When NPR broke the story of Rod Wheeler’s lawsuit against FOX news over coverage of Seth Rich, it seemed as if a consensus would emerge that the reporting was baseless, and that would be the end of that.
But some stories just refuse to end convincingly in “nothing to see here.”
Wheeler’s lawsuit accuses Fox of defamation. And states that Fox coordinated with political interests to push their narrative. He admits he reached too far on his Seth Rich reporting due to pressure from those named in the lawsuit.
But, soon after the lawsuit dropped, secretly recorded conversations were released anonymously on a YouTube channel called “Debunking Rod Wheeler.” The texture of the story became more complicated.
In the cache of four recordings, the one titled “Audio 2” has received the most attention because it appears to be Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh discussing, among other things, information he received from a well placed FBI insider who has read a computer forensics audit of Seth Rich’s computer. Wheeler’s lawsuit actually mentions a plan to extort Seymour Hersh with an audio recording (page 27 of the complaint).
Here’s the audio file of Sy Hersh that is circulating on YouTube:
Hersh has refused to comment on this recording, which is smart. Stepping back from the Seth Rich narrative, for a fuller view of the playing field, I believe Hersh is on to a larger story. It might actually turn out to be lucky for him that the purloined audio has generated so much attention, because if he does have a story near completion, the pre-release interest just shot through the roof.
Take the secretly recorded conversation in the context of Sy Hersh’s interview with Jeremy Scahill on the pilot episode of Intercepted released way back in January, and you’ll find that one thing is consistent in both: Hersh mentions a long-form narrative concerning the Russians, election interference, and the intelligence community. This is Hersh’s story.
Whatever the context of the secretly recorded audio, it seems reasonable that Hersh isn’t doing legwork for Wheeler and/or FOX news. Whatever he knows about Seth Rich is tangential to another investigation. He even downplays its value to the Seth Rich murder story. And yet, while Hersh isn’t interested in Seth Rich, he claims to know quite a bit about the FBI file on Rich’s computer audit. Why?
The Intercepted interview features Jeremy Scahill chewing the fat with the legendary journalist in his kitchen. It’s recorded around the time of Trump’s inauguration and Scahill is essentially asking Hersh, “How bad it is going to get?” Scahill’s assumption is that a fascist is taking office and we’re witnessing the rewriting of American history in real time. For the most part, Hersh provides maddeningly vague answers along the lines of ‘we don’t know—we’ll have to wait and see.’
But then Hersh says to Scahill, “I don’t want to tell you too much about what I’m reporting, but I can tell you—the case about [Russia]—there’s a much simpler explanation for what happened.” What the hell is Hersh reporting, and when will it appear?
Turning to the secretly recorded audio, Hersh also refers to a story he is working on regarding hacks vs leaks. “You’re just going to have to trust me…I have a narrative of how that whole fucking thing began. It’s a Brennan operation.” In the context of this conversation Hersh is signaling that he has nailed something down. He intends to report on this story, in his own way, on his schedule.
Hersh continues, “It was American disinformation, and the f*cking President at one point they were telling the press…the NSA that f*cking c*cksucker Rogers…that we even know who in the GIU, the Russian military intelligence service leaked it. It was all bullshit.”
Profane throughout the audio, Hersh’s righteous indignation is most palpable here, describing an active propaganda campaign coordinated by intelligence agencies during the 2016 election. He is no fan of Trump, but he’s less a fan of intelligence operations on US soil. He is outraged that US officials and intelligence agencies appear to have fabricated lies intended to influence public opinion. The last time this happened the lie got us into a war with Iraq. This time the result could be war with Russia—a conflict that has historically been discussed in nuclear terms. Hersh might say, ‘this is a big f*cking deal.’
By comparison, when Hersh discusses the Seth Rich material, it’s in a detached, process-oriented manner. He betrays no indignation on the information he has on Rich. Instead, he methodically describes how each bit of information was gathered—warrants were obtained, there was a clear chain of custody for the computer, information was catalogued. He downplays the notion of politically-motivated murder. “He was a good kid,” living in a “rough neighborhood,” who “makes contact with Wikileaks,” and shouldn’t have been walking alone so late in a bad neighborhood. It’s a shame this kid died, but that’s not his story. Hersh only seems interested in how Wikileaks obtained the DNC emails.
