WASHINGTON, May 22 (UPI) -- The U.S. State Department on Friday released the first round of emails from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's private email server.
The department announced the release of 296 emails -- about 850 pages -- on Twitter, saying they would be publicly available online.
"The emails we release today do not change the essential facts or our understanding of the events before, during, or after the attacks," one tweet said.
Most of the emails released Friday address the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which killed four people, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.
Other emails -- like one complimenting Clinton on how she looked in a New York Times photograph -- were more personal in nature -- though still included because the author gave her thoughts on sending arms to Libyan rebels.
The emails reveal that though Clinton did not receive classified information on her personal email account, she did receive sensitive or sensitive but unclassified (SBU) material.
One email marked SBU from Tim Davis in the State Department (and forwarded to Clinton by aid Huma Abedin) discussed the possible departure of Stevens and his envoy from Benghazi in April 2011, more than a year before the attack that killed him.
"The envoy's delegation is currently doing a phased checkout (paying the hotel bills, moving some comms to the boat, etc.)," the email read. "He will monitor the situation to see if it deteriorates further, but no decision has been made on departure. He will wait 2-3 more hours, then revisit the decision on departure."
Clinton also received several emails from close friend and 2008 presidential campaign adviser Sidney Blumenthal regarding the Benghazi attacks. He was not working in any official capacity for the State Department at the time, Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon said.
In a Sept. 12, 2012, email, which Clinton forwarded to foreign policy adviser Jake Sullivan, Blumenthal blamed the Benghazi attacks on protests over an Internet video about the prophet Mohammed in the United States. Blumenthal cited "sources with direct access to the Libyan National Transitional Council, as well as the highest levels of European governments, and Western intelligence and security services."
Clinton told reporters she's "glad the emails are starting to come out.
"This is something that I've asked to be done ... for a long time," she said. "I want people to be able to see all of them. It is the fact that we have released all of them that have any government relationship whatsoever. In fact, the State Department had the vast majority of those anyway because they went to" state.gov email accounts.
Clinton said the FBI requested that portions of one of the emails be held back for security reasons.
"But that doesn't change the fact that all of the information in the emails was handled appropriately," she said.
She said she wants the State Department "to release all of them as soon as possible. ... I understand there is a certain protocol that must be followed."
Sen. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., chairman on the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which has been asking Clinton to release all her emails for months, said those released Friday were "self-selected" by her lawyers. He again called for the full 55,000 pages to be released.
"These lawyers, it must be noted, owed and continue to owe a fiduciary responsibility to Secretary Clinton to protect her interests. To assume a self-selected public record is complete, when no one with a duty or responsibility to the public had the ability to take part in the selection, requires a leap in logic no impartial reviewer should be required to make and strains credibility," he said in a statement.
"It is also important to remember these email messages are just one piece of information that cannot be completely evaluated or fully understood without the total record. The committee is working to collect and evaluate all of the relevant and material information necessary to evaluate the full range of issues in context. We will not reach any investigative conclusions until our work is complete, but these emails continue to reinforce the fact that unresolved questions and issues remain as it relates to Benghazi," he added.
Earlier this week, the State Department said it would gradually release 55,000 pages of emails stored on the server with a deadline for completion in January 2016.
The department made the proposal Monday in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Vice News that sought copies of all of Clinton's emails. The department noted that readying the documents for public release would be a labor-intensive and time-consuming venture.
Noting the public interest in the case, John F. Hackett, acting director of the Office of Information Programs and Services at the State Department, said the department is working to complete the review of the emails as quickly as possible.
"The collection is, however, voluminous and, due to the breadth of topics, the nature of the communications, and the interests of several agencies, presents several challenges," he said.
Hackett said 12 State Department staffers have been assigned to review Clinton's emails. He said the emails will be redacted at a pace of about 1,000 a week and sent to legal advisers for a final review.
Amy R. Connolly contributed to this report.