Hillary Clinton E-Mails: State Department Releases Hundreds of Messages About Benghazi

This is the first batch of more than 55,000 e-mails to be released.

ByABC News
May 22, 2015, 12:44 PM

— -- Today the State Department has released 296 emails from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail account related to the Sept. 2012 terrorist attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

The documents made public today were provided to the House Select Committee on Benghazi several months ago in response to its request for more information about the incident that remains the most troubling moment in Clinton’s tenure at the State Department -- and a major vulnerability as she campaigns for the presidency.

"The emails we release today do not change the essential facts or our understanding of the events before, during, or after the attacks, which have been known since the independent Accountability Review Board report on the Benghazi attacks was released almost two and a half years ago," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement on Friday.

The documents cover the period from January 2011 through December 2012.

Among some of the findings from today's e-mail release:

The E-Mail That The FBI Redacted

The FBI redacted a portion of an email sent to Hillary Clinton on Nov. 18, 2012. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, Clinton, and State Department officials have all acknowledged that the FBI chose to "classify" some of the names of Benghazi suspects in that e-mail.

'Nothing To This One'

In an e-mail to Clinton from her Deputy Chief of Staff, Jake Sullivan, he forwards the transcript of then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice’s appearance on a Sunday news show and writes there was, "Nothing to this one." Of course, that was one of the appearances where she famously gave inaccurate information about what had occurred during the Benghazi attack -- information the White House argued was the best of their knowledge at the time.

'What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger

In late 2012 and early 2013, a serious concussion sidelined Clinton from her work at the State Department. Ill and dehydrated while suffering from a stomach virus in December 2012, Clinton fainted and fell at her home. After a follow-up exam revealed a blood clot in her head, requiring blood thinners and a hospital stay, Clinton returned work Jan. 7, 2013, but she missed an appearance at a Congressional hearing in late December. Here's a note Clinton sent to two top State Department officials who filled in for her at the hearing.

State Department Contacted Google, YouTube

At least one e-mails shows that the State Dept. reached out to the Internet search and video giants in the wake of the Benghazi attack.

Mistaken Identity?

When Clinton e-mails to check on the status of Ambassador Chris Stevens, she mistakenly refers to him as Chris Smith in the subject line. Whether she was referring to Chris Steven or Sean Smith, who both died in the attack, she got the name wrong.

‘Pls. Print’

Sec. Clinton likes hard copies, apparently. Many of her emails are forwards with just two words of text: “Pls. print.” Among the documents she asked for was “Benghazi Was Obama’s 3AM Call,” an article based on her famous 2007 attack ad.

During a campaign appearance in New Hampshire today, Clinton commented on the e-mail release:

"I'm glad that the emails are starting to come out," Clinton said. "I want people to be able to see all of them and it is the fact that we have released all of them that have any government relationship whatsoever. In fact, the State Department had the vast majority of those anyway because they went to what are called dot-gov accounts. I'm aware that the FBI has asked that a portion of one e-mail be held back. That happens in the process of Freedom of Information Act responses. But that doesn't change the fact that all the information in the emails was handled appropriately”.

Clinton also called for an “expedited” release of the much larger trove of her e-mails yet to be made public.

"I’ve said from the very be beginning, I want them to release all of them as soon as possible,” she said. “And they are in the process of doing that. I understand there is a certain protocol that has to be followed, they're following that.”

Today’s release is just the tip of the spear: Going forward, another 55,000 pages of former Secretary Clinton’s e-mails will be made publicly available on a rolling basis. The State Department has until next Tuesday to announce the roll-out plan for the much larger batch of e-mails.

Responding to today's release, Select Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina said: "The Select Committee continues to believe the American people have a right to the full and complete record of her official emails and, therefore, asked Secretary Clinton to turn her server and the full body of emails over to a neutral, detached, independent third party for review."

The laborious task of sorting, reading, redacting and reviewing paper copies of what now amounts to hundreds of thousands of pages of documents falls to the State Department’s Office of Information Programs and Services and its lawyers, better known as the FOIA office -- which stands for Freedom of Information Act.

They’ve established a full-time staff, with one project manager, two case analysts, nine FOIA reviewers and a slew of additional information analysts who have been working since April. The larger trove of e-mails from Clinton’s private email account spans the period from 2009 to 2013.

ABC's Ely Brown, Alex Mallin, Dennis Powell and Alana Abramson contributed reporting.

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