On the matter of Seth Rich and the DNC leak Hersh is quite clear. “They found what he had done. He had submitted a bunch of juicy emails from the DNC.” During the computer audit, the FBI found his contact with Wikileaks, and they know that the emails were the subject of a negotiation. Then Hersh drops a bombshell: “And by the way, you know, it wasn’t hacked. Whatever happened, the Democrats wrote this shit.”
In other words, Hersh seems to say the Wikileaks release was authentic. The emails were not fabricated by a foreign interest. Hersh affirms that the information was leaked by Rich. Then he provides a glimpse inside of the negotiation. “What I know is he [Seth Rich] offered a sample. An extensive sample, I’m sure dozens of emails and said ‘I want money.'” As a young professional living in a violently unsafe neighborhood, it seems consistent that Seth Rich would ask for compensation.
Regardless of the intense interest in Seth Rich, as far as Sy Hersh is concerned, the big story is about intelligence interference in the 2016 US elections. He even provides a motive for why US intelligence would get involved in such a mess: “Brennan is an asshole. Clapper is kind of a better guy, not a rocket scientist. The NSA guy is a fucking moron. The trouble with all those guys is the only way they’re going to make it on board, or get hired by SAIC to deliver some fat-cat contracts is if Hillary stayed in.” These players will be shown the door if Clinton loses the election, and they have no interest in retiring on their pensions.
So perhaps the reason why Hersh has refused to comment on the audio is because he has his own story to tell, and the first rule of storytelling is don’t give away the ending. When it’s done, he’ll publish. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary levels of authentication. He would rather get the facts straight than to rush to press. Maybe it even turns out that he lacks one critical piece of evidence and ends up killing the story. We don’t know. But there is ample evidence that Hersh has more than a passing interest in matters surrounding the 2016 election.
As the reporter who brought the My Lai massacre to light, Hersh is a celebrated journalist. He revealed the torture program at Abu Ghraib. Debunking the Zero Dark Thirty narrative of the Bin Laden raid provided valuable insight into how narratives supporting the global war on terror are manufactured for pop culture. A scenario where US intelligence agencies interfere with a presidential election fits perfectly into Hersh’s lifelong body of work, and would be no less significant than any of these other stories.
For those distressed at the prospect of the Russian hacking narrative going down the drain, understand that correcting the record is completely consistent with earnest desire to remove Trump from office. Attempting to prosecute Trump with a fabricated narrative would likely be a tragic failure, especially when there is plenty of unimpeachable evidence to choose from. In fact, Mueller’s special investigation has shifted focus from treason to corruption in Trump’s financial dealings. It is likely that Trump used his real estate holdings to launder Russian mob money. If the goal is to remove Trump out of office, this is the path forward.
The prosecution of racketeering in politics is familiar territory. Scores of crooked politicians have been removed from office for corruption. The claim of treason comes with a nearly impossible burden of proof, and appears to completely off-base. Sure, Trump’s Russian mobster relationships are compromising and open him to blackmail. That’s all the more reason to pursue a sensible strategy of prosecuting corruption. Why wait for blackmail to occur, and risk an international incident with a nuclear-armed superpower?
As for Seymour Hersh, we’ll see if he ever publishes a blockbuster story on US intelligence intruding in the Presidential election. In the teeny-tiny snippets provided above, he describes the sort of operation our intelligence agencies have run in dozens of countries: Chile, Iran, Honduras, Venezuela — just to name a few. The targeted countries never regain independence.
Let’s hope that if this story does come to light, the American public has the good sense to make the necessary reforms to ensure a separation of intelligence services and the political process. Because removing Trump from office while empowering intelligence agencies in the political arena, is to trade one form of tyranny for another.
Here is a rough transcript of the secret recording:
What I know comes off an FBI report.
The kid, I don’t think he was murdered because of what he knew. he was a nice boy, 27, he was not an IT expert, he was a data programmer. But he was a smart kid, he learned stuff.
