NEW YORK – Before his death in a fiery car crash, Michael Hastings was preparing to publish a major investigative piece tied to the undercover agent who is suspected of sanitizing President Obama’s passport records prior to the 2008 presidential election.
The mystery has only deepened since the Los Angeles Coroner’s Office ruled that drugs in his system at the time of the June 18 crash, including amphetamines and marijuana, likely did not contribute to the crash.
Hastings, 33 years old at the time of his death, wrote for Gentleman’s Quarterly, Rolling Stone and Buzzfeed, reporting on national security issues.
Advertisement - story continues below
His June 2010 article in Rolling Stone featuring remarks highly critical of the Obama administration made by Gen. Stanley McChrystal -- then the commander of allied forces in Afghanistan -- led to President Obama relieving McChrystal of command.
Reported drug use
The autopsy two months after Hastings’ death found small amounts of amphetamine in his blood, suggesting he may have taken methamphetamine several hours before his death. Traces of marijuana also suggested Hastings had smoked the drug hours before he had taken the methamphetamine.
Hastings died when his Mercedes, traveling at a high rate of speed, crossed into the median on a deserted Highland Avenue at 4:20 a.m. and struck a tree. The automobile burst into flames, charring Hastings’ body so badly that it took several days to make a positive identification.
Advertisement - story continues below
Los Angeles newspapers have suggested Hastings had become obsessed with Edward Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Agency’s massive domestic surveillance capabilities and with disclosures the Department of Justice had obtained of the phone records of Associated Press reporters.
His neighbor and close friend, Jordanna Thigpen, told the LA Weekly that just before his death, Hastings’ behavior had become erratic because of his increasing concerned that helicopters commonly seen in the Hollywood Hills were spying on him and that his Mercedes had been tampered with.
“He was scared, and he wanted to leave town,” Thigpen told the newspaper.
She recalled that the night before his death, Hastings asked Thigpen if he could borrow her Volvo because he was afraid to drive his own car.
Fox News reported family members told investigators that Hastings, who supposedly had been “sober” for 14 years, had begun using drugs the month before his death. The drugs included the hallucinogenic DMT, although it was not detected in a blood report conducted after the crash.
Advertisement - story continues below
Fox News further reported a family member told investigators Hastings was seen passed out at home about three hours before the crash and that he had been smoking marijuana the night of the crash.
Investigators told Fox News that Hastings was found after the crash with a medicinal marijuana identity card in his wallet and that he apparently was using the drug to ease post-traumatic stress disorder experienced after his assignments in Afghanistan and Iraq.
A security video that captured Hastings’ car crash showed a flash of light before the car hit the tree, raising suspicions Hastings’ death may have been caused by an explosion.
San Diego 6 News has reported that a witness in a nearby business is claiming the explosion occurred before Hastings’ car hit the tree. An explosion before impact, which would slow down the vehicle, would explain the minimal damage observed on the palm tree. Other physical evidence at the crash site also is not consistent with a high-speed, out-of-control impact.
Advertisement - story continues below
See the security video:
Brennan and the CIA
On Aug. 12, Kimberly Dvorak reported for San Diego 6 News that Hastings at the time of his death was working on an exposé on CIA director John Brennan.
In July, a source provided the station with an email hacked from “super secret CIA contractor” Stratfor’s President Fred Burton and subsequently posted on WikiLeaks that suggested Brennan was in charge of the Obama administration’s surveillance of investigative journalists.
Though rumors persist that Hastings was near completion of a new exposè on Brennan to be published shortly in Rolling Stone, the magazine so far has not published any such piece.
Obama’s passport records sanitized
WND has previously reported that Brennan played a controversial role in what many suspect was an effort to sanitize Obama’s passport records prior to the 2008 presidential election.
On March 21, 2008, during the 2008 presidential campaign, two unnamed contract employees for the State Department were fired and a third unnamed State Department contract employee was disciplined for breaching the passport file of Democratic presidential candidate and then-senator Barack Obama.
The Washington Times on March 20, 2008, noted that all three had used their authorized computer network access to look up and read Obama’s records within the State Department’s consular affairs section that “possesses and stores passport information.”
Contacted by the newspaper, State Department spokesman Sean McCormick attributed the violations to non-political motivations, stressing that the three individuals involved “did not appear to be seeking information on behalf of any political candidate or party.”
“As far as we can tell, in each of the three cases, it was imprudent curiosity,” McCormick told the Washington Times.
Exactly how the State Department came to that conclusion, McCormick did not disclose.
By the next day, the story had changed.
The New York Times reported March 21, 2008, that the security breach had involved unauthorized searches of the passport records not just of Obama, but also of then-presidential contenders Sens. John McCain and Hillary Clinton.
Again, the New York Times attributed the breaches to “garden-variety snooping by idle employees” that was “not politically motivated.”
Like the Washington Times, the New York Times gave no explanation to back up its assertion that the breaches were attributable to non-political malfeasance.
Still, the New York Times report said then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had spent Friday morning calling all three presidential candidates. Rice had told Obama that she was sorry for the violation. She said she "told him that I myself would be very disturbed if I learned that somebody had looked into my passport file.”
The newspaper quoted Obama saying he appreciated the apology but that he expected the passport situation “to be investigated diligently and openly.”
According to the New York Times report, Obama’s tone of concern was obvious.
“One of the things that the American people count on in their interactions with any level of government is that if they have to disclose personal information, that is going to stay personal and stay private,” Obama told reporters. “And when you have not just one, but a series of attempts to tap into people’s personal records, that’s a problem, not just for me, but for how our government is functioning.”
