A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against Hillary Clinton alleging that her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state was the deadly impetus behind the 2012 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya that left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, appointed by former President Barack Obama and based in Washington, D.C., made the decision Friday, dismissing the case brought on by Patricia Smith, the mother of State Department information officer Sean Smith, and Charles Woods, the father of CIA operative Tyrone Woods.
The parents alleged, when they filed the suit in August, that Clinton's use of a private email server "exposed confidential information about plaintiffs' relatives to the terrorists."
Smith and Woods claimed Clinton's actions resulted in wrongful death. But Jackson dismissed the wrongful death claim on technical grounds, writing in an opinion that while Clinton's use of a private email server was technically improper, her actions were otherwise related to her official duties as secretary of state.
Another aspect of the lawsuit contended that Clinton, as a presidential candidate in the 2016 campaign, defamed Smith and Woods for disputing their accounts of their conversations about the series of events that led up to the Benghazi attack. In particular, they asserted Clinton had told them it was an anti-Muslim video that sparked a spontaneous raid of the Benghazi compound — a stance which the Obama administration took early on in the days leading up to the 2012 election. U.S. intelligence officials later concluded it was an organized attack. The parents allege Clinton then changed her tune during the 2016 campaign and called them liars.
This claim too was dismissed by Jackson, concluding that Clinton's dissenting account of those conversations did not characterize Smith and Woods as liars, but rather that they may have been mistaken in their recollection of events, Politico reported.
"Secretary Clinton did not refer to plaintiffs as liars," Jackson said. "Plaintiffs may find the candidate's statements in her own defense to be 'unpleasant or offensive,' but Secretary Clinton did not portray plaintiffs as 'odious, infamous, or ridiculous....' To the contrary, the statements portray plaintiffs as normal parents, grieving over the tragic loss of their loved ones."
Jackson stressed that her decision is no way an expression of approval of Clinton's use of an unauthorized private email server during her time at the State Department.
"Nothing about this decision should be construed as making any determination or expressing any opinion about the propriety of the use of the private email server or the content or accuracy of the statements made by the Secretary to the family members or to anyone else in the days following the Benghazi attack," Jackson wrote.
Both parents have long condemned Clinton for her handling of the Benghazi attack.
Speaking at the Republican National Convention in the summer of 2016, Smith said: "I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son." She also said Clinton belongs in prison.