The State Department released hundreds of emails Friday that were stored on Hillary Clinton’s private server during her time as Secretary of State.
The emails, which pertain to the Benghazi terror attacks in September 2012, do not change the official assessment of the incident in which a U.S. ambassador was killed, the State Department said. “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,” wrote spokeswoman Marie Harf.
Clinton, who wants to avoid the controversy over her emails and Benghazi stretching into the primary and general election next year, told reporters in Hampton, N.H. on Friday that the released emails had previously been sent to the committee investigating the Benghazi attack in 2012. “I’m glad that the emails are starting to come out. It is something that I’ve asked to be done, as you know, for a long time. Those releases are beginning,” Clinton said.
But the release further complicates Clinton’s unusual set-up of using a personal email server for official use. Sensitive information and email addresses in dozens of emails have been redacted under privacy and exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act protecting internal agency deliberations.
According to a senior State Department official, 23 words in a single email were classified Friday at the request of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The email was unclassified while it resided on Clinton’s server and when it was sent to the House Select Committee on Benghazi. The official said the retroactive classification does not mean Clinton did anything improper at the time, adding “this happens several times a month” when FOIA reports are prepared for the public.
“I’m aware that the FBI has asked that a portion of one email be held back. That happens in this process,” Clinton said on Friday. “That doesn’t change the fact that all of the information in the emails was handled appropriately.”
The email in question is in reference to reports that Libyan police arrested several individuals believed to have been involved in the Benghazi attack, and the classified portion appears to refer the details of the local regional security officer’s report on the arrests. State Department Office of Maghreb Affairs Director William V. Roebuck sent the note to Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East Beth Jones, who forwarded it to top Clinton aide Jake Sullivan, who forwarded it to Clinton at her personal address.
Those 23 words will be classified through November 18, 2032—twenty years after the email was first sent.
Clinton has asked that the State Department speed up the release of her work emails. “I’ve said from the very beginning that I want them to release all of them as soon as possible. They are in the process of doing that. I understand that there is a certain protocol that has to be followed,” Clinton said. “It’s beginning. I would like to see them expedited to get more of them out, more quickly.”
The emails provide insight into Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, and Clinton herself has said she wants the public to learn more about her role as the country’s chief diplomat.
With reporting by Phil Elliott