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Benghazi Revisited: Private Emails Reveal Ex-Clinton Aide’s Secret Spy Network

| March 28, 2015

Not quite a vast right-wing conspiracy this time. (Karen Murphy)

Not quite a vast right-wing conspiracy this time. (Karen Murphy)

Starting weeks before Islamic militants attacked the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, longtime Clinton family confidante Sidney Blumenthal supplied intelligence to then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gathered by  a secret network that included a former CIA clandestine service officer, according to hacked emails from Blumenthal’s account.


The emails, which were posted on the internet in 2013, also show that Blumenthal and another close Clinton associate discussed contracting with a retired Army special operations commander to put operatives on the ground near the Libya-Tunisia border while Libya’s civil war raged in 2011.

Blumenthal’s emails to Clinton, which were directed to her private email account, include at least a dozen detailed reports on events on the deteriorating political and security climate in Libya as well as events in other nations. They came to light after a hacker broke into Blumenthal’s account and have taken on new significance in light of the disclosure that she conducted State Department and personal business exclusively over an email server that she controlled and kept secret from State Department officials and which only recently was discovered by congressional investigators.

The contents of that account are now being sought by a congressional inquiry into the Benghazi attacks. Clinton has handed over more than 30,000 pages of her emails to the State Department, after unilaterally deciding which ones involved government business; the State Department has so far handed almost 900 pages of those over to the committee. A Clinton spokesman told Gawker and ProPublica (which are collaborating on this story) that she has turned over all the emails Blumenthal sent to Clinton.

The dispatches from Blumenthal to Clinton’s private email address were posted online after Blumenthal’s account was hacked in 2013 by Romanian hacker Marcel-Lehel Lazar, who went by the name Guccifer. Lazar also broke into accounts belonging to George W. Bush’s sister, Colin Powell, and others. He’s now serving a seven-year sentence in his home country and was charged in a U.S. indictment last year.


The Sidney Blumenthal emails, revealed in 2013, take on renewed significance in light of Clinton’s use of back channels.
 


The contents of the memos, which have recently become the subject of speculation in the right-wing media, raise new questions about how Clinton used her private email account and whether she tapped into an undisclosed back channel for information on Libya’s crisis and other foreign policy matters.

Blumenthal, a New Yorker staff writer in the 1990s, became a top aide to President Bill Clinton and worked closely with Hillary Clinton during the fallout from the Whitewater investigation into the Clinton family.  She tried to hire him when she joined President Obama’s cabinet in 2009, but White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel reportedly nixed the idea on the grounds Blumenthal was a divisive figure whose attacks on Obama during the Democratic primary had poisoned his relationship with the new administration.

It’s unclear who tasked Blumenthal, known for his fierce loyalty to the Clintons, with preparing detailed intelligence briefs. It’s also not known who was paying him, or where the operation got its money. The memos were marked “confidential” and relied in many cases on “sensitive” sources in the Libyan opposition and Western intelligence and security services. Other reports focused on Egypt, Germany, and Turkey.

Indeed, though they were sent under Blumenthal’s name, the reports appear to have been gathered and prepared by Tyler Drumheller, a former chief of the CIA’s clandestine service in Europe who left the agency in 2005. Since then, he has established a consulting firm called Tyler Drumheller, LLC. He has also been affiliated with a firm called DMC Worldwide, which he co-founded with Washington, D.C., attorney Danny Murray and former general counsel to the U.S. Capitol Police John Caulfield. DMC Worldwide’s now-defunct website describes it at as offering “innovative security and intelligence solutions to global risks in a changing world.”

In one exchange in March 2013, Blumenthal emailed Drumheller, “Thanks. Can you send Libya report.” Drumheller replied, “Here it is, pls do not share it with Cody. I don’t want moin speculating on sources. It is on the Maghreb and Libya.” Cody is Cody Shearer, a longtime Clinton family operative—his brother was an ambassador under Bill Clinton and his now-deceased sister is married to Clinton State Department official Strobe Talbott—who was in close contact with Blumenthal. While it’s not entirely clear from the documents, “Moin” may refer to the nickname of Mohamed Mansour El Kikhia, a member of the Kikhia family, a prominent Libyan clan with ties to the Libyan National Transition Council. (An email address in Blumenthal’s address book, which was also leaked, wasassociated with his Facebook page.)

