Are you listening?
Let me guess, you’re wondering, “who is Michael Hastings”, right?
We have been bombarded with scandals; from the AP and IRS shenanigans to the on-going debates over leaks from whistleblowers like former State Department Inspector General’s senior investigator Aurelia Fedenisn and asylum seeker, Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency (NSA) technical contractor – who is also by the way, a former employee of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), blah, blah, blah…
Yeh, those headlines.
If you missed those, then you probably also missed the growing controversy surrounding his “accident”.
It has been one-month [and 5 days] since it happened and the questions are mounting, but first…
Who Is Michael Hastings?
January 28, 1980 – June 18, 2013
An extraordinary journalist — one who was unafraid to speak Truth to Power, Michael Hastings — former Newsweek reporter, was a contributing editor to Rolling Stone Magazine, a reporter for Buzzfeed, author of books and so much more.
He was most widely known for his 2010 Rolling Stone piece, “The Runaway General“, an expose on General Stanley McChrystal – the former commander of NATO‘s International Security Assistance Force in the Afghan war.
I thought he was an outstanding reporter, whatever the story.
He was a vociferous voice against all that is wrong; labeled a “Muckraker” by some and respected by many. It isn’t a stretch to acknowledge Hastings picked-up a few enemies along the way.
How Did Michael Hastings Die?
On June 18th, 2013 a little after 4am, Michael Hastings was driving his Mercedes C250 Coupé in the “Hancock Park” area of Los Angeles. It is still unknown where Michael had been or even what he was doing driving around at that time of morning. I have seen no statements made by Michael’s wife or family relating to his whereabouts or any late night/early morning rendezvous.
There have been no mentions about the gathering of phone or credit card records, or of any deepening investigations that has been made public. Officials say there has been, “No foul play” in the Hastings case and the FBI has declared they, “were not investigating Michael Hastings”.
There still are no toxicology reports available and Michael’s body has since been cremated.
It is safe to assume, that if the LAPD has ruled-out foul play then there must not be a “criminal” investigation underway (from them), at least not publicly. Much may be happening behind the scenes between authorities and the Hastings family.
So, What DO We Know?
We know that after an as yet unexplained, sudden, high-speed acceleration while going south bound on Highland Avenue, Michael’s car veered (by some estimates he made a 60-degree turn) into the medium where the vehicle hit a palm tree and became engulfed in brilliant red and orange flames.
We also know what an eyewitness to the crash had to say.
Here is a video statement by the only known eyewitness to see the entire crash beginning to end as well as the ensuing aftermath of responders.
According to many reports, the body inside of the vehicle was burned beyond recognition. Authorities were unable to make a positive ID for two days stating they would have to rely on dental records, officially labeling Michael Hastings as “John Doe 117″.
Of note, when a positive ID was finally made, we were told they were able to identify Hastings by matching his fingerprints with those in a FBI file.
That in itself is a curious thing and should cause some pause however, after the McChrystal affair, it is reasonable to presume that Hastings was thoroughly vetted and would have submitted his fingerprints at some time.
What doesn’t wash so much is the idea that Michael had any fingerprints left, considering we were told his body was, “burned beyond recognition”.
But, Accidents Happen Right?
Hours before the fatal crash, Michael allegedly sent an email , cc’d to a handful of people. The image above is said to be the redacted email — sent by Hastings, as presented by the Daily Kos and other media outlets and provided by former Army Staff Sergeant, Joe Biggs.
To Biggs’ credit, his email disclosure has kept Hastings’ name and the worrisome circumstances of his death in the news. I will have more on Biggs in a follow-up piece, but let’s continue looking at the anomalies of the crash.
Odd + Even Odder = WTF?
The fact of the matter is, this wasn’t a typical single-car-accident by any stretch of the imagination and Jack Baruth agrees in his piece featured on The Truth About Cars.
New cars do not randomly explode and as we wait for a statement from Mercedes-Benz, we are told by Mercedes-Benz that they are waiting for a request from the authorities, saying they have not yet been approached by anyone.
Why wouldn’t the authorities contact the car’s manufacture?
