WASHINGTON • As secretary of state, Mrs Hillary Clinton had access to the latest information and analysis from the nation's premier intelligence agencies, from a corps of seasoned diplomats reporting from every corner of the world, from a range of foreign policy experts in and out of government. And from Mr Sidney Blumenthal.
A former journalist, White House official and long-time confidant of Mrs Clinton's, Mr Blumenthal became a frequent correspondent during her time in President Barack Obama's Cabinet, passing along news articles, inside information, political gossip, election polls, geopolitical advice and sheer speculation in a steady drumbeat of e-mail messages, according to documents released by the US State Department.
In addition to memos on Libya that have drawn attention, Mr Blumenthal weighed in freely on events in Britain, Northern Ireland, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iran, China, Greece, Mexico, Italy and even Kyrgyzstan, becoming a sort of unofficial early warning service for the secretary on the far-flung issues that confronted her.
He also served as an informer on domestic politics, keeping her up-to-date on the latest machinations in the White House and on the campaign trail, even offering suggestions for midterm election strategy.
Mr Blumenthal, in fact, was so prolific in his messages to "H", as he addressed her, that he seems to be the person she heard from by e-mail the most outside her department. Of the 4,368 e-mail messages and documents, mostly from 2010, that were posted on the State Department website on Monday night in response to a court order, a search found that 306 involved messages from Mr Blumenthal to Mrs Clinton or vice versa.
Although terse and revealing little in reply, Mrs Clinton indicated that she and former president Bill Clinton welcomed Mr Blumenthal's input outside the normal chain of command. "I shared your e-mails w Bill who thought they were 'brilliant'!" she wrote, after a series of messages about elections in Britain. "Keep 'em coming when you can."
When he was slow with a promised memo, she would nudge him. "Are you still sending?"
Other messages referred to late-night phone conversations.
The e-mail messages posted, along with previous batches disclosed by the State Department, shed light on a relationship that has already drawn scrutiny from Republicans in Congress investigating the terrorist attack on a US diplomatic compound in Libya in 2012.
While not a State Department employee, Mr Blumenthal was being paid by Mr Bill Clinton's foundation as well as by advocacy organisations that have advanced Mrs Hillary Clinton's political interests.
Some Clinton aides viewed him suspiciously; some nicknamed him "G.K.," for grassy knoll. Mr Obama's White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, a Clinton veteran, blocked an effort to hire Mr Blumenthal at the State Department.
But even if she could not put him on her staff, Mrs Clinton clearly valued his input, at least to a degree. She used him at times as a conduit to foreign officials, particularly in Britain, where he has extensive contacts in Labour Party circles and referred to top officials such as Mr Gordon Brown, then the prime minister, by their first names.
NEW YORK TIMES