There’s no indication in Blumenthal’s emails whether Clinton read or replied to them before she left State on February 1, 2013, but he was clearly part of a select group with knowledge of the private clintonemail.com address, which was unknown to the public until Gawker published it this year. They do suggest that she interacted with Blumenthal using the account after she stepped down. “H: got your message a few days ago,” reads the subject line of one email from Blumenthal to Clinton on February 8, 2013; “H: fyi, will continue to send relevant intel,” reads another.

The memos cover a wide array of subjects in extreme detail, from German Prime Minister Angela Merkel’s conversations with her finance minister about French president Francois Hollande–marked “THIS INFORMATION COMES FROM AN EXTREMELY SENSITIVE SOURCE”—to the composition of the newly elected South Korean president’s transition team. At least 10 of the memos deal in whole or in part with internal Libyan politics and the government’s fight against militants, including the status of the Libyan oil industry and the prospects for Western companies to participate.

One memo was sent on August 23, 2012, less than three weeks before Islamic militants stormed the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi. It cites “an extremely sensitive source” who highlighted a string of bombings and kidnappings of foreign diplomats and aid workers in Tripoli, Benghazi and Misrata, suggesting they were the work of people loyal to late Libyan Prime Minister Muammar Gaddafi.

While the memo doesn’t rise to the level of a warning about the safety of U.S. diplomats, it portrays a deteriorating security climate. Clinton noted a few days after the Benghazi attack, which left four dead and 10 people injured, that U.S. intelligence officials didn’t have advance knowledge of the threat.

On September 12, 2012, the day after the Benghazi attack, Blumenthal sent a memo that cited a “sensitive source” saying that the interim Libyan president, Mohammed Yussef el Magariaf, was told by a senior security officer that the assault was inspired by an anti-Muslim video made in the U.S., as well as by allegations from  Magariaf’s political opponents that he had CIA ties.

click on the image for larger view.

click on the image for larger view.

Blumenthal followed up the next day with an email titled “Re: More Magariaf private reax.” It said Libyan security officials believed an Islamist radical group called the Ansa al Sharia brigade had prepared the attack a month in advance and “took advantage of the cover” provided by the demonstrations against the video.

An October 25, 2012 memo says that Magariaf and the Libyan army chief of staff agree that the “situation in the country is becoming increasingly dangerous and unmanageable” and “far worse” than Western leaders realize.

Blumenthal’s email warnings, of course, followed a year of Libyan hawkishness on the part of Clinton. In February of 2011, she told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that “it is time for Gaddafi to go.” The next month, after having described Russian reluctance over military intervention as “despicable,” Clinton met with rebel leaders in Paris and drummed up support for a no-fly zone while in Cairo. On March 17, 2011, the UN Security Council voted to back Libyan rebels against Gaddafi.

It’s this buildup, which Clinton still proudly recalled in her 2014 memoir, that Blumenthal appears to join in on 2011. In addition to the intel memos, his emails also disclose that he and his associates worked to help the Libyan opposition, and even plotted to insert operatives on the ground using a private contractor.

A May 14, 2011 email exchange between Blumenthal and Shearer shows that they were negotiating with Drumheller to contract with someone referred to as “Grange” and “the general” to place send four operatives on a week-long mission to Tunis, Tunisia, and “to the border and back.” Tunisia borders Libya and Algeria.

“Sid, you are doing great work on this,” Drumheller wrote to Blumenthal. “It is going to be around $60,000, coverting r/t business class airfare to Tunis, travel in country to the border and back, and other expenses for 7–10 days for 4 guys.”

After Blumenthal forwarded that note to Shearer, he wrote back questioning the cost of the operation. “Sid, do you think the general has to send four guys. He told us three guys yesterday, a translator and two other guys. I understand the difficulty of the mission and realize that K will be repaid but I am going to need an itemized budget for these guys.”

