[8/24/16] Two weeks after France began bombing Libya, in March, 2011, Hillary Clinton’s old friend and advisor Sidney Blumenthal passed her an intelligence memo that supposedly revealed France’s true — and quite unflattering— motivations for toppling Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi. While France’s then-President Nicolas Sarkozy publicly said he wished to free the Libyan people from tyranny, Blumenthal’s memo argues that he was driven by a cocktail of less lofty incentives, including a desire for Libyan oil, and a fear that Qaddafi secretly planned to use his vast supply of gold to displace France’s primacy in the region.
Libya watchers aren’t so sure that Blumenthal was passing the US Secretary Of State solid intelligence. “For me, it’s not credible,” former French diplomat and Libya expert Patrick Haimzadeh told VICE News when asked about the Blumenthal memo. Haimzadeh worked at the French embassy in Tripoli from 2001 to 2004, and wrote the 2011 study In the Heart of Qaddafi’s Libya. “In 2011, everyone was saying anything and everything about Libya,” Haimzadeh said. “But in fact, no one really knew what was going on. At the time, the French intelligence services and the CIA were in the dark. For example, the French services said the war would last three days — in reality, it took eight months.”
It appears that Clinton’s office too was awash in Libya rumors. Nearly a third of all the emails she received on the security and political situation in Libya during her tenure as Secretary of State came from Blumenthal, a longtime Clinton associate who was not formally employed by the State Department. He was on the payroll of the Clinton Foundation, bringing in $10,000 a month as a consultant, while pursuing his own business interests in Libya. Blumenthal’s emails to Clinton now have been made public in response to a FOIA lawsuit filed by VICE News.
Clinton’s correspondence reveals that Blumenthal regularly sent her intelligence-cable-style updates on Libya that cited anonymous sources who claimed to be close to the country’s political elites.
These briefs were prepared by Blumenthal’s business partner and former CIA operative Tyler Drumheller, a consultant with plans to take advantage of economic opportunities in a post-war Libya. Both Drumheller and Blumenthal worked with a Libyan company called Osprey, a start-up that hoped to profit off medical and military contracts in the chaos after the war.
Though those contracts may have eventually needed the approval of Clinton’s State Department, Blumenthal has repeatedly denied he intended to use his connections to the Secretary of State to further his business interests. Since Libya fractured after the NATO-led intervention in 2011, the lucrative business opportunities didn’t materialize, and Osprey never really got off the ground.
Much of the intelligence Blumenthal fed to Clinton was quite odd. One email suggested that Libyan elites wanted warm relations with Israel, another that European spy agencies were encouraging tribal leaders to declare a semi-autonomous tribal zone in the east of the country. The nuggets of information were always attributed to unnamed sources, and “knowledgeable individuals.” Still, Clinton regularly forwarded these emails to her staff to ask for their take.
The most recent batch of Clinton emails reveals perhaps the most bizarre morsel of Blumenthal-baked intelligence to date. An April 2, 2011 memo titled “France’s client/Q’s gold” quotes “knowledgeable individuals” with insider information about French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s motivation for bombing Libya. The military campaign, the anonymous sources say, was designed to quash plans by Gaddafi to use $7 billion in secret gold and silver to prop up a new African currency. The French worried the move would undercut the currency guaranteed by the French treasury, known as CFA franc, that’s widely used in West Africa and acts as a strong link between France and many of its former African colonies. After French intelligence officials got wind of this secret plan, the Blumenthal memo reports, Sarkozy freaked out: “This was one of the factors that influenced [his] decision to commit France to the attack on Libya.”
The idea France sought to undermine Libya’s plan to start a new currency has long been a trope on conspiracy theory websites — a particularly engaging version can be found on ufo-blogger.com.
It was, however, well known in Libya watcher circles that Gaddafi had some designs to start his own monetary system. “Qaddafi had plans to establish a Pan-African currency. But in my opinion, that is not what triggered the decision to intervene in Libya,” explained Haimzadeh. “Sarkozy decided to intervene as early as February 21,” long before Gaddafi’s plans became known. For Haimzadeh, the timeline just doesn’t add up.
Though Blumenthal was not an employee of the State Department at the time he passed along the gold conspiracy, Hillary Clinton clearly took his views seriously, and sometimes even encouraged aides to put the information to use.
On Aug. 27, 2012, for instance, Blumenthal’s intelligence claimed that a new Libyan president would “seek a discreet relationship with Israel.” Then, Clinton forwarded on the e-mail to her top policy aide Jacob Sullivan with a note attached: “If true, this is encouraging. Should consider passing to Israelis.” Other intelligence dispatches were met with more skepticism, with Clinton aides suggesting that not all the information was credible.
Though it’s unclear what Clinton’s staff thought of the Blumenthal memo, it attributes less than flattering motives to the French President’s decision to intervene in Libya.
In the spring of 2011, Sarkozy took the lead among European nations in pushing for an air campaign against Qaddafi. As protests against the regime began to devolve into a bloody civil war, Sarkozy sent the famous French intellectual, Bernard Henri-Levy — who, the Blumenthal memo says, was considered in Libya a “self-promoter” and a “semi-useful, semi-joke figure” — to meet with rebels in the National Transition Council (NTC).
Shorter after, Sarkozy invited Council leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil to the Elysee Palace, recognized the NTC — which the Blumenthal memo refers to as “France’s client” — as the country’s official government, and began pressuring…CONTINUE READING