WASHINGTON — Chelsea Clinton warned her parents that international relief efforts in Haiti were a disaster and that major changes were needed in a memo released on Monday that offered a rare window into her role in America’s most prominent political family.
“To say I was profoundly disturbed by what I saw — and didn’t see — would be an understatement,” Ms. Clinton wrote in a memo addressed to “Dad, Mom” and attached to an email she sent while her mother was secretary of state and her father was leading relief efforts for the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. “The incompetence is mind numbing.”
Reporting back on a four-day trip to Haiti, Ms. Clinton added, “If we do not quickly change the organization, management, accountability and delivery paradigm on the ground, we could quite conceivably confront tens of thousands of children’s deaths by diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid and other water-related diseases in the near future.”
The message hinted at the largely hidden role the former first daughter has played over the years as an agent and adviser to her famous parents, “an invisible soldier,” as she described herself in that memo. With her mother now back on the presidential campaign trail, Chelsea Clinton has been increasingly in the spotlight as she has exercised oversight over the family foundation and taken a more visible place in the family’s quest to return to the White House.
Interactive Feature | Sign Up for the First Draft Newsletter
The memo was one of 4,368 documents totaling 7,121 pages, posted online Monday night by the State Department as part of a monthly disclosure ordered by a court after the revelation that Hillary Rodham Clinton had used a private email server while she was secretary of state. The department initially said it had redacted information from roughly 150 emails because they contained sensitive information, then reduced that estimate to 125.
The information was deleted because “confidential” materials — the lowest classification of government intelligence — had been discovered in the correspondence. None of the documents were marked classified at the time they were sent, said Mark Toner, a spokesman for the State Department.
According to an executive order signed by President Obama in 2009, “confidential” information “reasonably could be expected to cause damage to national security” if disclosed to the public. But classifying government information is more of an art than a science, often relying on judgment calls by examiners.
Steven Aftergood, who directs the Project on Government Secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists, said that if the information had been derived from intelligence sources and methods, “it would certainly be classified at a higher level than confidential.”
Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said the latest information about the classifications underscored concerns about Mrs. Clinton’s conduct. “On hundreds of occasions, Hillary Clinton’s reckless attempt to skirt transparency laws put sensitive information and our national security at risk,” he said.
Among the redacted emails posted Monday were a message from Jake Sullivan, a top adviser to Mrs. Clinton, about Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and all of her response except the words, “Can you run the traps.” Another email she sent to Mr. Sullivan had the subject “Gaza” but was deleted except for a reference to a memorandum of conversation: “Pls see the memcon for details.”
The messages, though, contain plenty of other insights into Mrs. Clinton’s circle in those days, especially missives from Sidney Blumenthal, a longtime outside adviser who provided sometimes blunt assessments of domestic and international politics.
In one, Mr. Blumenthal offered a caustic assessment of Speaker John A. Boehner, who he said was “despised” by younger, more conservative Republicans. “They are repelled by his personal behavior,” Mr. Blumenthal wrote. “He is louche, alcoholic, lazy, and without any commitment to any principle.”
In another, he forwarded a memo from David Brock, a pro-Clinton political activist, with the subject line “Memo on Impeaching Clarence Thomas,” the Supreme Court justice, suggesting new evidence conflicting with Mr. Thomas’s testimony during his confirmation hearings.
The emails underscore that Mrs. Clinton was acutely interested in remaining current on political developments and any reports of upheaval at the White House. Aides sent her a column criticizing Mr. Obama as having a “righteous self-regard” and a story about rumors of a staff shake-up in the West Wing.
At 11:16 one night, she emailed Mr. Sullivan to find out about the White House reaction to a Rolling Stone story featuring criticism from Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal and his staff. On another occasion, Mrs. Clinton’s aides fretted about whether the White House had leaked undisclosed information to a reporter, but Philippe Reines, a senior adviser, said, “There’s no way they’d handle you that way.”
Mrs. Clinton also displayed a sense of humor. When her aide, Cheryl D. Mills, sent her a news story about someone robbing a Virginia bank wearing a Hillary Clinton mask, the real Hillary Clinton responded: “Should I be flattered? Even a little bit?”
She went on: “And, as for my alibi, well, let’s just say it depends on the snow and the secret service.”
Her lawyer, David E. Kendall, copied on the email chain, added that he had done research and other robbers had used masks of Richard M. Nixon, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. “We appear to be the first Democrat, however,” he wrote.
Mr. Blumenthal was not the only outside adviser offering his thoughts. Mark Penn, her former 2008 campaign strategist, told her that she was not being forceful enough in responding to and condemning the WikiLeaks breach of State Department cables.
“For what it is worth,” he wrote, “I think you need to order a full scale review and upgrading of the cyber security of the state department immediately.”
The security of her own email, of course, has since become an issue and some of the messages foreshadow that. In one exchange, a department official evidently tried sending her a message to what would have been her State Department address had she used one, only to have it bounce back, so the official called in the department’s Help Desk.
In another instance, Mrs. Clinton, frustrated that she had not heard back from an aide, sent an email to the aide’s personal address and the two engaged in a long exchange about whether the State Department filters were screening out the secretary’s messages to department addresses.
Other messages suggested the oddities of life as secretary of state. In one message with the subject line “Gefilte fish,” Mrs. Clinton wrote aides, “Where are we on this?” (It turns out to refer to a dispute over customs duties for carp being sent to Israel in time for the Jewish holidays.)
In some cases, aides sent Mrs. Clinton messages cheering her on. “I for one loved that you finally called out the ogrish males on your staff who roll their eyes at womens issues and events,” Mr. Reines wrote. “But fyi, I’m pretty sure I saw” and here a name was redacted “roll their eyes at the very moment that you were obviously referring to them.”
Still, others were more willing to be critical. Chelsea Clinton, for instance, wrote her to complain about the State Department web site.
“To my favorite secretary of state – i have a complaint about the website i cant see video of your talks or q&a sessions – only the text!” Ms. Clinton, writing under the code name “Diane Reynolds,” told her mother. “i think there should be links to the news’ versions if there is not state-created footage.”
The State Department said that, after Monday’s release, a quarter of Mrs. Clinton’s emails have been made public.
Michael D. Shear contributed reporting from Washington, and Amy Chozick, Maggie Haberman and Steve Eder from New York.
Follow The New York Times’s politics and Washington coverage on Facebook and Twitter, and sign up for the First Draft politics newsletter.
This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.