With the State Department poised to release the emails sent by Clinton during her four-year tenure as secretary of state, the New York Times published some 350 pages it said related just to Libya and the attack on the US mission in Benghazi.
A day after the attack in which ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed, Clinton was told confidentially Al-Qaeda linked militants were likely behind the assault.
Yet it took several days for the White House to admit it was probing whether Al-Qaeda had any links to the assault.
The State Department is poised to release a first batch of some 296 emails that Clinton — now bidding to be elected the country’s first woman president in the 2016 elections — sent from her private email address from 2009 to 2012.
It comes after a judge this week ordered that the department should stop foot-dragging and produce a time-table for a “rolling” release of the correspondence by Tuesday.
The Clinton emails have been demanded by a special congressional committee set up by Republicans who accuse the administration of covering up what really happened at Benghazi.
But revelations that Clinton used a private server and a private email address when she was secretary of state have also raised Republican suspicions.
State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said she could not “confirm or deny the authenticity of the documents” posted online by the Times, but added the emails would be released “very, very soon.”
Most of the emails published by the Times were sent by a long-time advisor to the Clinton family and friend, Sidney Blumenthal, quoting “sensitive” sources with direct access to top Libyan officials.
They contain few comments from Clinton, although occasionally she described a piece of information as “worrying” or “disturbing.”
– ‘Confidential’ –
Mostly she just passed them on to staff to be printed out or to her trusted foreign policy advisor Jake Sullivan asking that he ask the opinion of other State Department and White House experts on Libya and the Middle East.
On occasion, Sullivan voiced doubts about the veracity of the information contained in the memos.
On September 12, 2012, in the chaotic aftermath of the September 11 attack, Blumenthal sent Clinton a memo by email marked “confidential” in which he said then Libyan president Mohammed Megaryef had been told the attacks were “inspired by what many devout Libyans viewed as a sacrilegious internet video.”
But only hours later, Blumenthal sent another long email marked “just in” from his mobile phone.
“Libyan security officials believe that the attack was carried out by forces of the Islamist militia group calling itself the Ansar al-Sharia brigade; working out of camps in the eastern suburbs of Benghazi,” it stated.
Clinton forwarded the email from her account (firstname.lastname@example.org) to Sullivan, saying: “We should get this around asap.”
Yet, top White House security advisor Susan Rice went on the Sunday television talk shows that week to insist that the attack arose from a “spontaneous” demonstration.
Clinton has turned over some 30,000 emails amounting to 55,000 pages to the State Department, which is reviewing them to black out classified information before releasing them.
Among the emails published by the Times was a warning from another advisor against arming Libyan rebels before the death of dictator Moamer Kadhafi.
“Boys like to play with guns (trust me as a mother of sons). I am all for saying we have no objection to French doing it to increase pressure on Gaddafi (sic), but in a tribal society where conflicts have been repressed for so long, adding even more weapons does not make sense,” wrote former Clinton aide Anne-Marie Slaughter in April 2011.