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© John Helmer
Seymour Hersh's (lead image) report on President Joseph Biden's decision to destroy the Nord Stream gas pipelines on the Baltic seabed on September 26, 2022, and the involvement of the US Navy in preparing the explosives, has been based on a single anonymous US source with what Hersh calls "direct knowledge of the process".

From the full text of the Hersh report, it appears that neither the source nor Hersh has "direct knowledge" of the history of US-led operations to sabotage and destroy the pipelines which became public more than a year before; they directly involved the Polish government and the Danish government. In fact, by error of omission Hersh and his man are ignorant of those operations and of that history.

Also, the two of them are ignorant of the British government's role in this history, and in the final destruction, which was revealed publicly by then-Prime Minister Elizabeth Truss to Secretary of State Antony Blinken sixty seconds after the detonation; and by the Russian government when it announced its knowledge of the British involvement.

The source and the reporter appear to be equally oblivious of the role German government officials played in the operation, and of the history of German warfighting operations against Russia stretching back to Chancellor Angela Merkel's engagement in the NATO plan for military intervention in eastern Ukraine, following the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 on July 17, 2014. That attack was costlier in lives and in the US warfighting strategy against Russia than the Nord Stream operation.

In terms of cost, the US attack seizing more than $300 billion in Russian Central Bank reserves, announced on February 28, 2022, was much greater. Hersh implies, without identifying his source at all, that there were "US promises to minimize direct conflict with Russia"; that because the Nord Stream attack plan violated those "promises", they were in the source's opinion either illegal in US law, or violations of US intelligence and military operation standards, or breaches of international undertakings the US has given its NATO allies or its Russian targets. Without explanation, Hersh omitted to ask Russian officials or others with "direct knowledge of the process" to confirm these claims or deny them.

Hersh and his man dismiss the Germans with the same disdain. They report that "after some wobbling [Chancellor Olaf Scholtz] was now firmly on the American team" in January 2022, when the Nord Stream attack plan had already been under way, Hersh reports, for at least a month. Hersh omitted to ask any German source — active official, army general, navy admiral or retiree - to confirm or clarify.

Hersh's text implies that he himself, like his source, think it's good and lawful US policy to fight Russia's "threat to western dominance [in Europe]"; to strike against Gazprom because it "is dominated by oligarchs known to be in the thrall of [President Vladimir] Putin"; because Nord Stream was "a vehicle for Vladimir Putin to weaponize natural gas for his political and territorial ambitions"; and because "American's political fears [of Putin's ambitions] were real: Putin would now have an additional and much-needed major source of income, and Germany and the rest of Western Europe would become addicted to low-cost natural gas supplied by Russia - while diminishing European reliance on America."

If this is what Hersh and his man believe to be the truth, then what follows in their report is that one of them must be lying, one of them dissimulating.

Hersh and his source imply that what they claim to have been a US Navy covert operation was wrong, not because the US warfighting objectives against Russia were (are) mistaken, but because the scheme of planning the attack intentionally evaded the US law "requiring that Congress be informed". This was the illegal scheme, Hersh reports his source as saying; it was illegal because it intended to broadcast Biden's and State Department official warnings against Nord Streamfor the purpose of fabricating lawful compliance for those involved, and legality for the operation itself. The fabrication aimed at converting a "highly classified intelligence operation with US military support [which] under the law, the source explained, 'there was no longer a legal requirement to report the operation to Congress".

To make his case that the little secret was illegal, and justify the big and open secret, Hersh and his source have been obliged to ignore the history, the NATO allies, and of course, the record which the Russians have made. This is either cynically calculated dishonesty, or else it is the fantasy of an American journalist pretending to investigate, even castigate one government operation; and at the same time loyally serve the purpose, ideology and propaganda of the war at large.

Hersh is quixotic - except that this time the old Don's lance is broken, his tilt is in the wrong direction, and the windmill is a fabrication of US exceptionalism, not only of the warfighters in Washington and Langley, but of the journalists who profess to be reporting on them.

The official Russian reaction to Hersh's report has not been to confirm its accuracy.

Instead, the Russians point out that if Hersh is telling the truth, the mainstream American and European media are ignoring him. "When analyzing any statements coming from the US and Washington," Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, told the state newsagency Tass. "It is so crucial for the media, not just for Russian [media], but for the foreign [press] as well, to pay attention to this very serious, and probably controversial, publication by Mr. Hersh on the alleged involvement and direct guilt of the White House for organizing the act of sabotage and terrorist act on critical energy infrastructure in the Baltic Sea, namely the Nord Stream pipelines... this article has not circulated widely in the Western media, and this undoubtedly surprises us."

