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By John Helmer, Moscow, and George Eliason, Donetsk

Seymour Hersh, a US journalist, has just broadcast his defence of a plan by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to sabotage President Joseph Biden’s re-election campaign before it gets under way.

In a German video podcast from Germany, Hersh has made a string of telltale mistakes of fact at the same time as he has attacked those journalists who have been following up his report of February 8, investigating errors Hersh has been asked to correct in his follow-up. Instead, according to Hersh’s new publication, he and his sources have “le[ft] enough breadcrumbs for them to be able to write as a couple already have, ‘Oh this couldn’t have happened because…’ So we took care of them.” Click to read:   Min. 14:45.

The reporters whom Hersh took care of, those who have published endorsements of his initial report, have been misled.

Hersh concluded the new interview with his personal endorsement of CIA sources who, he reports,  have criticized Biden and his White House and State Department allies “for choosing to keep you [Germany] cold for their short-range political [re-election goals]… That horrified [them].” Hersh added:  “I’m talking about people who are intensely loyal to the United States. Intensely loyal. And they understand – and in the CIA it is understood… even in that community it’s appalling that he [Biden] chose to keep Europe cold” (Min 31-32).

Hersh published a story he entitled “How America Took Out the Nord Stream Pipeline” on February 8.  The first analysis of Hersh’s errors appeared on February 10; click to read.  

In the TNT Radio War of the Worlds broadcast on February 11, Hersh heard a fresh account of his mistakes of commission and omission, including his failure to identify the British, Polish,  and Ukrainian roles in the Nord Stream bombing operation. Click to listen.   

Three days later, Hersh and his quoted source corrected their mistake in calling the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board (PIAB) and the Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB) by the 45-year old anachronism PFIAB dating from the Carter Administration, in an interview published in the Berliner Zeitung on February 14.  

Hersh and the same German reporter, Fabian Scheidler, have repeated this correction in a second videotaped interview. Hersh reiterated several of his original mistakes and added new ones. He also opened an attack on other investigative journalists, intimating that he intentionally included in his text a trail of “breadcrumbs” to deceive them.  

Watch the full Hersh-Scheidler interview here.  The CIA loyalty pledge appears from Minute 30.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/

Experts may in time  add their comments on Hersh’s claims regarding pressurized gas pipeline engineering; underwater demolition;  the use of C4 explosive;  the technology of diver support at the Baltic seabed depths around Bornholm island; aircraft and surface vessel movements in the vicinity before and after the September 26, 2022, detonation; and pre-operational and post-operational evidence on the seabed.   These sources have yet to materialize after almost five months; they may detect additional errors or they may confirm the reporting with forensic details.  

For the time being, the only forensic evidence gathered by investigators at the attack site, including the bombs Hersh says failed to detonate,  is being kept secret by the Swedish and Danish governments.  

For ease of reference for readers and experts to follow up and investigate independently, Hersh’s errors of commission have been enumerated with the direct quote and its location on the interview tape. Commentary follows in italics.  

  • “I did say [the Old Executive Office Building, OEOB] where it was because that’s the place you are not supposed to know about” (Min 5:10). The OEOB was first erected next to the White House between 1871 and 1888, when it served as the headquarters of the War, Navy and State Departments. During World War II it was superseded by the Pentagon and the Foggy Bottom building of the State Department, and the building was taken over by the expansion of the Executive Office of the President. Hersh’s remarks indicate he has not been inside the OEOB. It is anything but secret.
  • Nord Stream gas was to be sold to Germany at “great low discounts” (Min 2:17). Discount against what benchmark price? Hersh knows too little about the Gazprom supply contracts for Nord Stream I and other pipeline supplies to Europe; these have traditionally involved long-term contracts with minimum supply and purchase commitments at variable pricing tied to the international price of oil. Regional discounting by Gazprom has favoured the Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia, Moldova and other east European states, not Germany.  The historical price chart for Russian gas shows the long-term trend since 2008 has been stable to declining – until the combination of sanctions and war cut off both the land and undersea pipeline supplies to Europe, and Russia redirected its gas exports to China.  

Source: https://www.indexmundi.com/

  • Hersh pronounces Maidan, the Kiev city square, as “maiden” (Min 4:02). This is evidence of Hersh’s unfamiliarity with the basics of the war in the Ukraine stretching back to 2014. 
  • “The Executive Office Building” (Min 5:05). No Washington insider calls the building “right next” to the White House “the Executive Office Building”. That is because there are two of them – the Old Executive Office Building (OEOB pictured below, left) next to the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue, and the New Executive Office Building (NEOB) across the avenue, with its main entrance facing 17th Street. Hersh’s mistake is apparently also his source’s. This suggests the source heard what Hersh has reported by hearsay from someone else who is unlikely to have been an attendee at a secure meeting room at either building or in the White House basement. The attendee, or a reader of the meeting papers, would not make the building identification mistake. Hersh’s source is not the attendee.   
  • Sullivan’s “interagency government. I don’t know the formal name if there was one” (Min 6:34). If the National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan organized the group, decided its membership, and convened its meetings, there is unlikely to have been adequate security for discussion of a high-priority covert operation in the PIAB offices in the OEOB. The mandate of PIAB is review and advisory; it is not for planning operations. The Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB), which is part of the PIAB establishment, may be convened to review the legality of an operational plan.  Hersh has repeated what he was told by a hearsay source without checking or understanding the bureaucratic process. Later Hersh acknowledges “[about Blinken and the people around him] it doesn’t matter what I think. Let’s forget about what I think. It’s what I hear second-hand…” (Min 26:22).  
  • “At the top of it” (Min 5:45); “more or less hidden top floor of the building” (Min 5:55); “you wouldn’t know it’s there, it’s not marked — there’s a passageway” (Min 6:02). The OEOB building’s floors are connected by grand staircases, corner and rear stairs, elevators, main corridors, and inter-room doorways.  Hersh’s reference to “passageway” indicates Hersh has not been inside. The “tunnel” he refers to between the White House basement and the OEOB could be called a “passageway”.  When he says “I did that to let the people in the White House know I do know something” (Min 6:07), this indicates he doesn’t know, and his source doesn’t know the details which White House and OEOB staff and regular visitors take for granted.

