Sensitive emails detail some of the concerns among Clinton and her aides over 2012 attack that left four Americans dead, including ambassador Chris Stevens.
A large tranche of emails from Hillary Clinton’s private server were made public on Thursday, showing the presidential candidate and former US secretary of state’s correspondence in the wake of the September 2012 terrorist attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that killed ambassador Chris Stevens.
The emails are due to be officially released by the State Department, but the New York Times obtained a third of them, which they published on Thursday. They had been turned over to a special committee in the House of Representatives tasked with investigating the Benghazi attack – a hugely controversial incident for Republicans.
The emails detail some of the concerns among Clinton and her aides over the attack, which left four Americans dead, including Stevens.
Some emails include the whereabouts of Americans in Libya, including Stevens, who contemplated leaving Benghazi more than a year before the attack over security concerns.
The emails also offer a glimpse of Clinton’s close ties to Sidney Blumenthal, a former aide to her husband Bill Clinton. Blumenthal sent Clinton more than two dozen memos related to Libya, some of which she passed along to her staff. Blumenthal’s role advising Clinton drew scrutiny earlier this week when the New York Times claimed that he gleaned intelligence on Libya from business dealings in the country.
His emails to Clinton include one suggesting that the Benghazi attack was prompted by an anti-Islamic video – a narrative that was initially adopted by the White House in the wake of the attack.
Blumenthal sent a follow-up email the next day citing “sensitive sources” who believed the attack was carried out by a militia group.
The emails between Blumenthal and Clinton were not entirely limited to his intelligence reports on Libya.
Blumenthal also engaged in speculation that neocons led by former RNC chair Ed Gillespie were taking control of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and forwarded Clinton several articles from the leftwing website Salon.com.
Interestingly, one Salon article that Blumenthal sent to Clinton had been originally forwarded to him by Chas Freeman, a longtime US diplomat whom Barack Obama nominated to the National Intelligence Council in 2009.
Freeman withdrew his nomination after he came under fire over business ties to Saudi Arabia and China. However, the failed Obama nominee cast blame for his failed appointment on “the Israel lobby”.
The initial batch of emails does not indicate that Clinton used the private server to exchange classified information – although she did receive messages marked as “sensitive but unclassified” at her personal email account.
Clinton said on Tuesday she supported the swift release of her emails amid reports that the State Department would not publicly release them all until January 2016. The department said it planned to release portions of 55,000 emails.
“I want those emails out. Nobody has a bigger interest in getting them released than I do,” Clinton told reporters during a campaign stop in Iowa. “I respect the State Department. They have their process, as they do for everybody, not just for me, but anything that they might do to expedite that process, I heartily support. I want the American people to learn as much as we can about the work that I did.”
Clinton first addressed the issue in March, shortly after transparency concerns were raised following reports that she used only a personal email account to conduct government business. At the time, Clinton denied any wrongdoing and said the decision was a matter of “convenience”.