Hillary's emailgate: Libya, Ikhwan and the Google/al-Jazeera anti-Assad 'plot'

Hillary's emailgate: Libya, Ikhwan and the Google/al-Jazeera anti-Assad 'plot'
In-depth: An initial analysis of a small batch of leaked emails sent to or from Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state reveal some interesting details in Arab affairs.
5 min read
22 March, 2016
WikiLeaks published the emails after a Freedom of Information request to the State Department [Getty]
On March 16, 2016, WikiLeaks launched a searchable archive of 30,322 emails and email attachments sent to and from Hillary Clinton's private email server while she was Secretary of State.

The 50,547 pages of documents span from 30 June 2010 to 12 August 2014, says WikiLeaks.

The emails reveal Libya was one of the most pressing issues that kept Clinton awake at night during her tenure at the US State Department, as well as the revolution in Egypt in 2011 - and contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood.

There are also curious revelations made about a Google-proposed tool to encourage defections against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

In Libya, the attack on US diplomatic facilities in the eastern city of Benghazi on 11 September 2012 was the top-mentioned issue in Clinton's emails.

While barely an Arab country was absent from her emails, Libya was mentioned 1,620 times, followed by Egypt, which was mentioned 1,461 times and Iraq, mentioned 1099 times.

Syria and Saudi Arabia were mentioned extensively as well, along with the countries that witnessed uprisings, led by Tunisia and Yemen, during the Arab Spring, which coincided with the timeframe of the leaked emails.
Clinton is revealed to have played a large role in inciting international public opinion against Muammar Gaddafi and his henchmen and relatives


Before the death of US ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, along with three Americans including a CIA operative, Libya was mentioned in only a handful of emails.

Afterwards, and until Clinton left her post, most emails had to do with the controversy over the attack, including analyses of articles in the Arabic press, which Clinton's aides were keen to highlight to the secretary.

Clinton is revealed to have played a large role in inciting international public opinion against Muammar Gaddafi and his henchmen and relatives, whom she planned to refer to international justice.

However, Gaddafi's violent death put those plans to rest.

Prophetic analyses by Clinton's aides showed the Egyptian army wary of the Muslim Brotherhood-led administration's plans for Egypt

Secret meetings with the Muslim Brotherhood

Clinton was receiving near daily, semi-classified reports on the internal situation in Egypt after the revolution of January 25, 2011.

In an email Clinton received on 14 July 2012, she was briefed on important information received from "very sensitive sources". 

The emails said secret meetings were held in early July between senior officers in the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, following the victory of Mohammed Morsi in the presidential election.

The meetings discussed preserving the military's status in Egypt with assurances by then-SCAF chief Mohammed Hussein Tantawi that he had no ambitions to seize power.

Prophetically, the briefing said that SCAF officers were monitoring the situation through secret sources, and expected the battle between them to heat up later on.

One source said Morsi had a problem with Saudi leaders, who supported his rivals in the Salafi Al-Nour Party.

The report conveyed SCAF officers' concerns that the Muslim Brotherhood could demand oversight over the army, predicting that, in that case, the undeclared battle between the Brothers and SCAF would escalate, according to the source quoted in the emails.

Messages between former secretary of state Hillary Clinton's team and one of Google's executives detailed the plan for Google to get involved in Middle East politics

The Google/al-Jazeera 'plot'

Google in 2012 sought to help insurgents overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to the State Department emails.

Messages between former secretary of state Hillary Clinton's team and one of the company's executives detailed the plan for Google to get involved in the region.

"Please keep close hold, but my team is planning to launch a tool... that will publicly track and map the defections in Syria and which parts of the government they are coming from," Jared Cohen, the head of what was then the company's "Google Ideas" division, wrote in a July 2012 email to several top Clinton officials.

"Our logic behind this is that while many people are tracking the atrocities, nobody is visually representing and mapping the defections, which we believe are important in encouraging more to defect and giving confidence to the opposition," Cohen said, adding that the plan was for Google to surreptitiously give the tool to Middle Eastern media.

"Given how hard it is to get information into Syria right now, we are partnering with al-Jazeera who will take primary ownership over the tool we have built, track the data, verify it, and broadcast it back into Syria," he said.

"Please keep this very close hold and let me know if there is anything [else] you think we need to account for or think about before we launch. We believe this can have an important impact," Cohen concluded.

Cohen worked as a low-level staffer at the State Department until 2010, when he was hired to lead Google Ideas, but was tied to the use of social media to incite social uprisings even before he left the department. He once reportedly asked Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to hold off of conducting system maintenance that officials believed could have impeded a brief 2009 uprising in Iran, according to The Washington Examiner.

Clinton's use of a homebrew email server and private account is under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Republicans argue that sending and receiving sensitive emails on an unsecure system endangered national security.

This has raised the possibility of Clinton facing criminal charges, but she has so far dismissed the prospect.