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Clinton in close contact with adviser about Benghazi, emails show

Sidney Blumenthal, a man who has been both a formal and informal adviser to the Clinton family for decades, sent Hillary Clinton frequent emails about the situation in Libya before, during and after the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi.

The emails are part of a collection of nearly 55,000 pages of messages from Clinton's private email account that she turned over to the State Department for review and release. The agency has been ordered by a U.S. district court judge to release the emails on a rolling basis, and some of those emails have been turned over to the special House Benghazi committee that is investigating the attack. The New York Times published nearly 350 pages of the emails Thursday.

Roughly two thirds of the pages published by the Times are memos from Blumenthal to Clinton about the situation in Libya, according to a CBS News analysis of the emails. They begin in March of 2011 during the rebel uprising and continue through the Benghazi attacks in September 2012.

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The memos were typically between two and four pages long, and Clinton often forwarded them to aides with requests to "pls print" or a quick comment about the contents. Blumenthal specifically warns about security and political concerns in Benghazi in several of the memos.

Clinton reportedly wanted to hire Blumenthal when she became secretary of state but was blocked by the White House, at least partially because of the role he played in crafting attacks against then-candidate Obama during the 2008 Democratic presidential primary.

His analyses include emails to Clinton the day after the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, citing "sources with direct access to the Libyan National Transnational Council, as well as the highest levels of European Governments, and Western Intelligence and security services."

"A senior security officer told [Mohammed] el Magariaf that the attacks on that day were inspired by what many devout Libyan [sic] viewed as a sacrilegious internet video on the prophet Mohammed originating in America. The Libyan attacks were also inspired by and linked to an attack on the U.S. mission in Egypt on the same day."

He also forwarded Clinton an email, citing the same sources but with the caveat, "the following information comes from an extremely sensitive source and should be handled with care." The message states, "Libyan security officials believe that the attack was carried out by forces of the Islamist militia group calling itself the Ansar al Sharia brigade; working out of camps in the Eastern suburbs of Benghazi...These officials do believe that the attackers having prepared to launch their assault took advantage of the cover provided by the demonstrations in Benghazi protesting an Internet production seen as disrespectful to the prophet Mohammed."

Clinton forwarded this analysis to her aide, Jake Sullivan, writing, "We should get this around asap."

Much of the controversy over the Benghazi attacks have centered around whether the Obama administration intentionally sought cover up a terror attack by blaming the violence that night on a spontaneous protest.

The emails also show that Blumenthal and Clinton were thinking about how Republicans would respond to the Benghazi attacks. On Oct. 1, 2012, he forwarded Clinton a Salon article entitled, "GOP's October Surprise?" that talked about how top Republican operatives were preparing to use the attacks to paint Mr. Obama as weak on national security.

"Romney's latest gambit. Got done and published." Blumenthal wrote in the subject line.

Clinton forwarded the message to Sullivan, writing, "Be sure Ben knows they need to be ready for this line of attack." Though "Ben" is not identified, it could be then-White House Deputy Strategic Communications Adviser Ben Rhodes (the brother of CBS News president David Rhodes). Rhodes is now an assistant to the president and the the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications.

Hillary Clinton on her personal email accounts

Clinton was asked about her relationship with Blumenthal Tuesday after reports began circulating that the two had exchanged emails about Libya.

"He's been a friend of mine for a long time; he's sent me unsolicited emails which I passed on in some instances. And I see that that's just part of the give and take," Clinton told reporters."When you're in a public eye, when you're in an official position, I think you do have to work to make sure you're not caught in a bubble and you only hear from a certain small group of people, and I'm going to keep talking to my old friends, whoever they are."

As for the overall release of her emails, Clinton said, "I have said repeatedly, I want those emails out. Nobody has a bigger interest in getting those released than I do. I respect the State Department, they have their process that they do for everybody, not just for me, but anything that they might do to expedite that process, I heartily support."

CBS News Correspondent Nancy Cordes and producers John Nolen, Carrie Rabin, Steve Chaggaris, Donald Judd, Walt Cronkite and Katie Ross Dominick contributed to this report.

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