'Hacked' Benghazi E-Mails Pose Questions About Attack Timeline

'Hacked' Benghazi E-Mails Pose Questions About Attack Timeline

Russia Today has posted the complete set of e-mails reportedly sent from former Clinton White House aide Sidney Blumenthal to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The e-mails were initially obtained last week from a hacker who goes by the name “Guccifer.” Russia Today was among a number of media outlets and political staffers who were sent the correspondence. The emails have yet to be confirmed as authentic.

Blumenthal, now a journalist whose AOL account was compromised last week, allegedly passed along sensitive information to Clinton about the deadly attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi. The e-mails posted by Russia Today contain four memos all marked “Confidential.”

The oldest memo, referencing the Benghazi attack, is time stamped September 12, 2012, one day after the assault. This was, according to Russia Today, “mere hours after four Americans were killed in a deadly assault on the US consulate building in Benghazi. Chris Stevens, an ambassador for the United States, was among those killed.”

It should be noted that not only does interim Libyan President Mohammed Yussef el Magariaf reportedly place blame for the attack on the internet video trailer, The Innocence of Muslims but also “to an attack on the U.S. mission in Egypt on the same day.” 

Additionally, the Libyan leader also points to the “widespread publicity regarding the security situation in the country between 2004 and 2010 and the cooperation that developed between 2004 and 2010 and cooperation that developed between a number of Western Intelligence services and the regime of former dictator Muammar al Qaddafi.”

The emails were copied and pasted into a new document so header information on the emails are unavailable for examination. It is unclear which time zone the email above is referencing, Libyan or eastern standard time. The Blumenthal e-mail describes the interim Libyan president’s September 11 “afternoon” discussion with his advisors, which places it before the actual attacks in Benghazi. Either there is a discrepancy in the timeline or the dates were transcribed incorrectly by the hacker Guccifer, or Blumenthal typed in the incorrect time reference.

Assuming the official Pentagon timeline of the Benghazi attack is correct, the actual assault happened on September 11, 2012 9:42 PM (Benghazi time) or 3:42 PM(EST).

If the information contained in the Blumenthal e-mail is referencing the time in Benghazi, it would be implausible for the interim Libyan president, el Magariaf, to be discussing the Benghazi attack hours before it happened. On the other hand, if the “afternoon” time zone referenced is EST, then el Magariaf would have had a short window to gather “his senior advisors including the members of the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood, to discuss the attacks by demonstrators on U.S. missions in Tripoli and Benghazi.”

According to a CBS News timeline, on September 11 at 9:40 PM (Benghazi time) (3:40 EST), the U.S. embassy in Tripoli was alerted of the Benghazi attack.

9:40 p.m. (3:40 p.m. ET): Gunfire and an explosion are heard. A TOC agent sees dozens of armed people over security camera flowing through a pedestrian gate at the compound’s main entrance. It is not clear how the gate was opened.

The agent hits the alarm and alerts the CIA security team in the nearby annex and the Libyan 17th of February Brigade, one of several powerful militias serving as a de facto security presence in Benghazi. The embassy in Tripoli and the State Dept. command center were also alerted.

State Dept. Diplomatic Security follows events in real time on a listen-only, audio-only feed, according to testimony of Charlene Lamb, the deputy assistant director for international programs, given before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Oct 10.

The CBS News timeline describes a call for an attack against the U.S. embassy in Tripoli by midnight Benghazi time, hours after the “afternoon” discussion el Magariaf  had with his advisors:

12:07 a.m. (6:07 p.m. ET): An alert from the State Dept. Operations Center states that the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli reports the Islamic military group “Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibilty for Benghazi Attack”… “on Facebook and Twitter and has called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli.”

Around 12:30 a.m. (6:30 p.m. ET): A six-man security team, including two Defense Dept. personnel, leave Embassy Tripoli for Benghazi.

Russia Today sent an inquiry to Blumenthal on Wednesday asking about the authenticity of the e-mail correspondence between him and Clinton and has not received a response yet.