Hillary Clinton's "Hard Choices": Bergdahl, Benghazi and more

Hillary Clinton's long-awaited memoir, "Hard Choices" isn't scheduled to officially be released until June 10, but CBS News purchased a copy at a bookstore.

As she mulls a potential presidential campaign, the book, published by Simon & Schuster, which is owned by CBS Corp., offers rich detail of her four-year tenure as secretary of state on issues such as Benghazi, U.S. relations with Russia, shifting strategy in Afghanistan, the fallout from the Arab Spring and the worsening chaos in Syria. She touches on negotiations with the Taliban and attempts to secure the freedom of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, whose recent release has been the subject of a growing controversy for the White House.

In describing the off-and-on negotiations over the release of Berghdal, Clinton wrote, "The Taliban's top concern seemed to be the fate of its fighters being held at Guantanamo Bay and other prisons. In every discussion about prisoners, we demanded the release of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who had been captured in 2009. There would not be any agreement about prisoners without the sergeant coming home. ...

"I acknowledged, as I had many times before, that opening the door to negotiations with the Taliban would be hard to swallow for many Americans after so many years of war," she continued.

She also offers a window into the other aspects that will inevitably factor into any potential campaign -- from the professional, like her relationship with President Barack Obama and scuffles with his White House aides -- to the personal, like the "elaborate diplomacy required" to help plan her daughter's wedding.


Her chapter on the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, where she took a defiant tone about the multiple congressional investigations into the attacks, was widely reported last week.

She concluded, "There will never be perfect clarity on everything that happened. It is unlikely that there will ever be anything close to full agreement on exactly what happened that night, how it happened, or why it happened. But that should not be confused with a lack of effort to discover the truth or to share it with the American people."

Osama bin Laden

Clinton wrote that during the 2008 campaign, she and then-candidate Barack Obama criticized George W. Bush's administration for "taking its eye off the ball in Afghanistan and losing focus on the hunt for bin Laden. "After the election we agreed that aggressively going after al Qaeda was crucial to our national security and that there should be a renewed effort to find bin Laden and bring him to justice. ...

"All these memories were in my mind as the SEALs approached the compound in Abbottabad. I thought back to all the families I had known and worked with who had lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks nearly a decade before. They had been denied justice for a decade. Now it might finally be at hand. ...

"We watched on the video feed as the SEALs improvised, sweeping through the courtyard of the compound and heading inside to look for bin Laden. Contrary to some news reports and what you see in the movies, we had no means to see what was happening inside the building itself. All we could do was wait for an update from the team on the ground. I looked at the President. He was calm. Rarely have I been prouder to serve by his side as I was that day.

"After what seemed like an eternity, but was actually about fifteen minutes, word came from [Admiral William] McRaven that the team had found bin Laden and he was 'E-KIA,' enemy killed in action. Osama bin Laden was dead."

Russia and Vladimir Putin

"In the wake of Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in early 2014, some have argued that NATO expansion either caused or exacerbated Russia's aggression. I disagree with that argument, but the most convincing voices refuting it are those European leaders and people who express their gratitude for NATO membership. ...

Those making that argument "should ponder how much more serious the crisis would be - and how much more difficult it would be to contain further Russian aggression if Eastern and Central European nations were not now NATO allies. The NATO door should remain open, and we should be clear and tough-minded in dealing with Russia."

"If Putin is restrained and doesn't push beyond Crimea into eastern Ukraine it will not be because he has lost his appetite for more power, territory and influence...

"He also proved over time to be thin-skinned and autocratic, resenting criticism and eventually cracking down on dissent and debate..."

The "reset" button origins: "[I]t was not the finest hour for American linguistic skills. But if our goal had been to break the ice and make sure no one would ever forget the reset, then our translation error had certainly done that."