Newly Released Documents Shine Light on Clinton Administration

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A new set of confidential documents from the Clinton Administration were released Friday by the William J. Clinton Presidential Library. This latest batch of documents is the sixth to be sent out to the public, and it brings to light issues ranging from President Bill Clinton’s views on Osama bin Laden to downplaying the Rwanda genocide to when he sought Hillary’s counsel.

The papers are a part of a group of about 25,000 pages of documents — which include memos, speeches, and confidential communication between Clinton and his advisers — that are being released under the Presidential Records Act of 1978. Such papers are required by law to be released to the public 12 years after the end of a president’s term, but Clinton’s papers have seen delays from review by the Clintons and President Barack Obama. 

According to a 1999 note, Clinton was influenced by the media enough to doubt the CIA’s evaluation of Osama bin Laden. After reading a 1999 New York Times article that called bin Laden “less a commander of terrorists than an inspiration for them,” Clinton sent a note to National Security Director Sandy Berger asking for clarification. “If this article is right, the CIA overstated its case to me — what are the facts?” he wrote. This was a year after Clinton signed a directive authorizing the CIA to catch bin Laden and bring him to trial after the U.S. embassy bombings in Africa in 1998.

Bin Laden was not the only threat that Clinton was skeptical of during his presidency. A few days before the White House labeled the atrocities in Rwanda officially a genocide, Clinton edited language in a document from saying “reports that genocide has occurred in Rwanda” to “reports that acts of genocide may have occurred in Rwanda.”

The downplaying of the tragedies in Rwanda is something Clinton has since admitted to regretting, saying in 2013 that, had the U.S. gone into Rwanda sooner after the start of the 1994 genocide, it’s possible about 300,000 lives could have been saved. “If we’d gone in sooner, I believe we could have saved at least a third of the lives that were lost,” Clinton said to CNBC’s Tania Bryer in 2013. “It had an enduring impact on me.”