Sidney Blumenthal, a longtime friend of Hillary Clinton gave her advice on issues ranging from British politics to Afghanistan and Iran while she was secretary of state even though he was not employed by the US government, according to emails released on Tuesday.

    The emails from 2009 show informal adviser Blumenthal, whose ties to the Clinton family date back to former President Bill Clinton's White House years, actively trying to shape the early months of Hillary Clinton's time as America's top diplomat.

    Clinton's close links to Blumenthal could rebound on her as she runs for the Democratic nomination for the 2016 presidential election.

    Republicans in Congress have sought to put a spotlight on his influence over Clinton on Libya as it descended into chaos in 2011. A former journalist, Blumenthal sent her lengthy memos about the north African country, many of them containing intelligence reports from a former Central Intelligence Agency officer.

    The emails released by the state department showed that the issues on which Blumenthal gave advice went far beyond Libya. He gave Clinton information on other sensitive issues as early as 2009.

    He seemed to be a middle-man between Clinton and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on the Northern Ireland peace process, according to an email he sent on June 14 that year.

    "Gordon Brown called me today to convey his very best to you," Blumenthal wrote to Clinton. He mentioned her possible involvement in a meeting between Brown, Irish Republican leader Martin McGuinness and a man named Shaun, who appears to be Britain's former Northern Ireland secretary Shaun Woodward.

    "I said that he and Gordon should let me know before Wednesday whether your involvement is essential and what they request. That is fine with them and Shaun will get back to me," Blumenthal wrote.

    Controversy over Clinton's emails has dogged the start of her campaign for the White House in November, 2016 after she acknowledged using a personal email account rather than a government one for State Department business.

    The emails released on Tuesday are among some 30,000 work emails that she handed over to the State Department in December that a judge has ordered to be released in batches.

    Blumenthal was barred from a job at the state department by aides to President Barack Obama because of lingering distrust over his role advising Clinton's run against Obama in the acrimonious 2008 Democratic primary, according to The New York Times.

    Blunt advice

    But in July 2009, he gave the former first lady blunt instructions ahead of a speech she gave at the Council on Foreign Relations think-tank in Washington.

    "For most policy speeches a generic tone and workmanlike prose are acceptable. But for this one it's not. This speech can't afford to be lackluster," he said in an email, offering her a possible draft copy of the speech.

    On June 23, Blumenthal emailed Clinton around 10pm with the subject line, "Hillary: if you're up, give me a call. Sid." In the preceding days, he had sent her detailed memos on Iran's 2009 election crisis with media clips.

    Later that year, Blumenthal wrote to Clinton that delay in announcing a strategy for US forces in Afghanistan was putting serious strains on Washington's relations with close ally Britain.

    "Consensus across the board in Britain - center, right, left- is that the Atlantic alliance - the special relationship -the historic bond since World War II - is shattered," he wrote.

‘Amendments will rob anti-graft law of teeth’

  • Saikat Datta, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • |
  • Updated: Jan 08, 2014 02:20 IST

Strengthened by Rajiv Gandhi in 1988, the Prevention of Corruption Act (PC Act) is set to be rendered toothless by the Manmohan Singh government. The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), headed by the PM, introduced an amended version of the Act in Parliament late last year. If the amendments are passed, it may be impossible to investigate and prosecute cases similar to the 2G, Bofors and coal allocation scams.

The government has proposed deleting several key sections in the PC Act. This includes section 13 — introduced by the Rajiv Gandhi-government in 1988 — that lies at the heart of the law. Section 13 helped define criminal misconduct by public officials; its clauses and sub sections ensured that investigators had an array of powers to investigate all forms of corruption by government officials. Understandably, scores of police officials investigating corruption cases are anxious with this dilution of the anti-graft law.

One deletion is that of Section 24, which protects bribe givers who cooperate and help trap bribe takers. This means under the amended Act, those taking bribes cannot turn approvers. A senior DoPT official justified the deletions, insisting it was done to bring the PC Act in line with the provisions of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) that India ratified in May 2011. However, Article 37 (3) of UNCAC clearly states that bribe givers cooperating with the law must be given special protection. By deleting section 24, the DoPT has ensured that the CBI will never be able to trap offenders.

Other major deletions include that of section 13(1)(d) that defines various acts that construe corruption. With the deletion of this clause, we will not be able to prosecute anyone for cases like the 2G and coal allocation scams,” said a senior CBI official on the condition of anonymity.

The new bill also amends section 13(1)(e) that concerns prosecution of officials with assets disproportionate to their known sources of income. Earlier, investigators just had to track whether officials had the income to justify their assets. But the amended Act has a new clause that asks investigators to prove that the disproportionate assets were the result of “intentional enrichment by a public servant in an illicit manner.” This means more work for investigating agencies like the CBI who will have to prove the disproportionate assets found were procured willingly and illegally.

The amended Bill neglects to deal with the problem of ‘sanction’, a prerequisite for investigation agencies before they can proceed against officers above the rank of joint secretary. Though the new bill gives a timeframe for sanction, it ignores section 6(A) of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act (DSPE) that allows the government to withhold permission to investigating agencies. “This will ensure officials facing allegations of corruption will have ample time to wipe out evidence before we can even start investigating them,” a senior Central Vigilance Commission official told HT.


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