“The general” and “Grange” appear to refer to David L. Grange, a major general in the Army who ran a secret Pentagon special operations unit before retiring in 1999. Grange subsequently founded Osprey Global Solutions, a consulting firm and government contractor that offers logistics, intelligence, security training, armament sales, and other services. The Osprey Foundation, which is a nonprofit arm of Osprey Global Solutions, is listed as one of the State Department’s “global partners” in a 2014 report from the Office of Global Partnerships.’

Among the documents in the cache released by Lazar is an August 24, 2011, memorandum of understanding between Osprey Global Solutions and the Libyan National Transition Council—the entity that took control in the wake of Qadaffi’s execution—agreeing that Osprey will contract with the NTC to “assist in the resumption of access to its assets and operations in country” and train Libyan forces in intelligence, weaponry, and “rule-of-land warfare.” The document refers to meetings held in Amman, Jordan between representatives of Osprey and a Mohammad Kikhia, who represented the National Transition Council.

Five months later, according to a document in the leak, Grange wrote on Osprey Global letterhead to Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro, introducing Osprey as a contractor eager to provide humanitarian and other assistance in Libya. “We are keen to support the people of Libya under the sponsorship of the Ministry of Finance and the Libyan Stock Exchange,” Grange wrote. Shapiro is a longtime Clinton loyalist; he served on her Senate staff as foreign policy advisor.

Click on the image for larger view.

Click on the image for larger view.

Another document in the cache, titled “Letter_for_Moin,” is an appeal from Drumheller to then-Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan offering the services of Tyler Drumheller LLC, “to develop a program that will provide discreet confidential information allowing the appropriate entities in Libya to address any regional and international challenges.”

The “K” who was, according to Shearer’s email, to be “repaid” for his role in the Tunisia operation appears to be someone named Khalifa al Sherif, who sent Blumenthal several emails containing up-to-the-minute information on the civil war in Libya, and appears to have been cited as a source in several of the reports.

Contacted by ProPublica and Gawker, Drumheller’s attorney and business partner Danny Murray confirmed that Drumheller “worked” with Blumenthal and was aware of the hacked emails, but declined to comment further.

Shearer said only that “the FBI is involved and told me not to talk. There is a massive investigation of the hack and all the resulting information.” The FBI declined to comment.

Blumenthal, Grange, and Kikhia all did not respond to repeated attempts to reach them. Nick Merrill, a spokesman for Clinton had no comment on Blumenthal’s activities with Drumheller.

Whatever Blumenthal, Shearer, Drumheller, and Grange were up to in 2011, 2012, and 2013 on Clinton’s behalf, it appears that she could have used the help: According to State Department personnel directories, in 2011 and 2012—the height of the Libya crisis—State didn’t have a Libyan desk officer, and the entire Near Eastern Magreb Bureau, which which covers Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Libya, had just two staffers. Today, State has three Libyan desk officers and 11 people in the Near Eastern Magreb Bureau. A State Department official wouldn’t say how many officers were on the desk in 2011, but said there was always “at least one” officer and “sometimes many more, working on Libya.”

Reached for comment, a State Department public affairs official who would only speak on background declined to address questions about Blumenthal’s relationship to Clinton, whether she was aware of the intelligence network, and who if anyone was paying Blumenthal. Asked about the Tunisia-Libya mission, the official replied, “There was a trip with the secretary in October of 2011, but there was also a congressional delegation in April, 2011. There were media reports about both of these at the time.” Neither trip involved travelling via Tunis.

–Jeff Gerth, ProPublica, and Sam Biddle, Gawker.

Jeff Gerth is a senior reporter at ProPublica. Previously, Gerth worked as an investigative reporter at The New York Times. He has twice been awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

Related stories: For more coverage of Hillary Clinton’s email practices, read about her Top Five Clashes Over Secrecy and Echoes of her Past.

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15 Responses for “Benghazi Revisited: Private Emails Reveal Ex-Clinton Aide’s Secret Spy Network”

  1. Sherry Epley says:

    Such “back channeling”. unfortunately is SOP for many holding political office. Other possible candidates for President in 2016 have also used personal email to conduct government business. . . in addition to telephone communications. Those candidates are:

    Scott Walker
    Jeb Bush
    Chris Christie
    Bobby Jindal
    Martin O’Malley
    Rick Perry

    The details are here:

    http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/US-Private-Emails-2016-Candidates/2015/03/07/id/628855/

  2. m&m says:

    She is an evil person and NEVER be allowed in any political office.

