Was Michael Hasting’s Death an Accident or was he Murdered?

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Didn’t have to know you to know the truth of what happened, my colleague…

Today was announced that Ex-CIA head Petraeus pleaded guilty to giving classified material to lover. This is nothing new that we need to know. We knew about it through Michael Hastings investigative journalism.

Michael Hastings Tears Petraeus to Shreds on CNN

What we need to know is who killed Michael Hastings, and why President Obama didn’t demand a full investigation of the young journalist’s death. Michael Hastings died in a single-vehicle car crash on June 18, 2013. Due to Hastings ongoing investigations of CIA chief John Brennan and previous critical investigations of other well known figures, there was speculation of foul play. 

Michael’s wife, Elise Jordan, also a journalist, played a role in clearing up speculations about her husband’s death as being nothing more than a “tragic accident”

Michael Hastings (January 28, 1980 – June 18, 2013) was an American journalist, author, contributing editor to Rolling Stone and reporter for BuzzFeed. He was raised in New York, Canada, and Vermont, and attended New York University. Hastings rose to prominence with his coverage of the Iraq War for Newsweek in the 2000s. After his fiancee Andrea Parhamovich was killed when her car was ambushed in Iraq, Hastings wrote his first book, I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story (2008), a memoir about his relationship with Parhamovich and the violent insurgency that took her life.

He received the George Polk Award for “The Runaway General” (2010), a Rolling Stone profile of General Stanley McChrystal, commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in the Afghanistan war. The article documented the widespread contempt for civilian government officials by the general and his staff and ultimately resulted in McChrystal’s resignation. Hastings followed up with The Operators (2012), a detailed book account of his month-long stay with McChrystal in Europe and Afghanistan.

Michael became a vocal critic of the surveillance state during the investigation of reporters by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2013, referring to the restrictions on the freedom of the press by the Obama administration as a “war” on journalism. His last story, “Why Democrats Love to Spy On Americans”, was published by BuzzFeed on June 7. Hastings died in a fiery high-speed automobile crash on June 18, 2013, in Los Angeles, California. Blue Rider Press posthumously published his only novel, The Last Magazine (2014), a year after his death.

In February 2012, Hastings reported that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had been keeping tabs on the Occupy Wall Street movement. An October 2011 DHS report named “SPECIAL COVERAGE: Occupy Wall Street” noted that “mass gatherings associated with public protest movements can have disruptive effects on transportation, commercial, and government services, especially when staged in major metropolitan areas”.

Bowe Bergdahl: America’s Last Prisoner of War

In June 2012, Hastings wrote an article about the struggles of Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured by the Taliban when he walked off his Army base in Afghanistan in 2009 after being disillusioned with the war. In an interview with MSNBC anchor Alex Wagner, Hastings discussed his article and said, “There are elements within the Pentagon who don’t want to make the trade for Bowe Bergdahl”. A White House official subsequently responded to these allegations by informing Hastings that “details of Sergeant Bergdahl’s capture are irrelevant”. Bowe Berghdal was traded for five Taliban prisoners in June, 2014.

President Obama’s foreign policy

In May 2013, Hastings denounced President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, and accused MSNBC contributor Perry Bacon, Jr., of being a “stenographer” for the White House.

Soon after his death, some press reports described the crash as suspicious. Former U.S. National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism Richard A. Clarke said that what is known about the crash is “consistent with a car cyber attack“. He was quoted as saying “There is reason to believe that intelligence agencies for major powers—including the United States—know how to remotely seize control of a car. So if there were a cyber attack on [Hastings’] car—and I’m not saying there was, I think whoever did it would probably get away with it.”  Earlier the previous day, Hastings indicated that he believed he was being investigated by the FBI. In an email to colleagues, which was copied to and released by Hastings’ friend, Army Staff Sergeant Joe Biggs, Hastings said that he was “onto a big story”, that he needed to “go off the radar”, and that the FBI might interview them. WikiLeaks announced that Hastings had also contacted Jennifer Robinson, one of its lawyers, a few hours prior to the crash, and the LA Weekly reported that he was preparing new reports on the CIA at the time of his demise. His widow Elise Jordan said his final story was a profile of CIA Director John O. Brennan. The FBI released a statement denying that Hastings was being investigated.

The FBI file on Michael Hastings and its attachments (totaling 21 pages) were released to the public on September 24, 2013, after investigative journalist Jason Leopold and MIT doctoral candidate Ryan Shapiro filed a joint suit in July 2013 against the FBI for ignoring their FOIA requests for the file. The FBI failed to respond to the requests within the allotted 20-day period. On August 15, Leopold released a statement that read, “The Department of Justice (DOJ) has indicated that the FBI has likely located responsive records pertaining to investigative journalist Michael Hastings”. Al Jazeera, along with Shapiro, released results from a FOIA request showing that the FBI’s Washington field office had opened a file on Hastings in June 2012 to store “unclassified media articles” and “memorialize controversial reporting by Rolling Stone magazine on June 7, 2012″. The attorney who filed the FOIA lawsuit, Jeff Light, suggested that it was uncommon for the FBI to open such files on reporters.

