One of the most controversial parts of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s tenure in office is coming under increased scrutiny as she campaigns for president.
Almost 350 pages of emails published Thursday by The New York Times show Clinton, her staff, and network of informal advisers reacting to the September 11, 2012, attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that killed a US ambassador and three other Americans.
Immediately after the attack, the White House’s talking points attributed the incident as a reaction to an inflammatory internet video mocking the Prophet Muhammad. The administration subsequently shifted its talking points as evidence indicated the attack was a coordinated assault.
According to the emails, Clinton’s staff reassured her on September 24 that she never directly blamed the video for the attack. Jake Sullivan, one of Clinton’s closest foreign policy advisers, forwarded Clinton a list of her word-for-word statements and informed her that they gave her enough nuance to shield her from some of the criticism the White House received.
“Attached is a full compilation. You never said spontaneous or characterised the motives. In fact you were careful in your first statement to say we were assessing motive and method. The way you treated the video in the Libya context was to say that some sought to *justify* the attack on that basis,” Sullivan wrote.
Other things in the emails include:
- A flurry of Libya-related memos from Sid Blumenthal, a controversial Clinton associate reportedly employed at the time by the Clinton family foundation. Clinton’s team occasionally circulated the memos attributed to an anonymous source and the purported facts within them were sometimes contested by her advisers. Blumenthal also sent Clinton a memo a day after the Benghazi attack incorrectly claiming it was “inspired by what many devout Libyan viewed as a sacrilegious internet video.”
A former State Department employee, Anne-Marie Slaughter, warned Clinton against arming rebels in Libya by quipping, “Boys like to play with guns.”
“[S]ending more arms into a society — particularly when they are disorganized and fragmented as they are — will result in more violence — against each other. Boys like to play with guns (trust me as the mother of sons). I am all for saying we have no objection to French doing it to increase pressure on Gaddafi, but in a tribal society where conflicts have been repressed for so long, adding even more weapons does not make sense,” she wrote.
View all of the released emails below, via The Times:
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