What ‘Big Story’ Was Michael Hastings Working On When He Died?

Los Angeles police say there is no evidence of foul play in the car crash that killed Michael Hastings, yet mystery still surrounds the award-winning journalist’s death. So far, no one has explained why Hastings was driving at high speed down Highland Avenue at 4 o’clock in the morning Tuesday, and reports that Hastings was under investigation by the FBI were flatly denied by the bureau. Meanwhile, an e-mail Hastings sent to a colleague the day before he died has added to the confusion by referencing a “big story” he said he had begun working on.

In the immediate aftermath of the fiery accident that killed Hastings, supporters of Barrett Brown, former spokesman for the Anonymous hacker collective, said Hastings had been planning a story about Brown, who has been jailed in Texas on federal charges since his arrest last September. However, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that Hastings “was researching a story about a privacy lawsuit brought by Florida socialite Jill Kelley against the Department of Defense and the FBI.” Kelley says she received threatening anonymous e-mails that proved to have come from Paula Broadwell, who had an adulterous affair with former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus.

Yet in an e-mail sent Monday afternoon to one of his colleagues at the liberal blog BuzzFeed, Hastings mentioned neither of those stories. Instead, the subject line was “FBI investigation, re: NSA.”

Hastings wrote that the FBI was “interviewing my ‘close friends and associates,’” and suggested that if the FBI contacted BuzzFeed, it “may be wise to immediately request legal counsel before any conversations or interviews about our news-gathering practices or related journalism issues.”

Hastings’ reference to the National Security Agency, whose surveillance programs were recently exposed by a former contract worker, Edward Snowden, seemed to imply that this was also the reason for his concern about the FBI. In his last article for BuzzFeed on June 7, Hastings cited the NSA scandal in denouncing “Obama’s national security state.” Yet his e-mail Monday also included this unexplained sentence: “I’m onto a big story, and need to go off the radar for a bit.” About 15 hours after he sent that e-mail, Hastings was killed when his Mercedes-Benz C250 sports coupe slammed head-on into palm tree near the intersection of Highland and Melrose avenues.

Was the “big story” about the NSA? And what was Hastings doing in the final hours of his life? Those questions remain unanswered, as does the question of why the 33-year-old reporter believed he was the target of an investigation that the federal agency says it never conducted. ”At no time was journalist Michael Hastings under investigation by the FBI,” a spokeswoman for the bureau told reporters Friday.

A lawyer for WikiLeaks, Jennifer Robinson, said Hastings contacted her “just a few hours before he died, saying that the FBI was investigating him.” One friend told a Los Angeles TV station that Hastings had become “paranoid” before his death, while another friend — Current TV host Cenk Uygur — said Hastings had become “incredibly tense and very worried … a nervous wreck.” Hastings’ Monday e-mail to his BuzzFeed colleague was BCC’d to Army Staff Sgt. Joseph Biggs, whom the reporter had met during his coverage of the Afghanistan war. Biggs told Los Angeles CBS affiliate KTLA that Hastings seemed “very panicked.”

The e-mail “alarmed me very much,” Biggs told KTLA. “I just said it doesn’t seem like him. I don’t know, I just had this gut feeling and it just really bothered me.”

Hastings won the prestigious Polk Award for his 2010 Rolling Stone article that resulted in the resignation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Aghanistan.