Peskov was speaking ironically about all "and any statements coming from the US and Washington". The irony was pointed at Hersh's source. As for Hersh, Peskov added: "some points could be challenged and some points need proof." The proof should be investigated by an "international investigation", he said. "However, we see the opposite."

Peskov repeated that Moscow had information "on the involvement of the Anglo-Saxons in the organization of this act of sabotage." This isn't news.

On September 30, four days after the Nord Stream attack, Putin was explicit at the Kremlin signing of the accession treaties which incorporated Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporozhye as new territories of the Russian federation. "The Anglo-Saxons," Putin said, "believe sanctions are no longer enough and now they have turned to subversion. It seems incredible but it is a fact - by causing explosions on Nord Stream's international gas pipelines passing along the bottom of the Baltic Sea, they have actually embarked on the destruction of Europe's entire energy infrastructure. It is clear to everyone who stands to gain. Those who benefit are responsible, of course."

"Such self-confidence is a direct product not only of the notorious concept of exceptionalism - although it never ceases to amaze - but also of the real 'information hunger' in the West. The truth has been drowned in an ocean of myths, illusions and fakes, using extremely aggressive propaganda, lying like Goebbels. The more unbelievable the lie, the quicker people will believe it - that is how they operate, according to this principle."

The Russian Foreign Ministry followed, making the charge against the Anglo-Saxons on November 1 and delivering protest démarches to the British Foreign Office.

Hersh, his man, and their sources have not suspected that the attack of September 26 was connected to the referendum of the four territories and the decision-making of the Russian General Staff, the Stavka, and Putin which led to the accession announcement on September 29.

In his accession speech Putin added: "Listen, this is just a lot of nonsense, utter deceit, double standards, or even triple standards! They must think we're stupid." Hersh and his source haven't been listening. Neither have their detractors or their supporters in the US media.

Following Hersh's career as a reporter for Associated Press and the New York Times, he went to work for the New Yorker. The magazine's archive counts 59 articles by Hersh from 1972. Not once did Hersh report a story on Russia since 1990, when his focus has been on US operations in Vietnam, the Middle East, and Pakistan, as well as on CIA spying on domestic US targets. Apart from his book on the Soviet shoot-down of Korean Airlines Flight KAL007 in September 1983, he has reported nothing on or from Moscow - except this one remark to The Independent: ""The story of novichok poisoning has not held up very well. He [Skripal] was most likely talking to British intelligence services about Russian organised crime.' The unfortunate turn of events with the contamination of other victims is suggestive, according to Hersh, of organised crime elements rather than state-sponsored actions - though this files in the face of the UK government's position." Hersh added the disclaimer, "these are just his opinions."
Hersh's new report begins with a factoid. In investigative journalism that's the term for a triviality whose irrelevant veracity is intended to camouflage the fabrication of the central claims. According to Hersh, the operational headquarters for the US Navy unit, which his source claims carried out the Nord Stream attack, is located "down what was once a country lane in rural Panama City, a now-booming resort city in the southwestern panhandle of Florida, 70 miles south of the Alabama border. The center's complex is as nondescript as its location — a drab concrete post-World War II structure that has the look of a vocational high school on the west side of Chicago. A coin-operated laundromat and a dance school are across what is now a four-lane road."

For Matt Taibbi who, like Hersh, also sells his journalism on the Substack subscription service, this was not only "a blockbuster", but one whose veracity Taibbi vouches for because he was "in touch in the preparation of this article."

It was Bloomberg and the Financial Times which invented the arithmetical principle of blind sourcing with attribution to one, two, and larger multiples of sources "familiar with the matter". "In touch" is Taibbi's invention of sourcing without the arithmetic.
Left: source:
Right: Matt Taibbi.
Factoids, camouflage, omission, ignorance, guesswork aren't journalism. Another of Hersh's reporter supporters, John Pilger of London, repeats the factoid photograph and claims the report is "real journalism".
hersh tweet

Hersh distributes many other factoids throughout his story. One is "a secure room on a top floor of the Old Executive Office Building...that was also the home of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB)." This reported acronym comes from the Carter Administration's revival of the organization in 1978 and before the Clinton Administration merged and reorganized it in 1993. Nowadays — when Hersh's source claims they were meeting - the acronym is PIAB. Read the list of the current members of PIAB, and guess which of them may be Hersh's source.

