The State Department dumped another 1,500 pages of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's emails Friday evening, hours before voters hit the polls in the South Carolina primary where Clinton, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, commands a significant lead over challenger Bernie Sanders.
Another 88 of Clinton's emails contained information classified as "confidential," the lowest-level security classification, a State Department spokesman said.
This is the second-to-last-release of Clinton's emails, which the State Department has been posting on its website every month since last May in response to a January 2015 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit VICE News filed for the communications. The final release will take place on Monday, one day before Super Tuesday.
"We're still reviewing them — a lot of them, frankly," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters Friday, referring to the last batch. "Going to be working hard through the weekend."
The 881 emails released Friday cover a wide-range of topics, including the CIA's torture program, the Keystone pipeline, US-Israel relations, the Arab Spring in Egypt, the death of Osama bin Laden, climate change, Guantanamo detainees, and Wikileaks document leaks.
A partially redacted August 22, 2009 email written by State Department lawyer Joan Donoghue and sent to State Department officials and forwarded to Clinton as an "Fyi" by chief of staff Cheryl Mills referenced the declassification of CIA torture documents and how the disclosure of the documents could lead to a diplomatic crisis.
I am writing to summarize two releases of information that will occur on Monday.
First, DOJ will release a large number of documents related to interrogation and detention in the Bush Administration.
These were produced by the CIA, DOJ, DOD, State and others, pursuant to FOIA litigation brought by the ACLU and Amnesty International. L [legal] has reviewed materials that DOJ flagged as most sensitive or of greatest interest to State.
Clinton responded by asking if a transcript was available. It's unclear what she was referring to.
In one of the Clinton emails released last year, Sidney Blumenthal, Clinton's longtime confidante and unofficial adviser, told Clinton she should avoid ever commenting on the CIA's torture program.
In an email on June 14, 2009, a time when new revelations about the CIA's torture program were surfacing, Blumenthal briefed Clinton about an article New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer wrote about the program, saying her story contained "many moving and uncontrolled parts… which has become chronic and will flare up again and again.
"The 'distraction' will not go away," Blumenthal wrote, advising Clinton to "avoid ever being drawn into commenting on any aspect."
The emails released on Friday also included a "confidential" memo sent to Clinton on November 21, 2009 by Blumenthal based on information he received from a journalist whose name is redacted that said the White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and then-deputy national security advisers John Brennan and Denis McDonough sabotaged former White House counsel Greg Craig, who in 2009 had been working on a plan to shut Guantanamo that year and transfer a handful of detainees to the United States, which, according to Blumenthal's reporter friend, Clinton had signed off on. Craig resigned in November of 2009.
"A personal email to me from [redacted] explaining what she's learned but hasn't published, at least not yet … Rahm and underling McDonough, the assassin-priest, play act in '24,' Jack [sic] Brennan is a mole for the Tenet clique, working within the White House, not for the White House; and presented with difficulties Obama asks for more options please," Blumenthal wrote.
The details about what allegedly unfolded behind the scenes at the White House as told to Blumenthal by the reporter is largely the reason President Barack Obama has not been able to follow through on his pledge to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.
Have you read Time Mag's piece on Greg Craig? Worth doing. It succeeded in killing my own version, which I worked on really hard all week. I learned a lot though about the machinations in the White House. In essence, between ourselves, while Greg was negotiating the final details of bringing the Uighurs [Chinese Muslims mistakenly detained in Guantanamo] into America, after it had been signed off on by the Task Force, the Deputies Committee AND the Principals Committee, without telling Greg, the 'Front Office' eg. Rahm killed it by slow rolling it. It's unclear if the White House purposefully leaked it, or if that just happened because inevitably too much time and too many people were involved for it to stay secret. But it's clear that Rahm made no effort to sell it to the Hill because he wanted it to die. The U.S. Marshalls' who were planning the physical transfer of the Uighurs, leaked news of the details to [Senator] Frank Wolf on May 5, who predictably went ballistic, firing off an incendiary letter to Obama, copies of which were sent to all the media. Rahm then blamed Greg for botching the politics. On May 13, Obama discussed this at a senior advisers meeting, which was the first time Greg had discussed the Uighur plan with Obama. Greg had assumed that given the NSC [National Security Council] process, and the number of White House staffers who were in the planning meetings — among whom were Rahm — that they had informed Obama of the plan, prior to greenlighting it. But Obama at the meeting acted as if he hadn't known that there was an actual action plan to bring the Uighurs into the US until the Wolf letter broke out in the open, and he made clear, he was against the whole idea of bringing any detainees into the US to be released. He was very unhappy with Greg, and how it had been handled.
I can't understand whether Obama knew in advance of the plan, and turned against it when the politics Turned bad, and then acted as if he hadn't known – or – if he truly hadn't known there was an action plan, even though everyone from Hillary to [Secretary of Defense Robert] Gates to the FBI and CIA and DOJ had approved it. If the latter, the next question is whether Rahm left Obama in the dark by accident, because he didn't like dealing with the issue, or on purpose, because he wanted it all to go bad. If the former, eg. The president knew — and actually disapproved — why did they then let the process go so far that the Uighurs' lawyer, Sabin Willett, actually had a signed agreement with the Department of Homeland Security? It detailed all of the security measures his clients would agree to, and virtually everything else. All Sabin was waiting for, he said, was a date. That's when Frank got tipped off by the Marshalls.
