Opinion writer

Hillary Clinton appears before the House Select Committee on Benghazi on Oct. 22. (Michael Reynolds/European Pressphoto Agency)

Hillary Clinton would like the final word on Benghazi and her e-mail scandal to be the House Select Committee on Benghazi hearing where her fortitude and Republicans’ ineptitude were on full display. It will not be.

Politico reports:

Hundreds more emails from Hillary Clinton’s time as secretary of state were newly deemed classified as part of Friday’s State Department release of more than 7,000 pages of her messages, which revealed more about Clinton’s knowledge of embassy security issues and lighter moments like Clinton’s use of emojis.

Friday’s document release is the sixth of its kind and with it, more than half of the messages turned over to the agency have now been made publicly available. The 268 emails now deemed classified in this batch are at the lowest classification tier, according to State Department spokesman John Kirby, who said that none of these emails “were marked classified at the time they were sent or received.” There are now between 600 and 700 emails newly marked as classified since the releases began in May.

We know that it is legally irrelevant whether the e-mails were marked classified. If they contained classified material which she did not handle properly she could be in legal jeopardy. That is why the FBI will actually have the last word on the e-mails.

There is more fodder for Clinton’s critics in this latest tranche of e-mails. More damning is what the e-mails reveal (again, from Politico):

[One] email shows Clinton getting briefed on embassy security issues, despite her contention at last week’s House Select Committee on Benghazi hearing that she did not directly deal with security matters.

When Republicans tried to buttonhole Clinton because State declined numerous requests for additional security at the Benghazi compound that was later over-run, Clinton largely waved them off. Those requests for more protection, she argued several times that day, went to people who deal with security — not her, personally.

One email from April 23, 2009, however, shows top State aide Huma Abedin updating Clinton on a few embassy security issues. In a series of bullet points sent to “H2” at 8:34 a.m., Abedin listed steps State was taking to secure Afghanistan and Pakistan embassies, including “increasing the number of hooches, and doubling up staff in lodging.”

“[W]e need to improve the security perimeter — acquiring property adjacent to our current facilities in Kabul, which is now difficult to secure,” one bullet reads. “Long-term, we need embassies in these countries adequate to serve the mission. It’s not so long ago our Embassy in Islamabad was torched; we need a facility which is structurally sound. In Kabul, we need facilities adequate to size the mission needed.”

This raises several issues.

First, if she was involved in some embassy security matters but not Libya’s, it is worth asking why. This goes to the underlying issue of not just her honesty but her competency. If she really was watching Libya’s situation carefully you’d think she would ask for information on that country’s security, as well. (Too bad the committee never asked what sort of oversight and post-war planning she was involved in. Where was the plan, and was she taking action to see it was being followed?)

Second, while Republicans have not explained this sufficiently, the reason Clinton had to come back to testify a second time and why we are still getting new information is solely attributable to her failure to turn over all e-mails in a timely manner. She and her lawyer have made a fine art of delay and deflection, but it is nevertheless a reminder of how the Clinton scandal-defense machine operates.

Third, what should the House committee do about the drip-drip-drip of information? A succinct, publicly released letter pointing out the issues raised in each batch is appropriate, as is a request for written answers submitted under oath. (It is not as if the committee would get more information from its amateurish in-person hearings.) If there are conflicts with prior testimony that’s significant.

Her policy debacle in Libya and her e-mail scandal won’t end with a hearing and a round of MSM cheerleading. There are legal issues yet to be determined. And certainly in the presidential race, where answers can be extracted in debates and other venues, voters can judge for themselves how candid and competent she was. Not very, the e-mails suggest.