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“I became a journalist partly so that I wouldn't ever have to rely on the press for my information.” – Christopher Hitchens
Back when the media establishment was against war and distrusted the US intelligence apparatus, Seymour Hersh was considered a top-tier investigative journalist. He routinely reported on scandals within the upper branches of the US government, winning just about every prestigious journalism award along the way. In 1974, Hersh broke the story that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was spying on domestic anti-war activists, behavior that was in direct violation of the law. The resulting howls of outrage were loud, and the nation was captivated by the congressional hearings that followed.
Of course, that was 50 years ago, and much has changed since then. Our leaders have become alarmingly comfortable harnessing the near-limitless powers of the intelligence community for raw political purposes, and being anti-war has somehow morphed into an “alt-right” or “pro-Putin” position. Perhaps uncoincidentally, Hersh’s reporting came to be seen as a bit of a nuisance, and his reputation as a journalist was put under assault. In 2015, Hersh wrote skeptically about the Obama administration’s narrative surrounding the killing of Osama Bin Laden, and an orgy of attack pieces was unleashed in traditional media outlets. Here’s how Trevor Timm described the ugly affair in the prestigious Columbia Journalism Review (emphasis added throughout):
“Barrels of ink have been spilled ripping apart Hersh’s character, while barely any follow-up reporting has been done to corroborate or refute his claims—even though there’s no doubt that the Obama administration has repeatedly misinformed and misled the public about the incident. Even less attention has been paid to the little follow-up reporting that we did get, which revealed that the CIA likely lied about its role in finding bin Laden, which it used to justify torture to the public.”
Timm goes on to relay the descriptions ascribed to Hersh by members of the media as a “conspiracy theorist,” “off the rails,” and “a crank.”
This past Wednesday, the 85-year-old reporter uncorked a shocking set of accusations in his debut Substack article, How America Took Out The Nord Stream Pipeline. While his title gives away the plot, here are a few of the important details:
“Last June, the Navy divers, operating under the cover of a widely publicized mid-summer NATO exercise known as BALTOPS 22, planted the remotely triggered explosives that, three months later, destroyed three of the four Nord Stream pipelines, according to a source with direct knowledge of the operational planning….
Biden’s decision to sabotage the pipelines came after more than nine months of highly secret back and forth debate inside Washington’s national security community about how to best achieve that goal. For much of that time, the issue was not whether to do the mission, but how to get it done with no overt clue as to who was responsible.”
Hersh provides detailed descriptions of the collaboration between the US and Norway to execute the mission, the grave doubts within parts of the administration about the wisdom and legality of committing what was, as reported, explicitly understood to be an act of war, and Biden’s priority to keep Congress out of the information loop at every step.
We are deeply curious about the activities, if any, since taken up by reporters at mainstream outlets to corroborate or dispel Hersh’s claims. What will be the fallout if his article turns out to be accurate? What if it doesn’t? And what does it mean for the state of investigative reporting that Hersh used Substack to make his explosive claims? Let’s dig in.