An email released by the House Select Committee on Benghazi Saturday suggests Hillary Clinton's State Department was advised to tell two different stories about what sparked the 2012 Benghazi terror attack: one to the U.S., and another in Libya.
"[O]ur view at Embassy Tripoli is that we must be cautious in our local messaging with regard to the inflammatory film trailer, adapting it to Libyan conditions," wrote an embassy official whose name was redacted from the Sept. 14, 2012 email.
The unidentified official said the offensive YouTube clip was "not as explosive as an issue" in Libya as it had been in other countries, such as Egypt.
"[I]f we post messaging about the video specifically, we may draw unwanted attention to it," the official said. "And it is becoming increasingly clear that the series of events in Benghazi was much more terrorist attack than a protest which escalated into violence."
Clinton has disputed suggestions that the administration's decision to blame the attack on a protest over the video was part of an attempt to diffuse negative attention in the weeks before President Obama's re-election.
During a hearing before the select committee Oct. 22, Clinton attributed the initial confusion about what caused the attack to the "fog of war."
But emails released for the first time during that hearing suggested Clinton herself was aware the YouTube clip had little to do with the attack in Benghazi within hours of the raid.
In one email sent less than three hours after she learned of the attack, Clinton told the Libyan prime minister that Ansar al-Sharia had claimed responsibility for the violence. The email was a readout of a call she had had with the Libyan leader.
In another sent to her daughter just a few hours later, Clinton blamed the attack on an "Al Queda-like [sic] group."
A third email revealed during the hearing indicated Clinton told the Egyptian prime minister the attack "had nothing to do with the film."
Clinton and others have faced fierce criticism for their attempts to blame the attack on the video.
On the night of the terror attack, Clinton ascribed the violence to "inflammatory material posted on the Internet."
Amb. Susan Rice most notably promoted the video narrative on Sept. 16, 2012, when she appeared on political talk shows and described the raid on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi as a protest that had spun out of control.
The email released Saturday indicates State Department officials knew two days before Rice's statements that the video was not a factor in Libyan unrest.
In fact, the diplomatic team in Tripoli seemingly wanted the agency to downplay the video and emphasize the fact that the attack was "well-planned" by "militant extremists."
The newly-disclosed email contrasts sharply with a memo obtained through the Freedom of Information Act in April of last year that outlined talking points for Rice's Sunday show tour.
That memo, sent by Ben Rhodes, then a White House communications adviser, to top administration staff, said one of the "goals" of Rice's appearances was "to underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not in a broader failure of policy." The memo was obtained by Judicial Watch.
Then-House Speaker John Boehner created the select committee shortly after the Rhodes memo was released, a move that was partly seen as a response to the backlash over the email's contents.
Emails obtained by Judicial Watch earlier this year indicate the White House and the State Department coordinated their public messaging on Benghazi and solicited statements from friendly public officials that corroborated the YouTube explanation.
However, the latest email raises questions about whether the State Department launched an effort to tell a different story in Libya, armed with the knowledge that the raid was not connected to the offensive video.
In the American media, the administration did not characterize the attack as a deliberate act of terrorism until weeks after four Americans were killed in Benghazi.