Conspiracy Theory, Part I

“Evidence Indicates Michael Hastings Was Assassinated”
“Hastings Sent Chilling E-mail to Colleagues Before Death”
“Did the Pentagon Murder Journalist Michael Hastings?”

Those are just a few of the story links that stood at the top of a Google search I conducted on “the death of Michael Hastings.”

I’m not in the habit of running down conspiracy theories that get suggested to me. However, two things caught my attention. First, a regular and respected reader of this site asked my opinion. Second, this story gives me a chance to show readers how they can perform their own due diligence into the credibility of many such stories.

My research begins with the reader’s e-mail. In part, it reads:

“I want to know your opinion on this –

“June 2009, aggressive West Point graduate, four-star General Stanley McChrystal assumes total command of Afghanistan operations. His career has been spotless except for near-disciplinary action in his role in the cover-up of athlete/special forces Pat Tillman [who, it was later determined] had been killed not by ‘devastating enemy fire’ but by ‘friendly fire.’ That information [was kept] out of the posthumous Silver Star award and family was never told, initially.

“When it unraveled, nine in the chain of command, including General McChrystal, were interviewed prior to disciplinary action. The Army dropped the entire thing after several months, and nobody was held responsible.

“[In June] 20l0, Rolling Stone [contributing editor] Michael Hastings did a one-on-one [interview with General McChrystal] in the combat zone in Afghanistan. McChrystal was very straightforward in his criticism of civilian bosses, their incompetence and ‘uncaring’ about the war: Joe Biden, the U.S. ambassador [to Kabul, Karl Eikenberry], National Security [advisor Jim Jones] and several others. Somehow the interview… was leaked.

“Biden asked for an apology, got it in writing, and showed it to Obama, who on his own, summoned his general to the Oval Office for a ‘MacArthur moment.’ McChrystal submitted his resignation, June 2010, and retired.

“June 16-17 2013, Michael Hastings e-mails friends that ‘the FBI are talking to my staff’ and ‘I am working on a big story on the CIA’ and intimated that he was frightened and warned them of the FBI. He had received death threats several times from unknown sources since 2010.

” ‘Hastings became a vocal critic of the surveillance state during the investigation of reporters by the US Department of Justice in 2013, referring to the restrictions on the freedom of the press by the government 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.’ ”

“[Hastings] dies in the crash, incinerated, and a witness stated high rate of speed and ran at least one red light. Friends state he drove ‘like a senior citizen’ and never would do that. Of note: there was some kind of ‘reporter’ on the scene who videotaped the crash… that was able to be shown on national TV. (On the scene 4 a.m.) Michael’s wife… was aide and speech writer for Condoleezza Rice during her term as Secretary of State, and she [Hastings’ wife] vows ‘to hunt those down who did this.’ …

“Los Angeles Police and investigators in the East have interviewed [General McChrystal] and say that there are absolutely no suspicions about the crash and he could not have been involved, as he was 3,000 miles away.

Q: Do devices exist that jam the accelerator down, nullify the brakes and then blow-up the car?

A: Yes. NY Times 2011 on computer researchers at University of California and University of Washington hacked into a car’s computer using Bluetooth, Sirius and OnStar and demonstrated their control of brakes, acceleration and direction before the National Academy of Science Transportation Board.

“Former U.S. National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism Richard Clarke told The Huffington Post that what is known about the single-vehicle crash is ‘consistent with a car cyber attack.’

“Clarke said, ‘There is reason to believe that intelligence agencies for major powers’ – including the United States – know how to remotely seize control of a car.

‘What has been revealed as a result of some research at universities is that it’s relatively easy to hack your way into the control system of a car, and to do such things as cause acceleration when the driver doesn’t want acceleration, to throw on the brakes when the driver doesn’t want the brakes on, to launch an air bag,’ Clarke told The Huffington Post. ‘You can do some really highly destructive things now, through hacking a car, and it’s not that hard.’

” ‘So, if there were a cyber attack on the car – and I’m not saying there was,’ Clarke added, ‘I think whoever did it, would probably get away with it.’ ”

There’s a lot of information to unpack here. Let’s begin with what we know concerning the death of Army Ranger Specialist Pat Tillman.

Tillman was a star pro football player who turned down a lucrative new contract to enlist in the Army Rangers after the attacks on 9/11. On April 22, 2004, while serving in Afghanistan, Tillman was first reported killed by enemy fire. The real cause of his death, by ‘friendly fire’ – fire accidentally coming from his own troops – was not revealed to Tillman’s family or to the public until after an investigation by the Department of Defense Inspector General’s office.

Why would the military cover-up such an incident?

In the documentary, The Tillman Story, filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev interviewed Russell Baer, a former Army Ranger and close friend of Tillman. “It would have been easy to say, ‘There’s an investigation and there’s a possibility of friendly fire.’ But they ran with this pumped-up narrative of this guy running up a hill, blah blah blah. Everything you saw in the media was completely… wrong.

“You also have to understand what was going on at that time,” Baer continues. “It was the worst month in the war yet, the most casualties; the Abu Ghraib prison scandal was just breaking. The true story coming out would have damaged public support for the war. He was the most famous soldier and he was killed by the military. Of course they’re going to spin it and pray the family doesn’t do anything about it.”

A CBS 60 Minutes news story (What Really Happened to Pat Tillman?, May 24, 2008), confirms the details of the Army’s initial “contrived” story about Tillman and how it unraveled.

Returning to the e-mail:

“[McChrystal’s] career has been spotless except for near-disciplinary action in his role in the cover-up of athlete/special forces Pat Tillman [who, it was later determined] had been killed not by ‘devastating enemy fire’ but by ‘friendly fire.’ That information [was kept] out of the posthumous Silver Star award and family was never told, initially.

Accurate?

According to respected journalist/author Jon Krakauer who wrote, “Where Men Win Glory,” interviewed on The Daily Show (Sept. 30, 2009), Stanley McChrystal “was instrumental,the point man, for this cover-up.”

In fact, McChrystal told a Senate subcommittee, “I was a part of that, and I apologize for it.” It was McChrystal, who, with the Bush White House pushing him, signed-off on a posthumous Silver Star for Tillman.

“When it unraveled, nine in the chain of command, including General McChrystal, were interviewed prior to disciplinary action.”

According to the Department of Defense Inspector General’s report, “We recommend that you consider appropriate corrective action with respect to officials whom we have identified as accountable for the regulatory violations and errors in judgment that are described in the review.”

“The Army dropped the entire thing after several months, and nobody was held responsible.”

I couldn’t find a single story where any official named in the report received “corrective action” thus far.

Up Next: Is there any truth to the theory surrounding the death of journalist Michael Hastings?

 

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