In addition to that oddity, for some reason Richard Clarke, former National Security Czar, jumped into the Hastings’ conspiracy fray in an interview with Huffington Post. He explains how easily a cyber-car-jacking can be accomplished and how difficult it would be to trace or prove. He even says the Hastings’ crash looks “consistent with a car cyber attack.”.
There are studies that show exactly how a modern, computer-based vehicle can be taken over and remotely controlled at will. It is also important to know that Mercedes themselves can remotely update their vehicles.
I don’t know what prompted Clarke to opine on this issue. Was he approached by the press for his expertise, or did he just decide he had something to say? I find it odd.
Michael’s email expresses real concern and urgency and any citizen – let alone journalist or lover of Free Speech, should be sitting-up paying close attention.
Yes, accidents happen, but the question remains…was this really an accident?
Some Incidentals To Keep In Mind…
There were and are no skid marks to suggest Hastings tried to stop, slow down or otherwise attempt to avoid a collision. In addition, the car’s engine was found in a residents yard 100 feet from the vehicle - some reports say as much as 200 feet or more.
In the below screen shot – taken by myself from KTLAs video footage the following day at 9:05 am PST — less than 5-hours after the crash, you will notice there is zero skid marks to be seen. In fact, other than some discoloration on the grass from the fire and the memorial flowers leaning against the tree, it is hard to tell anything happened here at all. Even the copious amounts of water used to extinguish the car fire, appears to have already completely absorbed into the ground or otherwise evaporated.
There is much controversy surrounding an image of Hastings’ car covered with a white sheet. The internet is abuzz with people contemplating what authorities where trying to hide with the sheet, neglecting to acknowledge covering a body is standard procedure.
Some say the sheet is to hide that there was no body in the car; others say the sheet is to hide that there was minimal or even no damage to the front end and still others claim the sheet is positioned to specifically cover the passenger side of the car where they believe — if scene, would provide evidence of a bomb.
I have not seen any confirmation of whether the above image was taken before or after Hastings’ body was removed from the vehicle. It does however, appear to have been taken before Hastings’ body was removed, which would explain why all of the responders in the frame are congregating on the driver’s side.
Alex Jones (and his multi-media publications) has been a loud — and to some, unwelcome voice on the Hastings’ subject. In fact, the image being passed around comes from Jones’ site Prison Planet and it does not disclose where they acquired it nor do they provide a credit to any photographer so I am unsure where it originated and the exact context that was captured.
To me, it appears the sheet is covering the view a dead body and although the driver’s side headrest is still quite visible, we do not know how Michael’s body was positioned inside. He may have been slumped over the steering wheel or in another position in which he is not visible in this frame. If you look closely there does appear to be a fire fighter in the image wielding the “jaws of life” or similar type tool for cutting away the metal of the car.
In looking at images from the driver’s side of the car, we can see the roof has either been partially removed by the accident itself or by first responders. The front windshield appears to have significant damage as well. Looking into the car itself, the driver’s seat appears to be bent forward as seen by the angle of the headrest and there seems to be no recognizable steering wheel. This may have been removed — with part of the roof in order to extricate Hastings. You will also notice that the silver paint of the car is visible on this side whereas it is not on the passenger’s side, clearly implying the fire was burning hotter on the passenger side of the vehicle.
In hiding the body from public (and media) view, it makes sense responders would cover the entire front window – or whatever was left of the window. The above image appears to be taken after Hastings’ body was removed since we see no recognizable body in the picture. There are other similar shots, each with minimal responders around the car, in comparison to the previous image from the passenger side shot where we see many first responders.
For those who believe the sheet was placed to disguise a lack of front-end or passenger side damage, it is clear in the following image from the scene that there was extensive damage to the front of the car. In addition, at looking at this damage closely, you can see the car hood is wrapped around the tree.
For those who think the sheet is only to hide evidence, then you have obviously not compared both side images and realized that the driver’s side was not covered because they were actively working on removing Hastings’ body. What we have appears to be “before and after” images of when the body was removed.
