What's this all about?
It's not completely clear, but apparently the goal of the rogue group, which included a former high level CIA covert operative and a former U.S. General, was, at the very least, to gather and provide sensitive reports to the Secretary of State from foreign intelligence sources in Libya, Algeria, and Europe.
But there was lots more going on. Two- time Pulitzer Prize winner and investigative reporter Jeff Gerth and Sam Biddle wrote about the secret spy network in ProPublica, reporting that Blumenthal indicated in one email that "he and his associates worked to help the Libyan opposition."
What is a private citizen doing "helping the Libyan opposition" and reporting to the Secretary of State, who then does nothing about it?
It's likely that the rogue group feared that the State Department bureaucracy was not providing the same information to Hillary -- information that they definitely wanted her to know about. Gerth noted that the State Department didn't even have a Libyan desk at that time. So, they would have limited information about what was happening on the ground there.
Enter Sid Blumenthal.
In addition to Blumenthal, the secret network included Cody Shearer (a well-known Washington insider and negative dirt digger who was close to the Clintons) and former CIA spook Tyler Drumheller (who once ran CIA's operations in Europe). Also involved was retired Army Major General David L. Grange, who, ProPublica reported, ran "a secret Pentagon special operations unit before retiring in 1999."
This is stunning. It is hard to imagine how -- and why -- Blumenthal became involved in this clandestine spy ring. What's even more puzzling is who was paying for it.
The group clearly had an agenda. Indeed, one of the firms that worked with Blumenthal -- Osprey Global Solutions -- owned by the former General, contracted with the Libyan National Transition Council in anticipation of Gaffafi's removal. Its mission: to help establish an intelligence operation there in the new regime.
The back door spying operation relied on Blumenthal to keep channels open to Hillary and may even have sought to induce greater U.S. involvement in the war. And Blumenthal was a good choice. He had access to Hillary's private email account and was in near constant touch with her. The hacker's screen shot of Blumenthal's emails in the last two months of Hillary's tenure shows that he sent over 25 emails from December 9, 2012 through February 17, 2013, many with subject headings about Libya and Egypt. And Hillary seems to have responded to Sidney: "Got your message" says one subject line. Another references the "question you raised." So this was not a one-sided deal. Hillary knew about what Sidney was doing and did nothing to close it down. Her aides claim that she handed the emails over to the Benghazi Committee. Let's see if they are all there.
Because this was big. It wasn't just about passing along high level foreign intelligence. There were indications that the Blumenthal group may have even placed its own operatives on the ground in Libya to directly influence events there, without reference to Administration policy and without the approval of the Senate or House Intelligence Committees.
ProPublica noted the reference to a ground operation: "a May 14, 2011 email exchange between Blumenthal and Shearer shows that they were negotiating with Drumheller to contract with someone referred to as "Grange" and "the general" to place four operatives on a week-long mission to Tunis, Tunisia, and "to the border and back." Tunisia borders Libya and Algeria. "Sid, you are doing great work on this," Drumheller wrote to Blumenthal. "It is going to be around $60,000, covering r/t business class airfare to Tunis, travel in country to the border and back, and other expenses for 7-10 days for 4 guys." (Emphasis added)
It's not clear what exactly Blumenthal was doing to earn the compliment about his "great work". And, again, what were they all doing and who was paying for it?
The U.S. government had been reluctant to get more deeply involved in Libya. But Hillary wasn't. She wanted to get rid of Gaddafi and was very, very public about it. Is it possible that the unverified information from rogue sources triggered, or at least fostered, Hillary's aggressive advocacy of U.S. military intervention in Libya -- a policy that many in the Obama Administration resisted? That's something that should be looked at quite carefully.
Because it was Hillary's advocacy that was the prime moving force in triggering the U.S. involvement. Beginning in 2011, she lobbied the Obama Administration to intervene in the civil war in Libya, warning of impending genocide at the hands of Gaddafi. Hillary's warnings were not in synch with information the U.S. and its allies were receiving and were widely believed to be deeply flawed. Pentagon officials, including Secretary of Defense Gates and Admiral Mullen opposed Hillary on Libya, and, along with Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich, took the unprecedented step of opening up direct channels to Libya. Secret tapes obtained by the Washington Times "chronicle U.S. officials' unfiltered conversations with Col. Gaddafi...including criticisms that Mrs. Clinton had developed tunnel vision and led the U.S. into an unnecessary war without adequately weighing the intelligence community's concerns."
This is extraordinary - and yet Hillary prevailed.
House Benghazi Committee Chairman Tray Gowdy recently asked his staff to listen to the tapes, so it's very possible that we'll hear more about this. Let's hope so.
Perhaps stimulated by the Blumenthal intelligence, Hillary worked ceaselessly to get rid of Gaddafi and create a coalition for a no-fly zone. When the coalition started to fall apart -- especially the support of the Arab states, Hillary intervened and personally called their leaders indicating the importance of the mission.
According to the Washington Post, she told the Arab leaders: "This is important to the United States, it's important to the president, and it's important to me personally." (Emphasis added)
So why was it so important to her personally? And was the Secretary of State telegraphing to Arab leaders that there might be consequences if they did not follow her wishes?
After Hillary's intervention, the coalition was back on board and Hillary viewed the Libya war as one of her finest accomplishments. Not everyone concurs with her.
There was good reason for American reluctance to go into Libya. The Times reported that, according to secret intelligence reports, "Libyan officials were deeply concerned that weapons were being funneled to NATO-backed rebels with ties to al-Qaeda and that well-armed insurgents could create a safe haven for terrorists."
And those concerns remain today: Have we and our allies actually delivered weapons that are now in the hands of terrorists? What was going on there?
Was it Blumenthal's "intelligence" that led America into war? A war which cost upwards of $1 billion? A war to prevent alleged genocide that was never corroborated? A war that kindled a massive flow to lethal weaponry to Islamic extremists in the Middle East, including some of the weapons ISIS is now using against us?
There are so many unanswered questions, but the biggest one is this: What was Sidney Blumenthal doing running a foreign intelligence network and reporting to the Secretary of State? He has absolutely no experience in foreign affairs. None. His major credential is that he is close to Hillary and he can push her buttons. And, he's willing to do anything and say anything to protect the Clintons.
Blumenthal worked closely with both Clintons during the Lewinsky scandal to discredit Monica and her allegations, calling her a "stalker." He repeated Hillary's fabrication that Monica was just a troubled person who the President was "ministering" out of kindness and his religious convictions. (This is not a joke)
Sidney became an attack dog during Hillary's presidential campaign in 2008, but perhaps a too public one. That's why Hillary's efforts to hire him at the State Department in 2009 were blocked, reportedly over lingering animosity about his role in the attacks on Obama during the campaign. As far as we know, his was the only appointment nixed by the White House.
Sidney has always had the ability to take Hillary's paranoid side and lead her to exaggerate it even further. It was Sidney who came up with one of her favorite phrases -- "the vast right wing conspiracy." It's still part of her mantra. And he's still her conspiracy theory alter ego.
So, what was going on here and what Sidney's portfolio included is anyone's guess.
If Hillary's erasure of her emails evokes remembrance of Watergate, so the new Hillary scandal involving her back door relationship with Sydney Blumenthal and his on-the-ground operatives evokes comparisons with Iran-Contra. How Hillary can run for president with such baggage remains to be seen.
But at the very least, we need answers to the many questions that arise from this very weird turn in this very crazy relationship.