It's unknown if Clinton replied to Blumenthal's memo. If she did, it was not included in the email cache released on Friday.
Another email forwarded to Clinton by Mills as an "Fyi" on April 5, 2011 pertains to State Department diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks in 2011 and efforts by two Washington Post reporters to obtain comment from the State Department about the cables.
WaPo reporters Craig Whitlock and Greg Miller dropped off copies of 43 cables on Yemen, both from Embassy Sanaa and other Embassies in the region (Riyadh, Muscat, Kuwait, etc) as well as some from European posts' reporting (The Hague, Paris). They requested that we provide feedback on national security concerns and/or requests for redactions by COB tomorrow, Wednesday as they plan to both publish their first story and post these cables on their website — not clear whether all or some — at 10pm this Thursday. Per Steve, we are dropping off the cables for internal distribution and review with Shawn Baxter (SES) and propose that we meet with the team of various reviewers at 530 pm tomorrow Weds in my office in 6800 to go over what we want to present back to WaPo's editors. Be advised that this is only the first set of stories, there will be others on other topics and WaPo intends to come back to us and allow us to review other cables prior to their publication. WaPo says it now has the complete set of Wikileaks cables.
The email was written by Assistant Secretary of State Michael Hammer and sent to Mills and other top officials in the State Department. He told his State Department colleagues that he spoke with "Whitlock and expressed disappointment and dismay that the WashPost after not publishing Wikileaks Cables is now planning to go down that path."
"Whitlock said he would be happy to relay that and have me meet with his editors but that a decision had been made to proceed and now WaPo is reaching out to figure out a 'process' for us to review the cables they intend to publish so that they can consider our concerns and decide on whether to publish or redact," Hammer wrote.
Clinton was sent another email highlighting concerns about a 60 Minutes interview conducted by correspondent Lara Logan with Marine General John Allen and comments he made about Pakistanis that State Department officials worried would inflame tensions between the US and Pakistan.
"General Allen a few days ago in Kabul for a 30 Sept 60 Minutes piece. I'm flagging for you in red a passage that has Gen. Allen concerned. His comments overall are balanced and consistent with what others have said in the past, but we're working to mitigate any potential blowback with the Pakistanis on the one passage you'll see below. Secretary [of Defense Leon] Panetta, the Chairman, the Vice, and others are aware. They're coordinating with the right folks to frame an engagement plan to notify the Paks in advance," said the September 24, 2012 email that was also sent to White House officials. The sender's name was redacted.
The portion of the interview that State Department officials were concerned about revolved around Allen's response to this question:
LL: Your deadliest enemies on the Afghan battlefield have complete freedom of movement inside Pakistan, with the blessing of the Pakistanis. The leaders of the Haqqani network, the leaders of the Taliban. They have safety, they have refuge, they can resupply, they can finance, all with the knowledge of the Pakistanis. And every commander that's sat in your shoes has had to try and build a relationship and go through the same motions time and time again, and the effect on the battlefield remains exactly the same. American soldiers continue to die because of the support Pakistan gives to America's enemies.
General Allen: You've just stated the truth.
LL: That's gotta make you mad.
General Allen: Yes, it does. Yes, it does. And within the context of my authorities, we're going to do everything we can to hunt down and kill every one of those Haqqani operatives that we can inside this country. And those other elements
have come out of those safe havens that ultimately threaten my troops, threaten the Afghan troops, and the Afghan society, the Afghan civilians, and ultimately the Afghan government.
LL: So your hands are tied politically?
General Allen: Well, it's a
LL: You don't have freedom militarily to do what you would like to do.
General Allen: Of course not. Of course not. This operation is defined within Afghanistan, and we're going to do everything we can within Afghanistan. Beyond that, it's a policy issue.
One heavily redacted "urgent" email sent to Clinton on January 27, 2011 by her foreign policy adviser and deputy chief of staff Jacob Sullivan pertains to internal discussions about a vote Palestinian officials were pushing on a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory. The US vetoed the resolution a couple of weeks later.
The State Department was supposed to complete the release of all 30,000 Clinton emails last month. But just a week before the deadline, the department said it had forgotten to scrutinize thousands of emails and requested a one-month extension from a federal court judge to finish. That would have pushed the final release until after the Democratic primaries and caucuses in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada.
VICE News attorney Ryan James argued against the delay, noting that it would deprive voters of valuable information about Clinton's work as the nation's top diplomat. US District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras agreed, and two weeks ago ordered the State Department to produce the remainder of Clinton's emails in four separate batches, two of which were released over the past couple of weeks.
The emails were sent and received from Clinton's private email account, connected to a server in her New York home that she used exclusively to conduct official business. The State Department's interagency FOIA review team has classified more than 1,800 of them, two-dozen of which were deemed to be Top Secret and 21 Secret, because intelligence officials who reviewed the communications said they contain sensitive information. The FBI has since seized Clinton's server and is investigating any potential intelligence breach.
Clinton has disputed that she sent or received top-secret information over her private email account. Her campaign spokesman, Brian Fallon, said, "This is overclassification run amok. We adamantly oppose the complete blocking of the release of these emails."
Follow Jason Leopold on Twitter: @JasonLeopold