San Diego freelance investigative journalist Kimberly Dvorak has filed FOIAs trying to gain access to any and all official documents and reports on Michael’s death and the accident scene as well as requests to access the burnt-out vehicle itself which is reportedly being stored at Hollywood Tow just around the corner from the accident scene.
First responders have reportedly been warned against speaking to the press about the accident. According to Dvorak, LAPD and LAFD have all said they couldn’t comment and some have said they were told not to. In fact Dvorak reports that there has been some sort of gag order put in place.
So, What “Big Story” Was Michael Working On?
Your guess is as good as mine, but here are a few clues and clarifications to guide you.
Elise has Tweeted a few things. She set the record straight that Michael was not working on a piece about Jill Kelly, who by the way has recently filed a law suit against the federal government over privacy issues relating to the scandal of former CIA Director, General Petraeus, as had been reported by the LA Times and others.
According to FreeBarrettBrown.org, Michael had been working on a story about American activist and freelance journalist, Barrett Brown who has been sitting in jail — without bail, for nearly a year after being indicted under numerous charges from making threats to participating in a full-blown conspiracy and concealing evidence.
Barrett has often been labeled the “spokesperson” for the activist hacker group Anonymous and been tied to Wikkileaks.
In January of this year, Michael Tweeted a response about the delays in his up-coming Barrett Brown story so it is legitimate he was indeed working on one.
There is more evidence to substantiate that Michael was actively working on the Barrett Brown story, but what part of Barrett’s story that was…is unknown.
Was it in relation to the company Endgame? What is in relation to the NSA Spying scandal? Could there be a connection with Edward Snowden and his disclosures? Hastings’ email did include “NSA” in the subject line…
I myself spoke with Kevin M. Gallagher — Director of the Free Barrett Brown project. He did confirm Michael had been in contact with himself and Barrett’s attorneys in the recent weeks leading up to his death. Kevin also confirmed Michael was making arrangements to personally visit Barrett in jail scheduled for late July or early June. The date was still undetermined.
Putting the Barrett Brown story aside, as I mentioned earlier, Jon Avalon of CNN’s Reliable Sources reported on July, 7th, 2013 that Michael had been specifically working on a story about John Brennan (the CIA Director who replaced Petraeus) adding that Elise herself is now finishing the story on Michael’s behalf.
I’m sure, like any journalist, Michael was working on several stories. The question is, what was the story he felt he was being investigated over and referred to in his chilling email?
Controversy = Conspiracy Theories
Unfortunately when things don’t add up it sparks controversy that rapidly equates to millions of misinformed masses through social media. The almighty “share” and “like” buttons are doing their duty propagating myth as reality and vice versa.
Conspiracies are real — of that there is no doubt however, controversy and rumor can be managed when given the proper information. Of this too there is no doubt. Unfortunately misinfo and deliberate disinfo do little to help any effort to get to the bottom of what really happened.
Elise Jordan is an excellent journalist as are many of Michael’s friends and colleagues. I am sure they would all appreciate if everyone would take pause and be sure of what they are “sharing” online to be sure they are not hindering or harming an investigation, not to mention sullying Michael’s name unnecessarily.
Dead Or Alive?
Did Michael Hastings really die because of a vehicle malfunction or loss of control of a vehicle…or was there really a conspiracy to silence him as many believe?
If so, why and by whom?
Was it his McChrystal enemies of the past or new enemies of the present? Or, did Hastings – with the help of a few local officials and friends, fake his own death to go “off the radar” as is some-what suggested by his email and certainly one of many conspiracy theories being passed around?
Psst, Michael? Are you reading this shit man?
Yes, I really went there, but only for a second.
A Note On Secrets And Secret Keepers
For any of you whom are shaking your head thinking that people wouldn’t be able to keep a secret of this magnitude — regardless of the conspiracy or theory presented, let me remind you of the 129,000 or so employees of the Manhattan Project, most of which had no real idea what they were working on or why.
The reality is, now like then, people don’t need to know what they were doing in order to be willing — or unwilling, participants. If a murder scene has been covered-up, how many people would it really take to change that light bulb?
As Michael said in his last piece, published on Buzzfeed June 7, 2013 a week before he died,