A second, third and fourth factoids are Estonia - "would the divers have to go to Estonia, right across the border from Russia's natural gas loading docks, to train for the mission? 'It would be a goat fuck', the Agency was told"; a picture captioned "the Norwegian navy was quick to find the right spot, in the shallow water a few miles off Denmark's Bornholm Island"; an explosive remote-control trigger — "'you want a signal that is robust enough so that no other signal could accidentally send a pulse that detonated the explosives.' I was told..."

The references to the Norwegian navy, Oslo's secret service, and Bornholm Island are the giveaway that Hersh and his source are diversion from the Polish, US and NATO operations off Bornhom Island more than a year before. Follow the evidence, the maps, the Russian reaction, and the full story here.

This earlier evidence also means the Danish government was aware of the plot against Nord Stream early in 2021. Hersh's claim that the Danes were hoodwinked a year later by the purported Norwegian ploy "about possible diving activity in the area" is unlikely to impossible. The source told Hersh that what the Danes "were told and what they knew knew were purposely different" - this confirms the source's ignorance. Hersh reports he checked the claim with the Norwegian embassy, but not with the Danes.

The core of the source's message, and therefore Hersh's report, is that "Russian troops had been steadily and ominously building up on the borders of Ukraine", that "alarm was growing in Washington", and that "the administration was floundering". Whose alarm, whose flounder was this?

Hersh reveals he was endorsing the official and public US policy of the time. He is now saying not only that there were CIA and State officials dissenting from the operation plan under way, but that Secretary of State Blinken was warning, as quoted by Hersh, that the Russian forces could be "doubled in short order".

It is Hersh's conclusion that in December of 2021, there was an "unsettled moment". What is unsettling for Hersh and his source, reporting on the CIA and State Department warnings, was that if the Nord Stream pipelines were blown up, and if the Russians realized the US was responsible, before the Russians forces moved into the Ukraine, then the US would be acting prematurely, and risking its entire warfighting strategy. "Washington was afraid that countries like Germany would be reluctant to supply Ukraine with the money and weapons it needed to defeat Russia."

The Hersh text reveals the US government equivalent of the recent public interviews by ex-Chancellor Merkel and ex-French President Francois Hollande that there was a risk to the NATO strategy in taking premature military action - in provoking the Russians before the alliance was ready to fight on the Ukrainian battlefield. Hersh's source turns out to be as committed to the war as his sources at the CIA, State, and the US Navy were, and still are. So is Hersh. They are determined to have the opportunity of their money shot; they were "unsettled" by the risk of premature ejaculation.

And so the report takes careful aim at its target: "it was at this unsettled moment that Biden authorized Jake Sullivan to bring together an interagency group to come up with a plan."

The source reveals how little he knows of the Russian war planning. Hersh quotes him as explaining the Russians "failed to respond" to the Nord Stream operation because "maybe they want the capability to do the same things the US did." He can't have been on the distribution list for the PIAB report and assessment of Putin's speech of September 30 identifying who had been "responsible". This indicates Hersh's source was connected by hearsay to the PIAB members, but not on the classified reading list, and not an invitee to their situation-room discussions. In concealing this provenance, Hersh reveals he doesn't understand how the US Government is working at its war against Russia. He is boasting of US power.

There is more boasting. The conversion of an illegal covert operation into open but concealed military operation was, Hersh quotes his man, " 'a beautiful cover story. Behind it was a covert operation that placed experts in the field and equipment that operated on a covert signal. The only flaw was the decision to do it."

This is an indictment of the Biden pipeline plot, not of the US war plan.

Who gains from this? Russia and its allies don't. Biden, Sullivan, and their unidentified White House associates and allies don't. CIA Director William Burns doesn't - he is targeted for issuing the unlawful "Do it!" order, and for covering up the unlawfulness. Still, without mainstream media endorsement of Hersh's story, there is no damage to any of them. Hersh makes a personal gain for himself, and for those investigative journalists who support him and themselves.

Who comes out of this story squeaky clean? They are the US Navy's deep-sea divers, the Norwegian Navy's "superb sailors and divers", as Hersh calls them, "a hand-picked team of Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency operatives"; and those party politicians who want to call out Biden for Hersh's last line - they are Biden's opponents in the election next year.