A longtime Clinton confidant reportedly advised then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton two days after the 2012 Benghazi terror attack that an Al Qaeda-tied group had planned the deadly assault and used a protest as cover -- but despite this warning, Clinton's U.N. ambassador went on to publicly claim the attack was "spontaneous."
The guidance from ex-Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal was contained in a memo sent Sept. 13, according to The New York Times. It is the latest documentation effectively contradicting the administration's early narrative that the attack was driven by protests over an anti-Islam Internet video -- and raising questions over why officials stuck to that story for days.
According to the Times, Blumenthal initially blamed "demonstrators" angry over that video for the attacks. But the next day, he sent Clinton a very different memo.
According to the Times, Blumenthal told Clinton the attack was driven by Al Qaeda-tied Ansar al-Shariah members who had planned it for a month and used a protest as cover. He cited "sensitive sources."
"We should get this around asap," Clinton reportedly told an adviser in response.
Yet, despite this guidance, then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice would go on several television programs Sept. 16 to claim the attacks were "spontaneous," and not premeditated, and link them to protests over the anti-Islam video.
The State Department would later admit there was no protest on the ground in Benghazi that day. The role of the video continues to be debated to this day, but a mounting body of evidence has emerged showing multiple assessments that the attack was to some degree planned.
Fox News reported earlier this week that a Defense Intelligence Agency report from Sept. 12 also said there were indicators the attack was planned and meant as retaliation for a drone strike that killed an Al Qaeda strategist.
The memo, obtained through a federal lawsuit by conservative watchdog Judicial Watch, said: "The attack was planned ten or more days prior to approximately 01 September 2012. The intention was to attack the consulate and to kill as many Americans as possible to seek revenge for the US killing of Aboyahiye (Alaliby) in Pakistan and in memorial of the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center buildings."
Additional memos surfaced last year indicating Rice -- now the national security adviser -- was prepped before those Sept. 16 Sunday shows. One email from a top administration adviser specifically drew attention to the anti-Islam Internet video, without distinguishing whether the Benghazi attack was different from protests elsewhere in the region which were over the video.
The email listed the following goal, among others: "To underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy."
A congressional committee is probing the handling of the Benghazi attacks, and the administration's Internet-video narrative is sure to be just one of many aspects investigated.
The emails reported by the Times were part of a batch given to that committee. The Times reported that Blumenthal, who has been subpoenaed by the committee, sent at least 25 memos on Libya to Clinton, including several on the 2012 attacks.
The Times earlier reported that while he was sending memos, Blumenthal also was advising business associates who were hoping to win contracts from Libya's transitional post-Qaddafi government. The Times report did not make clear what, if anything, Clinton and the State Department knew of Blumenthal's involvement in any potential business projects in Libya.
The Times also reported Thursday that the former secretary of state's emails reflected she had "sensitive but unclassified" information in her account -- operated on a personal email address.
This reportedly included information on travel plans of U.S. officials in Libya.