The Newly Released Benghazi Emails Don't Say Much

by Alex Gladu

It's been more than three years since Islamic militants attacked two American diplomatic compounds in Benghazi, Libya, killing a U.S. ambassador, a foreign service officer, and two CIA contractors — yet plenty of questions remain. In what at first seemed like a transparent attempt to answer some of those questions, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) released a wave of new government emails about the attack on Christmas Eve. As it turns out, though, those new Benghazi emails don't say much that we didn't already know.

The 16 pages of emails released on Thursday are heavily redacted, to the point that it's hard to tell what some of the emails are even about. For instance, one email has 17 lines of text; 15 of those lines are blacked out. What remains is a single sentence that reads, "The DNI has directed me to stand-up a formal documentation process given the tragic events in Benghazi on 11 and 12 September." It's possible that the process is what's outlined in the redacted text, but it's obvious that the email as released doesn't reveal much useful information for the general public.

Another email seems to have been released almost in its entirety. It was sent from Deputy Director of National Intelligence Robert Cardillo, although it's unclear who received it. In the email, Cardillo says that he has attached a report on Benghazi that will be sent to the appropriate oversight committees. Three cheers for minimal redactions, but thumbs down for little information.

Some of the emails contain news clippings on related stories that came out of Benghazi. There's a story about the involvement of Al Qaeda operatives in the attack, and another is about a series of car bomb attacks at the Libya Army Academy in Benghazi, for instance. In these emails, there is little substance other than an introduction that identifies the topic of the news article to follow. Some of the emails explain that these clippings are provided for "situational awareness."

The emails were released as part of a Freedom of Information Act request. That said, it's probably the least juicy batch of emails about Benghazi to be released, in terms of content. Previous releases spurred loud reactions from politicians, namely Republicans.

The emails also came out just a few weeks before the debate over the 2012 attack could be reignited once again by the release of a Michael Bay movie about the attack. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi tells the story of the Americans who were there when the diplomatic compound was attacked. It's based on a book with a similar name, and it's set to come out in January. The release date has been considered controversial because the movie will come out just before the first caucuses and primaries start for the 2016 presidential election — and Hillary Clinton has been plagued by the Benghazi drama throughout her campaign.


The emails released on Thursday don't provide much — if any — important new information about the attacks on September 11, 2012. Their content alone, though, could have sparked renewed debate from government officials and the candidates for president — as Benghazi emails have been known to do in the past. Perhaps that's why they were released on Christmas Eve, when news is notoriously slow and politicians tend to take a break.

Images: Office of the Director of National Intelligence (2)