  3. Lin says:

    Confusing long article

  4. Jim R says:

    Hilary should not be allowed to run for any office just for being married to Bill Clinton. He did more damage to this country than any of our enemies ever did. His NAFTA deal and great efforts to get China admitted to the WTO are the reason why there are close to 50 million Americans on food stamps and the homeless problem gets worse every year.
    And yes Sherry of course the other side is worse.
    Same old LOTE thinking and voting that keeps us trapped in this endless downward spiral .

  5. Yellowstone says:

    Ok, here we go again on another wild goose chase! “So what?”, I say.

    We have had local politicians pull worse crap than this ambitious lady and gotten far fewer results.

    Can’t these folks figure out that all this bluster is simply a smoke screen and a smear campaign to discredit a highly effective representative of our government.

    Why if we assigned her past job to any GOP candidate to perform – you know what would have happened – NOTHING!

  6. bob says:

    she is a bold face liar and a devil evil in america continues with the clintons for decades
    but people just love them because they are part of the one world order. repent america
    jesus is comming as your judge take a look at the middle east and and the world global
    warming is a hoax god controls the weather.

  7. Mark P Bialkoski says:

    What scares me is the fact that there are people in this Country that would vote for Hillary Clinton. Her and Bill have had so many scandals, they rank right up there with Obama. Hillary’s amazing cattle futures profits, Benghazi, Vince Foster’s “Suicide”, the Clinton Global initiative accepting millions of dollars from foreign countries while she was Secretary of State, her accomplishing nothing as Secretary of State and now hiding e-mails on a personal server she claims was Bill’s yet he claims he has sent two e-mails in his entire life.
    And that is without mentioning Bill’s scandals, remember he would be the “First Gentleman” and back at the White House!

  8. Sherry Epley says:

    I agree Lin. . . not a very well written article, especially for a Pulitzer Prize winner. It seems too much like a lame attempt to keep this issue in the headlines. Something much more concise would have been more elucidating.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I don’t trust the judgement of anyone who fails to either end independent clauses with some sort of punctuation or connects more than one with a conjunction. Literacy and thought are inexplicily tied together. Walk the walk!

  10. Lancer says:

    Obama and Hillary’s Foreign policy fiascos are there for all to see:

    Egypt to the Muslim Brotherhood.
    The mishandling of the Arab Spring.
    The Russian “reset”.
    Syria’s “red line”
    Bergdahl fiasco
    Benghazi (or is it the funneling of weapons to Al Qaida trained rebels in Syria through Turkey?)
    I, especially, enjoy the story of her state department spending $80 million to build a consulate in Mazar I Sharif, Afghanistan only to never move in because they never did a site security assessment before building. In case you don’t know, that would be the FIRST thing you would do. The Germans were given the consulate. Another example of the Federal Government’s waste and inefficiency: http://diplopundit.net/2012/05/06/us-consulate-mazar-e-sharif-80-million-and-wishful-thinking-down-the-drain-and-not-a-brake-too-soon/

    She is in full fledged retreat and recover mode, trying to limit the damage. Her press conferences, from this point, will be nothing but controlled environs, just like her “listening tours” when she ran for the senate. She’ll control who is there and what questions are asked. Her health, her decisions, her cover ups, her failures will never be questioned.

    The Clintons have built an impressive, but diabolical, following within DC and the media. There is very little that is good about them, very much that could be questioned, but never is. Their starry eyed followers believing in “vast right wing conspiracies” and other boogie men, never questioning that it may be the Clintons, themselves, who are the problem.

    We need to pass on Hillary. We need to pass on Jeb. Neither has the merit for the job and the last time I checked…we were not an aristocracy, but a Republic. However, our leadership is so poor currently, that either one would be an improvement…which is horrible.

  11. Outsider says:

    So the day after Benghazi she gets an email blaming the infamous video. One day after that another email states the attack was planned a month in advance by Ansar Al Sharia, and used the video protests as cover. Yet, they went on for weeks claiming it was all about the video, even though this notion was refuted on September 14. Still believe this liar?

