Journalist Michael Hastings was killed early Tuesday morning in a bizarre car incident in Los Angeles. Hastings, 33, was best known for writing the Rolling Stone story that ended in Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s resignation as head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Hastings’ final story, “Why Democrats Love to Spy on Americans,” was a searing take on the NSA snooping scandal, which Hastings described as “North Korea-esque.” Hastings pulled no punches as he linked the NSA scandal to the Department of Justice’s spying on reporters and the IRS abuse scandal. Hastings built a case that the same Democrats who turned Bush-era anti-terrorism techniques into wedge issues that helped them capture Congress and the White House in 2006 and 2008 were now defending much worse and more widespread spying on American citizens by the Obama administration.
As Hastings detailed likely short-term fallout as the NSA leak is investigated, he wrote:
[J]udging by the DOJ’s and FBI’s recent history, it would seem that any new leak case would involve obtaining the phone records of reporters at the Guardian, the Washington Post, employees at various agencies who would have had access to the leaked material, as well as politicians and staffers in Congress—records, we now can safely posit, they already have unchecked and full access to.
In short: any so-called credible DOJ/FBI leak investigation, by its very nature, would have to involve the Obama administration invasively using the very surveillance and data techniques it is attempting to hide in order to snoop on a few Democratic Senators and more media outlets, including one based overseas.
At the end of the story, Hastings mentions by name several Americans who have come under questionable government scrutiny in the Obama years. Several are household names, but some are not.
Hastings died in a fatal single-car crash at 4:25 on Tuesday morning. A witness said his car “suddenly jackknifed” before crossing the median and hitting a tree, causing a ferocious explosion that reportedly threw the engine block of the brand new Mercedes Hastings was driving 30 or 40 yards from the car. Mercedes engine blocks typically weigh between 290 and 540 pounds. It would take tremendous speed or force to throw one nearly half the length of a football field.
“It sounded like a bomb went off in the middle of the night,” another witness told the TV station. “The house shook, my windows were rattling.”
Hastings’ body was burned “beyond recognition,” according to reports.