The New York Times noted that the files examined were likely to contain sensitive personal information, including Social Security numbers, addresses and dates of birth as well as passport applications and other biographical information that would pertain to U.S. citizenship. Only at the end of the article did the paper note that State Department spokesman McCormick had emphasized the most egregious violation appeared to have been made against Obama.
Obama was the only one of the three presidential candidates involved who had his passport file breached on three separate occasions. The first occurred Jan. 9, 2008, followed by separate violations Feb. 21 and March 14. Moreover, all three of the offending employees had breached Obama’s files, while the passport files of McCain and Clinton had been breached each only once.
The Brennan connection
The New York Times noted the two offending State Department contract employees who were fired had worked for Stanley Inc., a company based in Arlington, Va., while the reprimanded worker continued to be employed by the Analysis Corporation of McLean, Va.
The newspaper gave no background on either corporation other than to note that Stanley Inc. did “computer work for the government.”
At that time, Stanley Inc. was a 3,500-person technology firm that had just won a $570 million contract to provide computer-related passport services to the State Department, while Brennan, who then headed Analysis Corp., was serving as an adviser on intelligence and foreign policy to Obama's presidential campaign.
By Saturday, March 22, 2008, the Washington Times reported that the State Department investigation had focused on the contract worker for the Analysis Corporation, because he was the only one of the three involved in breaching the passport records of both Sens. Obama and McCain, the two presidential candidates whose eligibility as “natural born” citizens under Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution were in question.
Consistent with the claim that the motive for the passport breach merely was mischief, the three State Department contract employees received relatively light penalties. Two were fired and one was reprimanded.
Although at the time the State Department promised a full-scale investigation, the public was kept in the dark.
In July 2008, the State Department’s Office of Inspector General issued a 104-page investigative report on the passport breach incidents, stamped “Sensitive But Unclassified.” The document was so heavily redacted, it was nearly worthless to the public. Scores of passages were blacked out entirely, including one sequence of 29 consecutive pages that were each obliterated by a solid black box that made impossible the determination even of paragraph structures.
One investigative reporter, Kenneth Timmerman, said a well-placed but unnamed source told him that the real point of the passport breaches was to cauterize the Obama file, removing from it any information that could prove damaging to his presidential eligibility.
According to this theory, the breaches of McCain’s and Clinton’s files were done for misdirection purposes, to create confusion and to suggest the motives of the perpetrators were attributable entirely to innocent curiosity.
Brennan tilts toward Islam
WND has reported that in a speech delivered Aug. 9, 2009, to the Center for Strategic and International Studies that is archived on the White House website, Brennan commented that using “a legitimate term, ‘jihad,’ meaning to purify oneself or to wage a holy struggle for a moral goal” to describe terrorists “risks reinforcing the idea that the United States is somehow at war with Islam itself.”
Brennan advised that U.S. foreign policy should encourage greater assimilation of the Hezbollah terrorist organization into the Lebanese government.
WND further reported that in a July 2008 article in The Annals, a publication of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, Brennan argued it “would not be foolhardy, however, for the United States to tolerate, and even to encourage, greater assimilation of Hezbollah into Lebanon’s political system, a process that is subject to Iranian influence.”
Continued Brennan: “Hezbollah is already represented in the Lebanese parliament and its members have previously served in the Lebanese cabinet, reflections of Hezbollah’s interest in shaping Lebanon’s political future from within government institutions. This involvement is a far cry from Hezbollah’s genesis as solely a terrorist organization dedicated to murder, kidnapping and violence.”
At the August 2009 press conference for the CSIS, Brennan declared: “Hezbollah started out as purely a terrorist organization back in the early ‘80s and has evolved significantly over time. And now it has members of parliament, in the cabinet; there are lawyers, doctors, others who are part of the Hezbollah organization.”
Middle Eastern terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah frequently maintain civilian units of doctors and lawyers to emphasize their outreach with local politicians and to increase their political acceptance in the international arena.
Conceivably, the Istanbul-based Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief, better known by the Turkish acronym IHH, would fit into Brennan’s definition of the charitable side of organizations such as Hezbollah, despite IHH’s ties to al-Qaida. The links to the terror organization have been amply documented by experts such as former investigating judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere, who led the French judiciary’s counter-terrorism unit for nearly two decades before retiring in 1977.
Despite this history, IHH is not included on the State Department’s current list of 45 groups designated as foreign terrorist organizations, which names both Hezbollah and Hamas.
In his speech to the New York University law school students posted on YouTube by the White House, Brennan included a lengthy statement in Arabic that he did not translate for his English-speaking audience.
Noting that he was as an undergraduate with the American University in Cairo in the 1970s, Brennan proceeded to use only the Arabic name, “Al Quds,” when referring to Jerusalem. He said that during his 25 years in government, he spent considerable time in the Middle East, as a political officer with the State Department and as a CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia.
“In Saudi Arabia, I saw how our Saudi partners fulfilled their duty as custodians of the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina,” he said. “I marveled at the majesty of the Hajj and the devotion of those who fulfilled their duty as Muslims of making that pilgrimage.”
WND previously reported Brennan participated in a meeting with Muslim law students facilitated by the Islamic Society of North America, a group that was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the prosecution of the founders of the Holy Land Foundation of Texas. The founders were given life sentences “for funneling $12 million” to Hamas, the group currently in political control of the Gaza.
WND further reported that at the meeting with Muslim law students, Brennan declared himself a “citizen of the world” who believed the U.S. government should never engage in “profiling” in pursuit of national security.