From The New York Magazine:

At the end of his life, Michael Hastings, like many of the progressive journalists he counted among his friends, felt besieged by an overreaching government. Hastings was living in Los Angeles, and at a Beverly Hills theater in April, he took part in a panel discussion about the documentary War on Whistleblowers: Free Press and the National Security State.

Interviewed in May on The Young Turks, a talk show on Current TV, Hastings railed against the Obama administration, which “has clearly declared war on the press”; the only recourse, he said, was for the press to respond: “We declare war on you.” On May 31, he dashed off an urgent tweet: “first they came for manning. Then Assange. Then fox. Then the ap.drake and the other whistle-blowers. Any nyt reporters too.” He attended screenings of his friend Jeremy Scahill’s film Dirty Wars, which seeks to expose “the hidden truth behind America’s expanding covert wars,” and when leaks about the NSA began appearing in The Guardian, and Edward Snowden was charged with espionage, Hastings was deeply troubled by the revelations and the Justice Department’s response. On June 7, his last post for BuzzFeed, where he was a staff writer, focused on “Why Democrats Love to Spy on Americans,” and at the time of his death, Hastings was working on a profile of CIA director John Brennan for Rolling Stone.

It was for Rolling Stone, where Hastings had a contract, that he’d written “The Runaway General,” the 2010 article that resulted in the cashiering of General Stanley McChrystal, America’s commander in Afghanistan, and made his name as a journalist. Mark Leibovich, in this summer’s inside-the-­Beltway big read, This Town, describes Hastings’s McChrystal piece as “the most consequential” journalism of 2010 and possibly Obama’s entire first term. But despite going after big game, Hastings tended to be nonchalant about possible repercussions. “Whenever I’d been reporting around groups of dudes whose job it was to kill people,” he said once, “one of them would usually mention that they were going to kill me.

By the middle of June, though, Hastings, then 33, had become openly afraid. Helicopters are a common sight in the Hollywood Hills, but he had told Jordanna Thigpen, a neighbor he’d become close to, that there were more of them in the sky than usual, and he was certain they were tracking him. On Saturday the 15th, he called Matt Farwell, his writing partner, and said Farwell might be interviewed by the FBI. Farwell was unsettled. “He was being really cagey over the phone, which was odd, very odd,” Farwell says. On the 17th, Hastings e-mailed colleagues at BuzzFeed to warn them that “the Feds are interviewing my ‘close friends and associates’ ”; he was “onto a big story” and needed to go “off the rada[r] for a bit … hope to see you all soon.”

“He was deeply agitated,” says The Young Turks host Cenk Uygur. Since Hastings didn’t want to say anything more over e-mail or the phone, Farwell, who lived in Virginia, set up a lunch for him the following Thursday with a trusted friend of Farwell’s, also in L.A., so that she could pass along whatever Hastings had to tell him on her forthcoming trip East.

The lunch never happened. At 4:20 a.m. on Tuesday, June 18, Hastings’s silver Mercedes C250 coupe, speeding south on Highland Avenue, crossed Melrose, jumped the median, hit a palm tree, and exploded. The charred body of the driver was identified by the Los Angeles coroner as John Doe 117 until fingerprints confirmed that the deceased was Michael Hastings.

Sergeant Joe Biggs, who met Hastings in 2008, when the reporter, on assignment for GQ, was embedded with his unit in Afghanistan, hadn’t spoken to his friend in three months, but Hastings had BCC’d him on the June 17 e-mail to BuzzFeed colleagues. “I tried calling him when I got that e-mail,” Biggs says, “ ’cause I felt so fucking scared, because it didn’t seem like him.” Biggs e-mailed BuzzFeed, too. “They weren’t helpful at all. I kept e-mailing back, ‘What should we do? I’m not a journalist. I don’t know how to go about this stuff.’ They never responded to me.” Biggs tried contacting other media to let them know about the ominous e-mail; the only person who got back to him was a local L.A. reporter. “If that thing didn’t get released,” Biggs told me when I first called him, two weeks after Hastings’s death, “people would keep thinking it was an accident.”

Hastings lived as he died. On the small side, with blue eyes and scruffy good looks that suggested Jude Law’s little brother, he did everything fast: chain-smoking Parliament Lights, calling and e-mailing people late at night, speaking in a jittery torrent, churning out copy. (The first, long draft of his McChrystal article was a 48-hour production.) “The dude was exhausting,” Farwell says. “He just kind of vibrated energy. He had a deep well of moral outrage and sadness that I think goes back to a lot of the hypocrisy he saw and felt.”

WikiLeaks poured on accelerant, tweeting on June 19 that “Michael Hastings death has a very serious nonpublic complication. We will have more details later.” It would turn out that Hastings had sent one of his I’m-being-investigated e-mails to WikiLeaks lawyer Jennifer Robinson. An unusual public disclaimer by the FBI, stating that Hastings wasn’t under investigation by the Bureau, became fuel for further conspiracy mongering. And Richard Clarke, the former counter­terrorism czar, told the Huffington Post that “my rule has always been you don’t knock down a conspiracy theory until you can prove it

. And in the case of Michael Hastings, what evidence is available publicly is consistent with a car cyber attack.” Inside Edition asked: “Was it an accident or was it murder?

Sources: Wikileaks, The New Yorker

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