U.S. Ambassador considered leaving Libya 7 months before he was killed in Benghazi
Seventeen months before he was killed in the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Ambassador Chris Stevens was seriously considering leaving the country as its civil war widened.
The ambassador’s concerns are reflected in emails sent to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s inner circle. The emails were released by the State Department Monday as part of the 14th and final batch of messages from Clinton’s private server.
One email in particular, dated April 10, 2011, relays Stevens’ safety concerns to the State Department. It was sent by a State Department official named Timmy Davis to several key Clinton aides, including Jake Sullivan, now the top foreign policy adviser on Clinton’s presidential campaign, and Huma Abedin.
The message, with the subject line “Stevens update” reads, in part, “The situation in Ajdabiyah [a town approximately 90 miles southeast of Benghazi] has worsened to the point where Stevens is considering departure from Benghazi. The envoy’s delegation is currently doing a phased checkout (paying the hotel bills, moving some comms to the boat, etc) … He will wait 2-3 more hours, then revisit the decision on departure.”
The message from Davis indicates there is heavy sniper fire and shelling in Ajdabiyah. According to the message, Stevens is apparently trying to see if “this is an irreversible situation. Departure would send a significant political signal” that the U.S. had lost confidence in Libya’s Transitional National Council, which oversaw the rebel forces fighting to overthrow dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
Davis’ message was forwarded to Clinton by Abedin. The secretary of state’s response is not known.
The latest email release also indicates that State Department official Wendy Sherman sent at least one classified email to Clinton in August 2012. The email, which Sherman sent with the attached message, “I don’t usually forward emails such as below”, dealt with Egyptian troop movements.
Sherman, who left the State Department this past October, led the U.S. delegation at last summer’s nuclear talks with Iran. Fox News previously reported that Sherman appears in a 2013 State Department video saying that in the interest of speed, Clinton and her aides shared information that “would never be on an unclassified system” normally.
Another revelation in the latest email dump is that Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., urged Clinton to approve the showing of Usama bin Laden’s death photos to members of Congress after the Al Qaeda leader was killed by Navy SEALs in May 2011.
In an email to Clinton, Blumenthal argued that the photos would provide a boost to President Obama’s political capital ahead of that summer’s lengthy debt ceiling fight with the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
“Having the members file through [a special secure room] will provide testimony to the President’s feat,” Blumenthal wrote in the May 5, 2011 message. “They will be not only be acknowledging but also enhancing his power. They will in effect become liegemen bowing before him, but not in any way they will resent or will protest. They will serve as witnesses to the magnitude of what he has done.”
Members of Senate and House committees who deal with intelligence and military matters were later invited to view the photos, but they have not been made public.
State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters Monday that one additional email between Clinton and Obama was withheld from the final batch of messages, bringing the total number of such messages to 19.
Kirby also said that 52,000 pages of emails, not 55,000 as previously stated, have been released to the public from Clinton’s private server, which was kept in her bathroom in her Chappaqua, N.Y. home. Kirby said 55,000 was a “colloquial” term used previously by the State Department and the real number of pages is between 52 or 53,000.
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