Some of the information Sidney Blumenthal supplied to Hillary Clinton about Libya is said to have been flawed. But “Sid Vicious” got one important thing right.
Two days after the attack, Blumenthal told Hillary that “sensitive sources” in Libya said Ansar al-Sharia, an Al Qaeda-backed terror group, had planned the attacks for a month and used the protest as a cover. (The day before he had advised Hillary that demonstrators protesting an anti-Muslim video were to blame.)
Notwithstanding Blumenthal’s heads-up that terrorists had planned and were behind the attack, Hillary peddled the video-was-to blame line to the families of victims of the attack. And, of course, Susan Rice, standing in for Hillary, peddled it when she made the Sunday talk show rounds.
What was Hillary’s response to Blumenthal’s notification that al Qaeda affiliates were behind the Benghazi attack? She immediately passed the information on to her top aide Jake Sullivan and told him “we should get this around asap.”
Hillary’s instruction to Sullivan can be interpreted in either of two ways. One interpretation is that Hillary viewed Blumenthal’s report as, at a minimum, a plausible account that the White House needed to know of as it tried to nail down who was behind the attack.
A second interpretation is that Hillary viewed Blumenthal’s account — whether plausible or not — as politically dangerous. With the presidential election less than two months away, it contradicted President Obama’s triumphant line that al Qaeda was on its way out. Thus — again whether plausible or not — Team Obama needed to know that sources in Libya were pointing to al Qaeda.
We know from other Clinton emails that she was concerned about the political fallout from Benghazi. Indeed, in October, Blumenthal himself warned her of the Republicans’ intent to exploit the Benghazi attacks in order to damage Obama a month before the election. She forwarded his warning to Sullivan, telling him to “be sure Ben [Rhodes at the White House] knows they need to be ready for this line of attack.”
I doubt, though, that Hillary needed Blumenthal to tell her this in October. Surely she figured it out soon after the September 11 attacks.
If Hillary viewed Blumenthal’s account as plausible, she cannot justify blaming the attack on the video or having aides participate in the process (i.e., fixing the infamous “taking points”) whereby Susan Rice ended up doing so. ( Ed Morrissey makes the astute point that “with Blumenthal’s e-mail in on the 13th. . .Hillary would have known better than to get stuck on video telling the whoppers that Rice ended up delivering on Obama’s behalf.”)
Thus, Hillary, or her backers, will likely argue that she didn’t credit Blumenthal’s account. Instead, she simply wanted to give the White House a heads-up.
But this claim is highly dubious for two reasons. First, we know that Hillary took Blumenthal’s reports seriously, routinely burdening her staff and the Libya diplomatic mission with them. Second, as Ed points out, this particular report was corroborated a few days later by a DIA memo.
This week Clinton explained why she made use of Blumenthal’s Libya “intel.” She said she liked to obtain information not just from sources within “the bubble,” but also from trusted friends like Blumenthal.
In the case of the Benghazi attacks, “the bubble” and her trusted friend were in accord — the attacks were planned and carried out by terrorists. Yet, Clinton, motivated by politics, ducked that narrative and pushed a different one.
As always, politics trumped the truth for Hillary Clinton.