Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. (Photo: Steven Senne/AP)
Hillary Clinton used her private email account to pass along the identity of one of the CIA’s top Libyan intelligence sources, raising new questions about her handling of classified information, according to excerpts from previously undisclosed emails released Thursday by Rep. Trey Gowdy, the Republican chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
On March 18, 2011, Sidney Blumenthal — Clinton’s longtime friend and political adviser — sent the then secretary of state an email to her private account that contained apparently highly sensitive information he had received from Tyler Drumheller, a former top CIA official with whom Blumenthal at the time had a business relationship.
“Tyler spoke to a colleague currently at CIA, who told him the agency had been dependent for intelligence from [redacted due to sources and methods],” the email states, according to Gowdy’s letter.
The redacted information was “the name of a human source,” Gowdy wrote to his Democratic counterpart, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, and was therefore “some of the most protected information in our intelligence community.”
“Armed with that information, Secretary Clinton forwarded the email to a colleague — debunking her claim that she never sent any classified information from her private email address,” wrote Gowdy in a letter to Cummings.
Clinton has repeatedly said she never sent or received classified information on her private email server “that was marked classified at the time that it was sent or received.” But the FBI, at the request of the inspectors general for the intelligence community and the State Department, is investigating the handling of classified information on the private server.
And while there is nothing that indicates that the email from Blumenthal (who was not a government employee) was marked classified at the time Clinton received it, the sensitive nature of its contents should have been a red flag and never should have been passed along, according to a former veteran CIA officer.
“She is exposing the name of a guy who has a clandestine relationship with the CIA on her private, unprotected server,” said John Maguire, who served for years as one of the CIA’s top Mideast officers.
In addition, he noted, the email should trigger a “crimes report” by the CIA to the Justice Department seeking an investigation into who within the agency revealed the information to Drumheller.
“Unless Tyler was blowing smoke, it’s an unauthorized disclosure of information,” said John Rizzo, a former CIA general counsel. “And it’s the most sensitive kind of classified information — the identity of a human source. She should have told Blumenthal, ‘delete this — and don’t send me that again.’ And then she should have reported it to State Department security.”
Asked for comment, Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon emailed: “Trey Gowdy continues to release selective and misleading information about emails sent to Hillary Clinton, even as he refuses to make public any of the transcripts from the closed-door witness interviews that actually relate to Benghazi. This letter is one more example of the partisan approach taken throughout his thoroughly discredited investigation.”
A Clinton campaign official, who asked not to be identified by name, said that as described in Gowdy’s own letter, “the information at issue was not only unmarked, but also was transmitted by no fewer than two individuals who were outside the government before it ever reached Hillary Clinton’s inbox.”
A CIA spokesman declined to comment. Drumheller, a 25-year CIA official who had once headed the agency’s European division, died in August.
Gowdy’s 13-page letter to Cummings, ranking member of the Benghazi panel, comes as the committee prepares for Clinton’s long-awaited public testimony, scheduled for Oct. 22. It was aimed at rebutting mounting Democratic criticism that the investigation into the Sept. 11, 2012, Benghazi attacks that killed four Americans — including Ambassador Chris Stevens — has morphed into a partisan political exercise designed to damage Clinton’s candidacy. Gowdy says he is simply “following the facts.”
The letter also came the same day that Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who had been considered the likely successor to House Speaker John Boehner, dropped out of the speaker’s race. McCarthy has apologized to GOP members for comments that seemed to support the charge that the investigation was, in fact, aimed at driving down Clinton’s poll numbers.
Cummings immediately shot back that Gowdy’s letter only proves the Democrats’ point. The letter “is a defensive and desperate attempt to save face, but it only proves that McCarthy’s statement is true — [Gowdy’s] new proposal to selectively release yet another subset of emails reveals his obsession with Secretary Clinton and no new information about the Benghazi attacks,” Cummings said in a statement.
The letters contained multiple excerpts from over 1,500 emails to and from Clinton about Libya — one-third of them from Blumenthal, a former journalist and longtime political adviser who had forged a business relationship with Drumheller and with Cody Shearer, another longtime friend of Clinton’s. The two were helping a security company called Osprey Global Solutions, headed by retired Army Major Gen. David Grange, a former Delta Force commander.
In one of the emails, Blumenthal informs Clinton about Osprey’s efforts to get a contract to provide “field medical help, military training, organize supplies and logistics” to Libyan rebels. “Tyler, Cody and I acted as honest brokers, putting this arrangement together though a series of connections, linking the Libyans to Osprey and keeping it moving,” Blumenthal wrote in the July 14, 2011, email to Clinton, according to Gowdy’s letter.
Blumenthal’s emails also included derisive remarks about others in the Obama White House, referring in one to then national security adviser Tom Donilon’s “babbling rhetoric” and Drumheller’s assessment of then Secretary of Defense Bob Gates as a “mean, vicious little prick.”
Gowdy in his letter called the contents of the Blumenthal emails “quite remarkable” and referred to the fact that Clinton relied on him for advice as “mind boggling.” James Cole, Blumenthal’s lawyer, did not respond to a request for comment.