He’s living in a very rough neighborhood. There had been about eight or nine or 10 violent deaths. And they’re not robberies. Most of them were somebody brandishing a gun. The kid, his hands are marked up.
The cops concluded he fought off the people, tried to run and was shot twice in the back with a 22. Small caliber. And the kids that did that ran, they got scared.
So what the cops do. I’m going to tell what nobody knows. When you have a death like that, DC cops, if you’re Ted, you just don’t go, you have to go and find out a motive, find out what’s going on. You have to get to the kid’s apartment and see what you can find.
If he’s dead you don’t need a warrant, but most cops get a warrant because they don’t know if the guy has a roommate. So they get a warrant.
They go in his house and they can’t do much with his computer, they don’t have the password, they don’t know much about it, so the DC cops have a cyber unit. They’re more sophisticated. The idea is maybe he’s had a series of exchanges with somebody who says “i’m going to kill you motherfucker” over a girl. And they can’t get in. The cyber guys do a little better, but they can’t make sense of it.
So they call the FBI cyber unit. The Washington Field Office is a hot-shit unit. The guy running the DC Field Office is like a three-star at an army base, he’s looking for…he’s going to do a top job. There’s a cyber unit there that’s excellent.
What you get in a warrant, the public information you get in a warrant, doesn’t include — it does not include the affidavit underlying, the why are you going in. What the reasons are. That’s almost never available.
The existence of warrant as a public document is 99 percent of the time. So, on the same warrant they call in the Feds, and here’s what they find.
This is according to the FBI report. What they find is. First of all you need to know some basic facts. There’s no DNC or Podesta email that’s beyond May 21st or May 22nd. The last email from either of those groups. So what the report says in sometime in LATE SPRING, we’re talking June, summer starts June 21st. I don’t know, I’m just saying late spring, early summer, he makes contact with Wikileaks.
That’s in his computer, and he makes contact. Now I have to be careful because I met Julian 10-12 years ago and I stay the fuck away from people like that. He’s under total surveillance. He’s invited me, When I’m in London a message always comes, see me at the Ecuadorian Ambassador’s. Hey fuck you no way I’m going there. I’ve got enough trouble without being photographed.
They found what he had done. He had submitted a bunch of juicy emails from the DNC. And by the way, you know, it wasn’t hacked. Whatever happened the Democrats wrote this shit. What I know is he offered a sample. An extensive sample, I’m sure dozens of emails and said “I want money.”
Later Wikileaks did get the password. He had a Dropbox, a protected Dropbox. Which isn’t hard to do. You don’t have to be a wizard at IT. He was not a dumb kid.
They got access to the Dropbox. And this was also in the report, he also let people know…the word was passed, “I also shared this with a couple of friends, so if anything happens to me it’s not going to solve your problem. Okay?” I don’t know what that means.
But Wikileaks got access before he was killed.
But I can tell you Brennan is an asshole. Clapper is kind of a better guy, not a rocket scientist. The NSA guy is a fucking moron. The trouble with all those guys is the only way they’re going to make it on board, or get hired by SAIC to deliver some fat-cat contracts is if Hillary stayed in.
With Trump they’re gone. They got to live on their pensions. They’re not going to make it. I got to tell you, guys in that job they don’t want to live on their pension. They want to be on board.
I have somebody on the inside who will go and read a file for me. This guy he’s very accurate and careful. He’s a high-level guy and he will do a favor.
And you’re just going to have to trust me. I have what they call in my business, longform journalism—I have a narrative of how that whole fucking thing began. It’s a Brennan operation.
It was an American disinformation, and the fucking president at one point they were telling the press…the NSA that fucking cocksucker Rogers—that we even know who in the GIU, the Russian military intelligence service leaked it. It was all bullshit.
I worked at the New York Times, for fucking years and they’re all smart guys, but they are totally beholden on sources. If the president or the head of the (unintelligible), they actually believe it. I was hired at the Times to go after the Vietnam war in 72 because they’re just locked in. These guys run the fucking Times. And Trump’s not wrong to think they all fucking lied about him.