Emails Reveal Hillary Clinton Had Change of Heart on ‘Spontaneous’ Benghazi Attack

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Newly released emails suggest Hillary Clinton’s view of the Benghazi attack shifted over time.

Then-Secretary of State Clinton decided to duck out on a series of Sunday morning news shows discussing the attack in Benghazi, allowing Ambassador Susan Rice to take her place. However, emails published this Friday by the State Department show that Hillary’s staff checked the transcripts of each appearance to insure Rice stayed on message.

On the afternoon of September 16th, Hillary’s Deputy Chief of Staff Jacob Sullivan sent her the transcript of Rice’s appearance on ABC’s “This Week with Jake Tapper.” Sullivan says of Rice’s performance, “she did make clear our view that this started spontaneously and then evolved.”

Our view

In fact, here is what Susan Rice said on “This Week” [emphasis added]:

Our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous — not a premeditated — response to what had transpired in Cairo. In Cairo, as you know, a few hours earlier, there was a violent protest that was undertaken in reaction to this very offensive video that was disseminated.

We believe that folks in Benghazi, a small number of people came to the embassy to — or to the consulate, rather, to replicate the sort of challenge that was posed in Cairo. And then as that unfolded, it seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons, weapons that as you know in — in the wake of the revolution in Libya are — are quite common and accessible. And it then evolved from there.

Just over a week later, Hillary appears to have been concerned that she might have said something similar to Rice’s public comments. On September 24th, Deputy Chief of Staff Sullivan once again emailed Hillary after reviewing all of her public statements on the attack. He writes, “You never said spontaneous or characterized the motives.”


In a background briefing conference call given by the State Dept. on October 9th, a reporter asked, “What in all of these events that you’ve described led officials to believe for the first several days that this was prompted by protests against the video?” The unnamed State Dept. spokesman replied, “That is a question that you would have to ask others. That was not our conclusion. I’m not saying that we had a conclusion, but we outlined what happened.”

Recently revealed emails demonstrate that there was an alternative explanation which was also circulating throughout the Obama administration within days after the attack. According to some intelligence, the attack had been pre-planned as revenge for the death of al-Qaeda terrorist Abu Yahya al-Libi. Both the State Department and the White House decided to press the video explanation of the event instead. It took weeks before the president finally called the incident a terrorist attack.

A thorough Senate investigation released last year found the attack in Benghazi was preventable. Finding #1 in the report stated there was “ample strategic warning that the security situation in eastern Libya was deteriorating.” Yet only weeks later, Hillary—while admitting it was her biggest regret as secretary—claimed it was an “unpredictable” event.