Famous Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh is turning his attention to the Obama administration. He told a left-wing conference over the weekend that the administration is using the NSA on a regular basis against government officials talking to the press. “If they want to, the government is capable of tracking any of us anytime, anyplace,” he said.
Hersh claimed there have been cases of people inside an intelligence service who have talked to reporters and have been told, “We know you’ve talked to this guy such and such a day; cut it out.”
As an example of how the administration manipulates the media and the public, Hersh cited the sacking of United States Army General Stanley McChrystal for making derogatory comments about President Obama and Vice President Biden, while Director of National Intelligence James Clapper remains in his job after lying to Congress.
McChrystal was caught by journalist Michael Hastings in a Rolling Stone article “making fun of the President, making fun of [Joe] Biden, and for that, of course, McChrystal got fired,” Hersh noted. “Here comes Clapper,” he went on. “He looks [Senator Ron] Wyden (D-OR) in the eye at the famous hearing you all know about and lies through his teeth, and nothing happens to him.”
He was talking about James Clapper, director of national intelligence, testifying at an open congressional hearing and being asked whether the NSA collects certain kinds of data. “No sir,” Clapper said. “Not wittingly.” Clapper’s answer was a lie—but he kept his job. Hersh said the message, if you’re an official on the inside of a government agency, is “Do what you want but watch your mouth.”
“That’s a message that somehow escaped us,” Hersh said of the media. “We should have communicated more to you about the message. Obama wouldn’t tolerate a little back-mouthing about him. He wouldn’t tolerate that. But he tolerated somebody going directly to the Congress and lying to their face about it.”
“They own the guy,” he said of the administration and Clapper.
Hersh said it appeared that Michael Hastings, the journalist who broke the McChrystal story, had been “full of coke” when he recently died in a traffic accident. “Why not? If you knew what he did,” Hersh commented.
The public, Hersh said, is catching on to the media manipulation.
He noted a conversation with one member of Congress who had been at the “B.S. hearings” on Syrian poison gas, and had been convinced by the Obama administration that Syrian President Bashar Assad had “delivered the gas himself in a helicopter probably.”
“Anything you want to say, the President got away with,” Hersh said. But the representative turned against the war after meeting with constituents opposed to it.
Turning his attention to Iran, Hersh claimed the administration is being maneuvered by outside forces associated with Israel and Saudi Arabia into a war with Iran, but that Russia’s Vladimir Putin is working to help Obama avoid such an outcome.
He said his old newspaper, The New York Times, has become a pawn in the campaign by selectively quoting pro-war officials.
An iconic figure for much of the media, Hersh was speaking before the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a notorious left-wing think tank that is celebrating 50 years of existence and has a history of collaborating with enemies and adversaries of the United States. Its 50th anniversary booklet included an ad showing longtime employee and Castro apologist Saul Landau, who recently passed away, with a Cuban spy.
The “U.S. campaign to end the Israel Occupation” was given special recognition and treatment at the conference, while James Hoffa of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters signed an ad in the conference booklet saluting IPS for its “progressive analysis, advocacy and activism.”
Although Hersh’s anti-war comments to this audience about Iran were predictable, his recent criticisms of the Obama administration’s handling of the aftermath of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, and its manipulation of the liberal press in general, have generated some conservative interest and comment. It is not clear to what extent these controversial comments are designed to sell his forthcoming book on national security affairs and generate conservative interest in his charges.
It also remains to be seen whether Hersh’s comments about the fawning media coverage of the Obama administration will lead to liberal media figures reconsidering their devotion to Obama, and exposing his masterful manipulation of reporters and the political process.
Hersh was asked during a panel discussion on the “national security state” about his much-publicized comment to the British Guardian that the killing of Osama bin Laden was a “big lie.” He responded that the Guardian corrected a misimpression about what he was saying, and that he believes Obama ordered the raid and the Navy SEALs killed bin Laden, “but after that everything isn’t true.”
“He was killed there” in Pakistan, Hersh said. But he quickly added, “It was an event before an election. So it became sort of grotesque what happened.” By “what happened,” he was apparently referring to Obama making it an election issue. He refused to go any further, saying he was writing about it.
Hersh, a contributor to the New Yorker, has won numerous awards for his work, several having to do with coverage of wars under Republican presidents. He did take heat from the liberals for his book, The Dark Side of Camelot, about financial and moral corruption on the part of President John F. Kennedy and his administration. However, he failed to uncover the most serious scandals of the Clinton administration, such as the official lies surrounding the destruction of TWA 800 and the evidence of foreign involvement in the Oklahoma City bombing.
Appearing before the IPS panel on October 12 on “the national security state,” Hersh was asked about the interview he gave to The Guardian complaining about media coverage of the Obama administration. The interview was given in July, but the content was just published a couple of weeks ago. “He is angry about the timidity of journalists in America, their failure to challenge the White House and be an unpopular messenger of truth,” the publication said.
The Guardian reported, “The Obama administration lies systematically, he claims, yet none of the leviathans of American media, the TV networks or big print titles, challenge him.”
But some might question why he has only come to this conclusion now, after the Obama administration has been in power for nearly five years. And why was Hersh silent when Obama was running back in 2008, and questions about his background then—as now—cried out for answers?
According to The Guardian, Hersh said about the press, “It’s pathetic, they are more than obsequious, they are afraid to pick on this guy [Obama].”
While he didn’t explicitly praise Edward Snowden’s theft of classified documents from the NSA, he said these documents had forced the media to cover the issue of government surveillance. “About the NSA,” he said, “it’s not new what’s going on. It’s just being talked about more.”
“If you can listen to people, you will listen,” he said of the NSA.
He said the use of drones “is so much worse than you know,” and that an “incredible lack of care” is being taken when picking out terrorist targets.
“What’s going on is insanity,” he said.
While bemoaning U.S. military engagement around the world, Hersh and his friends in the IPS didn’t address the reality of Iranian-sponsored and Islamic terrorism against the United States and Israel. Several speakers expressed the hope that the United Nations would assume more of a role in world affairs and act against threats of U.S. military intervention.
This commentary originally appeared at AIM.org and is reprinted here with permission.
Photo credit: Generation Progress (Creative Commons)