A trove of recently released State Department emails this week, and over the last few months, reveal the extent to which then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her staff monitored the press, and how her surrogates in the press went well beyond just tracking media narratives, and tried hard to change those storylines.
They scrutinized news reports, they looked to score favorable coverage by communicating directly with reporters and commentators, they tried to influence what certain newspapers published, and they even reportedly had an "inside man" at CBS News.
One email released this week, for example, shows that the Clinton State Department tried, and failed, to convince the Washington Post not to publish un-redacted U.S. cables obtained illegally by the hack group Wikileaks.
"Team — Despite our efforts, [the Washington Post] will proceed with its story on US-Turkey intel cooperation against [the Kurdistan Workers' Party]," wrote former National Security Council spokesman Michael Hammer in a 2011 group email. "They will not make redactions we requested so expect the Wikileaks cables to be published in full."
Another recently released email suggests that the State Department "planted" questions with CBS News' when Wikileaks founder Julian Assange appeared in 2011 for an interview on "60 Minutes."
"I just received confirmation from 60 Minutes that a piece on Julian Assange will air Sunday night," former Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Philip Crowley wrote. "[Assange] will be the only person featured. We had made a number of suggestions for outside experts and former diplomats to interview to 'balance' the piece. 60 Minutes assures me that they raised a number of questions and concerns we planted with them during the course of the interview. We will be prepared to respond to the narrative Assange presents during the program."
A spokesman for "60 Minutes" disputes that the Clinton State Department "planted" questions for Assange.
Elsewhere, Tyler Drumheller, the former chief of the CIA's clandestine service in Europe, reportedly worked as a consultant to "60 Minutes," according to the Weekly Standard.
"60 Minutes" has dedicated a significant of time and resources to investigating the deadly Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, and Clinton's involvement in the deadly event.
Tyler Drumheller "was active in shaping the network's Benghazi coverage," the Weekly Standard reported. This raises eyebrows, the report added, because the former CIA operative was at the same time connected to operations overseen by unofficial Clinton advisor and longtime ally Sidney Blumenthal.
Drumheller's role at CBS raised several questions "given that he was working directly with Sidney Blumenthal, whose primary occupation appears to be manipulating media coverage on behalf of the Clintons," the report added.
The network maintains, however, that Drumheller was in no way connected to its coverage of the Benghazi attacks.
Separately, in preparation for an interview in 2009 with "Meet the Press," NBC News appears to have leaked David Gregory's prepared questions to Clinton's team.
"You probably already know this, but I just heard from a friend who is wired at Meet the Press that David Gregory will ask you about David Maziar, the Newsweek journalist arrested in Iran," Clinton staffer Lissa Muscatine wrote in a 2009 email.
Interestingly enough, Gregory did not ask Clinton about Maziar.
Another set of emails show that Clinton's team made a strong effort to communicate with journalists who planned to report on either the State Department or on the secretary of state herself. BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith and former New York Times correspondent Les Gelb both apparently ran Clinton-related story ideas by members of her team.
"I think I'd tried to get them to talk to me by floating the thesis that she was totally irrelevant," Smith told the Washington Examiner's media desk in July. "Reporters' tactics are not always great."
In another email, longtime Clinton ally Lynn Forester de Rothschild wrote that Gelb had offered to give her team veto power if they agreed to let him interview the secretary of State.
"He said he would give you a veto over content and looked me in the eye and said, 'she will like it," Rothschild's email to Clinton read.
Gelb emphatically denied that he said any such thing.
Rothschild's account "is an invention," Gelb told the Examiner. "I never would say any such thing."
He did admit, however, that prior to his article's publication, he provided Clinton's team with an advance copy so that they could look it over for any errors.
And then there were the media reports and trends that captivated Clinton's attention.
Blumenthal, who had been barred from a job at the State Department because the president's team had not forgiven him for the role he played in Clinton's failed 2008 presidential bid, regularly peppered the secretary of State with anti-Israel articles penned by his son, Max.
Based on Clinton's replies to his emails — frequently asking her aides to print copies — she listened.
Elsewhere, Clinton and her team watched out for traces of the "vast right-wing conspiracy," they looked to coordinate responses to reports from international news groups like Al Jazeera, they kept tabs on media figures who "love" Clinton and they looked to head off things like "huge Fox-generated media storm led by [former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin] et al."