Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Let's re-think Michael Hastings

Perhaps we should re-assess what we thought we knew about martyred reporter Michael Hastings. In the post below, I asked a few questions about his famous investigation into the case of Bowe Bergdahl:
Hastings himself was one weird cat. By all accounts, many in the military disliked him. Yet someone kept giving him access to important information -- a fact which indicates that he was considered useful. (Certain messages may gain wider credibility when sent via Rolling Stone than when delivered by Lara Logan or Fox News.) Hastings' 2010 hit piece on General McChrystal certainly aided David Petraeus. Hastings' 2011 article on Petraeus was in some ways quite critical, but in other ways was flattering.
A week ago, Vice News published a fascinating report which (sorry to say) did not come to my attention until just now: Why Was the FBI Investigating Michael Hastings’ Reporting on Bowe Bergdahl?
He spoke to Bergdahl’s parents, who had by that time stopped talking to the press, following “subtle pressure” from the army, and he quoted from emails the young soldier had sent to them, documenting his growing disillusion with the war and the US military.

Hastings also spoke to several unnamed men in Bergdahl’s unit — soldiers who, we now know, had to sign a strict nondisclosure agreement forbidding them from discussing the soldier’s disappearance and search with anyone — let alone one of the top investigative journalists in the country.
Here's what doesn't make sense. The same article asserts that Hastings' reportage angered the military. But how could he have written this piece without top-level military help?


And keep in mind that the entire Bergdahl brouhaha owes much to Hastings' piece. Had he never written it, the Republicans would never have discovered the propaganda possibilities therein.

Jason Leopold and Ryan Shapiro filed FOIA requests to find out about the FBI investigation into the Hastings/Bergdahl affair. What little they received is fascinating:
The FBI file — as well as a Department of Justice document released in response to Leopold and Shapiro’s lawsuit — suggests that Hastings and Farwell’s reporting got swept up into an “international terrorist investigation” into Bergdahl’s disappearance.
According to the files — and a rare public statement by the FBI following Hastings’ death — Hastings was never directly under investigation by the agency, despite having pissed off a lot of people in very high places.
“For five years, soldiers have been forced to stay silent about the disappearance and search for Bergdahl. Now we can talk about what really happened,” Nathan Bradley Bethea, who served in Bergdahl’s battalion, wrote in the Daily Beast on Monday. “I served in the same battalion in Afghanistan and participated in the attempts to retrieve him throughout the summer of 2009. After we redeployed, every member of my brigade combat team received an order that we were not allowed to discuss what happened to Bergdahl for fear of endangering him. He is safe, and now it is time to speak the truth.”

"Bergdahl was a deserter, and soldiers from his own unit died trying to track him down," Bethea stated.
But as we saw in our last post, the NYT has interviewed soldiers in that unit who tell a very different story. They say that Bergdahl was a gung-ho kind of guy who basically liked fighting. He was not the Taliban sympathizer that current GOP propaganda makes him out to be.

Back to the Vice News piece:
“That was one of the weirdest things about the case, that everyone in the whole brigade was required to sign a pretty strict nondisclosure agreement that was enforced at a pretty high level, so basically if any of the people from that unit talked about Bowe, they thought they could be losing their careers,” Farwell said. "It was a blanket statement, ‘you will not talk about anything about this.'”
By now you should be able to guess my personal theory. It is not and may never be a popular theory, and it may be proven wrong by subsequent revelations. Right now, though, this theory does have the advantage of answering -- or at least addressing -- a few mysteries.

I think that Bergdahl, a young man anxious for action, volunteered for a spy mission. His dissatisfaction and desertion were cover stories. If I may be allowed an illustration from popular culture: Those of you who have seen the 1942 Humphrey Bogart vehicle Across the Pacific may recall that Bogie establishes an exactly similar cover story when he embarks on his own adventure.

Something went wrong from the outset of Bergdahl's mission. He was captured by the Haqqani network.

Why was Michael Hastings given help from "on high" to write that article? The purpose of that piece was to cement the cover story -- to convey the image of Bowe Bergdahl as nothing more than an American soldier who felt disillusioned by the American military. The Hastings piece was meant to ingratiate Bergdahl with his captors.

No, I can't prove this scenario. But it makes more sense than does the standard scenario.

Here's the story our media wants us all to accept without question: A disgruntled soldier simply walks off the job in freakin' Afghanistan. (Where's he going to go? What's he going to do?) The brass inexplicably orders the soldiers who served with him not to talk about the matter. The CIA and the Special Forces and the entire administration decide to move heaven and earth to bring home a deserter. Michael Hastings, though hated by many in the military, is mysteriously given all sorts of access and aid when he writes about Bergdahl. For unknown reasons, the FBI investigates how and why that report was written, but refuses to investigate Hastings himself.

If that story makes more sense to you than does my counter-narrative...well, what can I say? Good luck! Have fun!
In your scenario, did he fool his captors?
Joseph, you've probably heard that the Foxes have gotten ahead of the curve, with Washington correspondent James Rosen comparing Bergdahl to a modern-day Lee Harvey Oswald. Of course, Rosen may be right, but not for the reasons he thinks. (Could anyone but a dunce deny that LHO was an intelligence asset?) In memory of Mary Pinchot Meyer and dorothy Kilgallen, I will keep an open mind about the circumstances of Hastings' death.
TJ, I may be able to claim to be the first to compare Bergdahl to LHO. But my take on LHO differs from anything you'll hear on Fox News!
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