  12. Lancer says:

    Benghazi is not only the lie about the video.

    Look…

    The attack took place on 9/11. There isn’t a USA base abroad that isn’t on alert and limiting movements on this day, especially in the Middle East and Asia.

    First, the destabilization of Libya, supported by 0bama and Hillary’s State Dept. was derelict. The fall of Gadaffi two weeks after he announced that Libya was going back too the gold standard and they would seek an African Monetary Fund to invest in Africa’s development instead of World Bank or IMF. His name was being chanted in the streets. Two weeks later he was running for his life. http://empirestrikesblack.com/2011/05/gaddafis-refusal-of-the-world-bank-imf-western-multinationals-africom-the-real-casus-belli-obscured-by-natos-humanitarian-deceit/

    The Brits closed their embassy in Benghazi two weeks before the attack because of the intel they were getting.

    Our consulate in Benghazi was a huge compound. The thing about that is, once you lose control and security at the perimeter, you lose control of the compound.

    The US had actually reduced it’s staff to necessary personnel and Ambassador Stevens had begged repeatedly for more security.

    The CIA base that was outed during the attack. I cannot remember another time when a CIA base has been so willingly outed and zero questions asked about its mission has been asked.

    Lastly, this ties directly to the Syrian un-civil war, IMHO. Russia announced they were giving Assad the jewel needed too squash a rebellion: Attack Helicopters. Then, amazingly Syrian rebels start shooting these attack helicopters out of the sky! The Syrian rebels had received SAMs…what a miracle!

    There’s a reason there was such fighting in Aleppo. Aleppo is a trade route supplied from Turkey. Come on people…it’s a dirty, dirty world.

    The reason this is never going to come out is:
    This was authorized and approved by both dems and repubs.
    Many of these Syrian rebels were trained by Al Qaida…ISIS anyone?
    Syria is backed by Russia and Iran

  13. Sherry Epley says:

    On Benghazi. . . I have just read the conclusions of the declassified investigation by a “Republican” committee. While that report that had many recommendations for improved security control at all US embassies, it confirmed NO conspiracy, No cover up, NO military arms withheld, NO “stand down” order given.

    This from prospect.org:

    “A report from the Republican led House Intelligence Committee on the September 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, “confirms that no one was deliberately misled, no military assets were withheld and no stand-down order (to U.S. forces) was given.”

    After nearly two years of investigations, millions of dollars spent, tens of thousands of pages of documents handed over by the administration, a Republican-led committee is about to release a report stating that there is NO evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the Obama White House.

    In fact, nearly all of the accusations levied against the White House over the past year by conservatives in Congress, and amplified by the media, have now been determined to be false—by a Republican jury”.

  14. Lancer says:

    Actually, there is PLENTY to question regarding Benghazi. There are plenty who have been overseas, who have dealt with special operations, security, etc. who are shaking their heads at this. It smells, Sherry.

    There was very little cooperation from State during the investigation. Their findings are a result of what information they were given. Plenty of emails, correspondence, etc were never turned over to them. This is an ongoing theme with the 0bama administration: IRS targeting specific groups, Justice running gun operations, State Department, etc. This administration doesn’t cooperate and is the exact opposite of the “transparency” promised on the campaign trail. Scandal= be uncooperative, delay, let the media and our pundits cause a stink and it will all go away…as a result of political pressure. Benghazi makes Watergate look like a petting zoo.

    Hillary’s private server…as sec of state! “Trust me!” she says. No thanks, that is exactly why she has a government email to conduct US business…so that she has to operate on the level.

    I would ask that people not be so naïve in regards to this. There is plenty of smoke here. Also, don’t talk about the amount of money being spent. Hillary’s state department has wasted far, far more than that in Afghanistan building consulate’s that never cleared a site security check and funding USAID projects that were never finished, never managed, over funded and lying in heaps all over the country.

  15. Chuck says:

    such a big waste of time. Instead of going over and over this benghazzi nonsense the GOP should be focused on something of use to the american people…..

    this thing has been investigated and report after report written.

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