ProPublica and Gawker uncovered a secret intelligence network that was feeding unsubstantiated intelligence to Hillary’s private email server. The network included former Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal who was prevented from taking a job at State in 2009 by the Obama White House. Mr. Blumenthal had circulated some “unflattering” stories about the president during the 2008 campaign.
We also know that Mrs. Clinton used two separate email addresses (email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org) while she was at the State Department. Clinton’s legal team asserted that the latter address did not exist during her tenure as our top diplomat. When the initial reports of the secret intelligence network came to light, we did not know if Hillary read or even corresponded with Blumenthal’s emails. Now, it looks as if she did read them, and even forwarded a few to a State Department staffer.
Last week, in Iowa, Mrs. Clinton said the Blumenthal emails were “unsolicited” (via Politico):
Clinton downplayed Blumenthal’s influence in answers to reporters’ questions this week in Iowa, describing the emails as useful to ensure that she wasn’t “caught in a bubble” with information coming only “from a certain small group of people.”
“He sent me unsolicited emails which I passed on in some instances, and I say that that’s just part of the give and take,” Clinton said Tuesday.
“I have many, many old friends and I always think that it’s important when you get into politics to have friends you had before you were in politics and to understand what’s on their minds,” she said. “And he’s been a friend of mine for a long time.”
Now, the Washington Post’s David Ignatius wrote that someone told him that Blumenthal approached a former CIA officer, Tyler Drumheller, and said to him that "his friend Clinton" was "looking for information" on Libya [emphasis mine]:
Blumenthal’s missives on Libya appear to be mostly repackaged information from a former CIA officer named Tyler Drumheller , who is now part of Alphom Group, one of the many consulting firms in Washington that employ former spooks to harvest their old contacts for salable information. A principal of Alphom told me that Blumenthal had approached Drumheller and said his friend Clinton was “looking for information” about Libya.
Drumheller was named as someone who collected the intelligence and prepared the reports when the initial ProPublica/Gawker story broke. Yet, this nugget comes from one person at this consulting firm. If this is corroborated, it just added another notch regarding Clinton’s lack of transparency and secretiveness that confirms old biases people have against the Clintons. She’s turning into the most flawed of flawed candidates. Moreover, it could undercut any attempt to highlight her tenure at State. Such back-door communications have happened before, and often led to bad policy:
Michael Morell, a former deputy director of the CIA and author of “The Great War of Our Time,” says that Blumenthal’s missives never came to the attention of senior agency personnel and never got into the paper flow of the National Security Council. That’s good, given that it was the CIA’s job to report on Libya, for real.
But the Blumenthal papers were taken seriously at State. Clinton sent them on to her overworked aide, Jake Sullivan, with such notations as “Useful insight, pls circulate,” or “very interesting,” or, in one instance, “We should get this around asap.”
These memos recall other dubious back channels involving oil-rich Middle East nations. Libya snared President Jimmy Carter’s brother, Billy, as an emissary in the late-1970s. The Iran-contra scandal began in 1985 with an Iranian information peddler named Manucher Ghorbanifar, whom the CIA dubbed a “fabricator” but the White House embraced, anyway.
The danger of Washington’s courtier ethos is that it can lead to bad policy, or no policy. You can’t escape the feeling that Clinton and her aides were passing around Blumenthal’s e-mails when they should have been framing a better plan to deal with Libya’s disintegration.
We shall see what happens regarding Ignatius' Alphom source. In the meantime, it should come to no one's surprise that Mr. Blumenthal has been subpoenaed by the House Select Committee on Benghazi regarding these communications.