  1. June 23, 2013  4:31 am by J Swish Harris Reply

    Michael Hastings only worked on "big stories". More likely that he was under NSA surveillance than that he was not. Revelations of recent weeks surely caused him to be concerned that if he was under surveillance that his communications related to his work would be misconstrued or deliberately cherry-picked to falsely implicate him as as a threat to national security. If he is designated as such the domestic intelligence agencies are able to violate his fourth amendment rights and disregard first amendment press protection with impunity. Every aspect of his life becomes legally accessible to authorities and all parties that normally hold his records confidentially are required to fully disclose all information they possess. All parties, whether they be financial institutions, employers, service providers, attorneys, judges, neighbors, family members or whomever (there are no exceptions) are forbidden legally from protecting his private information. Furthermore all parties, whether institutions or persons, with knowledge that his information was disclosed are forbidden from advising him of this, or from communicating anything about it to anyone at all (again without exception). The penalty for violating this order of silence is severe and intimidating, especially since even to consult an attorney about protecting one's self is illegal. Michael Hasting most certainly knew all of this. Paranoia is not really the right word to describe the intense anxiety of wariness that Hastings must have felt. Paranoia implies fear of what doesn't exist. Every journalist now knows their wariness is justified because of what does exist. A journalist working the stories that Hastings worked has to assume the worst. The public should not accept at face value the explanation that his death was a mere accident. Whether or not there is an official investigation by law enforcement, there are members of the press who will investigate. Journalists held Hastings in the highest professional regard. It is a journalist's dream to be engaged in investigatory work as consequential as Hastings', and to have the skill to write about it that he had. His colleagues will find out the truth about his death and report it, whether it exposes something sinister or confirms it as only a tragic personal accident. If it was caused by a person or entity that wished to silence him, they ought to be very, very worried.

  2. June 23, 2013  11:42 am by theebl Reply

    I am going with not driving competently and being thankful he did not kill anyone else that night. But if anyone finds any real evidence to the contrary, let us know.

  3. June 23, 2013  3:29 pm by MindBodySpiritComplex Reply

    Hastings Death And The Snowden Leaks - Is There A Connection?

    June 18 Michael Hastings dies in car 'accident'

    June 18 Hastings contacted WikiLeaks lawyer Robinson, saying that the FBI was investigating him.

    June 17 Snowden: 'Government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped.'

    June 10 Snowden is identified as the NSA-whistleblower behind Glenn Greenwald's story in the Guardian

    June 7 Hastings LAST article: Why Democrats Love To Spy On Americans Guys, this one is a must read!!!

    June 6 Glenn Greenwald breaks the NSA story in an exclusive on the Guardian

    more here: http://tinyurl.com/HastingSnowdenConnection

  4. June 23, 2013  4:30 pm by vermontaigne Reply

    A witness in a video posted online, who did not speak English very well, explained that he saw the car travelling at what he guessed was about 100 mph, and then bottoming out as it crossed the intersection. That caused Hastings to lose control of the car, which, as Stacey says, smashed into a palm tree and burst into flames. Someone, I think it was Hoft, pointed out that the car ignited because the engine kept going after the collision, tearing the fuel lines loose. Video from a prior intersection that showed him blowing through a red light at a very high rate of speed did not show anyone pursuing Hastings, nor did any witnesses report a pursuit. Nor did anyone come to check out the wreck at 4:30 by car and establish that Hastings was in there before leaving, as far as we can tell from the video, which covered the scene from all the relevant angles.

    I don't doubt that the guy believed he was being surveilled. Imagine that you felt you were. The NSA, which now says that it doesn't track citizens' locations, or at least not as a matter of course, isn't very credible, I'll admit, but were they to wish to do so, what would they have as far as triangulation information? It's hard to imagine that it would be continuously updated when a phone wasn't in use. I could see that they might use a warrant to ask that a phone be pinged more frequently than usual if they were tracking someone. In other words, I doubt that even if they were keeping an eye on the guy they'd have been in a position to say, holy shit, this guy's moving really fast, even imagining that after a number of drinks Hastings wanted to make the experiment.

    More likely, Hastings dropped his cell battery and decided to put some physical distance between where he was when he made his last communications and where he wanted to hide out, and to elude any meatspace tail he might have imagined. We're still waiting on toxicology, but it seems likely that a combination of paranoia, whether justified or not, and booze probably got Hastings killed. EBL's exactly right: it's only by the grace of God that nobody else was killed when he pulled that stunt, and that in itself demonstrates that he wasn't thinking rationally when he went on his last ride..

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