By Gar Smith
Bernie Sanders may have been chivalrous when he told a beleaguered Hillary Clinton, “The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.” But when it comes to actually reading some of Clinton’s confidential exchanges, that’s another matter.
In December 2014, Hillary Rodham Clinton began providing the State Department with personal emails sent or received during her tenure as Secretary of State. The final batch was released on February 29, 2016. The entire collection is now posted on the State Department’s Public Reading Room and is searchable via this link.
But the collection is not complete. Clinton admits to having deleted 32,000 emails “deemed private.” Among the missing are a number of politically charged emails sent to Secretary Clinton by a trusted colleague named Sidney Blumenthal. Blumenthal’s emails were allegedly captured and copied by Marcel Lazar Lehel, an unemployed Romanian taxi driver better known as “Guccifer” and “Small Fume.” In April of this year, Lehel became an instant celebrity after he was identified as the cyber-savvy interloper who had hacked into Clinton’s official email account during her time as Secretary of State. (Lehel was recently awarded an all-expenses-paid trip from a Romanian prison to the US where he will spend his days in an American jail cell under 18-month extradition order.)
Guccifer’s sudden celebrity may seem a bit odd, given the fact that he initially released Clinton’s compromised communiqués some time ago—back in 2013, to be precise.
Before Guccifer became tabloid-fodder in the West, he had already popped a number of eyes by sharing his disclosures with the Russian media organization RT (“Hillary Clinton’s ‘hacked’ Benghazi emails: FULL RELEASE“) on March 20, 2013. (A second bundle of Guccifer’s Blumenthal-Clinton emails was released on March 22, 2013.)
Given the current frenzy over Guccifer and his revelations, it is remarkable that his headline-grabbing “leaks” went virtually unreported when he first twisted the spigot back in 2013. At the time, the mainstream media took little notice. The only “news outlets” to pick up on Guccifer’s cyber-pranks were a few conspiracy sites like The Smoking Gun and Cryptome. [Note: You may experience trouble trying to access the Cryptome website.]
The tranche of Clinton’s “damn emails” subsequently posted by RT included some pretty damning revelations. Perhaps none was more shocking than the disclosure that the deadly attack on the American consulate in Benghazi on September 11, 2012—which took the life of US ambassador John Christopher “Chris” Stevens—was secretly financed by powerful figures in Saudi Arabia.
This information was contained within the text of four messages Secretary Clinton received from Blumenthal. It should be noted that Blumenthal was not an employee of the US State Department. He was an employee of the Clinton Foundation, earning salary of $10,000 a month as a consultant providing memo-worthy Intel to Secretary Clinton. On the side, Blumenthal also was serving an entrepreneurial role inside a Libyan company called Osprey that was hoping to reap lucrative medical and military contracts under the new post-Qadaffi government. (Since such business deals could require State Department approval, Hillary Clinton might be asked someday whether this relationship with Blumenthal posed a “conflict of interest.”)
The Saudi’s Role in the Benghazi Attack
One confidential memo dispatched to Clinton on February 16, 2013 bore the warning: “The following information comes from extremely sensitive sources and it should be handled with care.” In this memo, Blumenthal included a lengthy report from an “individual with sensitive access” who, “speaking on condition of absolute secrecy” described the role of the Mokhtar Belmokhtar (a former Al-Qaeda fighter from Algeria who became the leader of the Al-Murabitoun militia) in a January 16, 2013 hostage-taking incident at an Algerian gas facility. (A four-day battle eventually freed 685 Algerian workers and 107 foreigners and left 39 foreign hostages dead).
Blumenthal’s source then turned to the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi which was mounted by Ansar al Sharia, another radical militia. “This individual adds that this information provided by the French [intelligence] service indicates that the funding for both attacks originated with wealthy Sunni Islamists in Saudi Arabia. During July and August 2012, these financiers provided funds to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb (AQIM) contacts in southern Europe, who in turn passed the money onto AQIM operatives in Mauritania. The money was used to recruit operatives and purchase ammunition and supplies.”
“In a separate conversation,” Blumenthal’s memo continues, “Algerian DGSE [the state intelligence agency] officers note in private that Libyan intelligence officers tell them that the Benghazi attacks were funded by these financiers in Saudi Arabia.”
Alleged Saudi funding of the attack in Benghazi is particularly troubling in light of the mounting suspicions that the 28 censored pages of Washington’s official 911 report spell out the role that powerful officials in Saudi Arabia played in supporting the hijackers who brought down the World Trade Center towers in 2011. It is disturbing to discover that Hillary Clinton was informed of Saudi involvement in the death of Ambassador Stevens in 2013 and has opted to remain silent.
