harf's comments reflect concern that the "hoax" video could further inflame tensions, weeks into the stand-off over Khobragade.
The Indian government initially responded to the arrest by taking a series of retaliatory measures against the U.S., including hauling away security barriers outside the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, though, has defended the charges against Khobragade, noting she's accused of paying her housekeeper "far below minimum wage" and concealing it.
U.S. officials acknowledge that she was strip-searched, but Bharara has argued it was done in private and in a way that is "standard practice" for all defendants.