While advising Mrs. Clinton on Libya, Mr. Blumenthal, who had been barred from a State Department job by aides to President Obama, was also employed by her family’s philanthropy, the Clinton Foundation, to help with research, “message guidance” and planning of commemorative events, according to foundation officials. During the same period, he also worked on and off as a paid consultant to Media Matters and American Bridge, organizations that helped lay the groundwork for Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 campaign.
Much of the Libya intelligence that Mr. Blumenthal passed on to Mrs. Clinton appears to have come from a group of business associates he was advising as they sought to win contracts from the Libyan transitional government. The venture, which was ultimately unsuccessful, involved other Clinton friends, a private military contractor and one former C.I.A. spy seeking to get in on the ground floor of the new Libyan economy.
Ultimately the business failed before they had to go to the State Dept. for approval but that didn’t stop Blumenthal from sending advice from his business associates to Secretary of State Clinton, nor did it stop Ms. Clinton from sending that advice to others at State and saying it was from an anonymous informant.
In January 2012, for example, Mr. Blumenthal sent Mrs. Clinton a memo describing efforts by the new Libyan prime minister to stabilize his fragile government by bringing in advisers with experience dealing with Western companies and governments.
J. Christopher Stevens, the American ambassador to Libya who was killed in the 2012 attacks in Benghazi. He disputed a Blumenthal memo passed along by Mrs. Clinton about the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya.
Among “the most influential of this group,” Mr. Blumenthal wrote, was a man named Najib Obeida, who worked at the fledgling Libyan stock exchange. Mrs. Clinton had the memo forwarded to her senior State Department staff.
What Mr. Blumenthal did not mention was that Mr. Obeida was one of the Libyan officials Mr. Grange and his partners hoped would finance the humanitarian projects. The day before Mr. Blumenthal emailed Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Grange wrote to a senior Clinton aide at the State Department to introduce the venture with Mr. Obeida in Libya and seek an audience with the United States’ ambassador there. Mr. Grange said he did not receive a reply.
All in all Blumenthal sent 25 letters to Clinton containing “intelligence” from his business friends. Most of it according to the Times turned out to be garbage. But they were sent around to senior State Dept. staff anyway.
The emails suggest that Mr. Blumenthal’s direct line to Mrs. Clinton circumvented the elaborate procedures established by the federal government to ensure that high-level officials are provided with vetted assessments of available intelligence.
Former intelligence officials said that it was not uncommon for top officials, including secretaries of state, to look outside the intelligence bureaucracy for information and advice. But Paul R. Pillar, a former C.I.A. official who is now a researcher at the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University, said Mr. Blumenthal’s dispatches went beyond that sort of informal channel, aping the style of official government intelligence reports but without assessments of the motives of sources.
“The sourcing is pretty sloppy,” Mr. Pillar added, “in a way that would never pass muster if it were the work of a reports officer at a U.S. intelligence agency.”
Besides the obvious problem above, that Ms. Clinton was circulating flawed intelligence vetted by no one and tainted by the objectives of Blumenthal’s business associates, is the possibility of conflict of interests if she knew about the Libyan business partners. Even if she didn’t know there are the issues of her judgement in passing around the data without making sure it was valid and of course ignoring a specific request about Blumenthal made by the President.