The Blumenthal memos make many references to the complex role of foreign intelligence—most prominently the CIA and Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS)—both during Qaddafi’s reign and after the unraveling of Libya’s government.
One of Blumenthal’s sources refers to the “heightened public interest in the liaison relationships conducted by the CIA and the SIS with Qaddafi’s intelligence and security services” and mentions the international organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) and its “efforts to tie Western governments to human rights violations committed under Qaddafi.” According to one of Blumenthal’s sources, Mohammed Yousef el-Magariaf, a Libyan politician who served as the president of the General National Congress and “interim head-of-state,” was concerned that his “enemies are working to take advantage of his suspected links to the CIA” and predicted “this situation will only grow more complex as Qaddafi’s son, Saif al Islam Qaddafi and al Senousi are brought before Libyan courts” since It was believed “both men will be linked to Western intelligence during their trials.”
Compounding the problem, Blumenthal warned Clinton, were “messages to Libya from the CIA and SIS [that] were found among the Tripoli Documents published by HRW indicating that the United States and Britain were eager to help Libya capture several senior LIFG [Libyan Islamic Fighting Group] figures.”
Blumenthal’s memos reportedly constituted a Clinton received relating to unfolding events inside Libya. Did Clinton actually read these intelligence updates? There is evidence that she did, at least on August 27, 2012, when Blumenthal dashed off a note to alert Clinton that Libya’s newest president-to-be wished to “seek a discreet relationship with Israel.” According to the documents released by Guccifer, Clinton replied: “If true, this is encouraging. Should consider passing to Israelis.”
The Role of Oil
Blumenthal’s confidential missives to Secretary Clinton included an assurance from one unnamed source that “the investigation of the murder of the United States ambassador” was one of many efforts “related to what he sees as his most important role—rebuilding the confidence of the international business community in its ability to operate in Libya safely and efficiently.”
Of course, when one speaks of “business” in Libya, that means “oil.”
One of Blumenthal’s contacts confided that “the Italian government is stepping up its activities in Libya, and the president expects them to pressure to [sic] Abushagur [Mustafa Abushagur, a Libyan politician] appoint an individual like Ben Yezza to the oil ministry, where he can favor ENI [Italy’s National Hydrocarbons Authority] and other Italian firms.”
In another posting, Blumenthal advises Clinton that any “comprehensive plan for the oil industry will face opposition from individuals with links to foreign oil firms, primarily foreign trained engineers who hope to see greater privatization in the oil an [sic] oil services industries in the wake of the revolution.” Nonetheless, Clinton was advised: “The Italian government will continue to increase its investment in Libya in an effort to get ahead of the other foreign firms concerned in Libya.”
The French Connection
Other memos from Guccifer’s 2013 trove explored French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s motivations for taking the lead in the military assault on Qaddafi’s Libya. In one memo from April 2, 2011, Blumenthal explained that France was concerned that Qaddafi’s $7 billion plan to create a Pan-African currency would deal a disastrous blow to the French economy, specifically the CFA franc, a widely circulated currency that had dominated West Africa since the days of French colonialism.
Publicly, Sarkozy insisted the French military airstrikes we’re simply designed to defend Libyans who wished to “liberate themselves from servitude.” Blumenthal’s Libya memos, however, suggest that France’s motives had little to do with liberation. Instead, Blumenthal’s Libyan confidantes cited Sarkozy’s four primary goals: access to Libyan oil; increased French influence in Northern Africa; new French military bases in the region; and a public relations boost prior to Sarkozy’s 2012 election.
Secretary Clinton was likely not surprised to read that French intelligence had been working with the post-Qaddafi National Transitional Council to assure that French companies—not the Italians—enjoyed primary access to Libya’s oil resources. One memo, dated March 22, 2011, was actually titled “How the French created the National Libyan Council, ou l’argent parle.”
“L’argent parle,” of course, is French for “money talks.” Blumenthal informed the Secretary that covert agents of France’s General Directorate for External Security (DGSE) had been conducting “a series of meetings” in which they passed beaucoup “money and guidance” to members of the Libyan opposition. The memo continues: “[S]peaking under orders from [Sarkozy, they] promised that as soon the [Council] was organized, friends would recognize [it] as the new government of Libya.” There was a clear quid pro quo: “in return for their assistance… the DGSE officers indicated that they expected the new government of Libya to favor French firms and national interests, particularly regarding the oil industry in Libya.”
For his part, Sarkozy officially denied coveting Qaddafi’s carbon-fueled coffers and, ultimately, it was not France, but China and Russia, who wound up controlling most of Libya’s “liberated” oil assets.
Gar Smith is co-founder of Environmentalists Against War and the author of Nuclear Roulette.