Left: OEOB, main stairs; right, the old War Library at the fifth or top floor. Take the tour.

  • “You have similar agencies here” (Min 6:44). Hersh implies he is speaking in Germany. In an interview with Consortium News on February 17, but dated in publication the day before, Hersh is seated in the same chair in the same room; Washington, DC, is identified as the location. “I am home”, he said.   
  • “We have skilled miners” (Min 8:59). This is the term Hersh uses frequently to refer to undersea sappers — divers and others in the US Navy command for subsea operations which include laying and disabling mines, sabotage, and vessel attacks.  NAVSEA is the Navy’s acronym for that command; Hersh calls it the “mining command” (Min16:24).  NAVSEA  calls its Panama City unit NEDU. But the warfare operations of NAVSEA appear to be located at Keyport (NJ) and Newport RI)   and  here.  There appears to be no US Navy use of Hersh’s term “miners”.
  • The US divers trained in Panama City were “the best around  the world” (Min 12:59)  – this is source boasting which confirms that Hersh has failed to check the operational claims with a non-US source. In the initial report Hersh wrote: “the Norwegian embassy, asked to comment on this story, did not respond.” Checking undersea naval operation details with a single. unreturned telephone call to an embassy is unprofessional; reporting it is a dummy line.
  • “– and helium which is interesting” (Min 13:31) – “they won’t talk, they are very safe, and they haven’t talked… and I’m sure they don’t like what I’ve written about Panama City” (Min 16:55).  Hersh rules out a NAVSEA or other US Navy source but does not report attempting to check with one. Instead, he adds factoids he and his source believe will improve the appearance of the credibility of the operation story without substantiating the forensics.   
  • “The first thing you do you leave enough breadcrumbs…for them to write, as a couple already are, ‘Oh this couldn’t have happened because…’  So we took care of them” (Min 14:45) — this is Hersh’s manner of responding to professional journalists following up his claims with other sources. By contrast, the only positive comments Hersh makes about other journalists is to compliment his friends, tennis and golfing partners, his interviewers, and “bright” reporters of the New York Times. 
  • “Zelensky is taking too much of the cut…I’m just telling you, it’s in the community… in the intell community” (Min 24:44) – Hersh is identifying the CIA as source.  
  • “Nord Stream Two has been sanctioned by Germany, it’s been stopped by your country, not international…” (Min 25:27)”. The sanctions imposed on Nord Stream II were imposed by the US and by the European Union; Germany complied.
  • “LNG — liquefied gas” (Min 26:35) – fumble.  
  • “…because China has now been able to send some of its [gas] supply to us” (Min 26:49)  – The opposite is true: US sells gas to China.  
  • “…in that White House I think the obsession was always re-election” (Min 27:03) – this is a constant of all White House staffs.  Repeating it as if it applies only to the Biden White House is a partisan line.  
  • “You know, this war is not going to turn out well for this government.. and I don’t know what we’re gonna do further down the line. It scares me…” (Min 27:45) – this is 2024 electioneering.
  • “It’s gonna be a stigma for America” (Min 28:32) — ditto.
  • “[Biden] chose to keep you [Germany] cold for his short-range political goals” (Min 30:14) — ditto. This can’t be US Navy or Pentagon or State talking; likely the CIA as Hersh implied himself. “The people in our intell – the operational people, the people who do kinetic things… this [weapon operation] became increasingly odious to the people who did it…I mean, these are people who are well trained in the highest level, are intelligence, secret intelligence agencies. They turned on the project. They thought this was an insane thing to do” (Min 22:04).  
  • “I’m talking about people who are intensely loyal to the United States, intensely loyal…” (Min 31:17) — ditto.
  • “And they understand. In the CIA it’s understood that … even in that community it’s appalling” (Min 31:54) – ditto. 

In the Consortium News interview,  which appears to have followed the Scheidler one by a few hours, and in which Hersh is sitting in the same place, same room, with the same window reflecting daylight outside, Hersh makes several fresh admissions of ignorance and one endorsement of US strategy against Russian gas in Europe.

Asked who initiated the plot to bomb Nord Stream, he said: “I don’t know who initiated it” (Min 8:32).

Asked to respond to Russian government allegations that the UK was involved, Hersh first replied: “I don’t know” (Min 57:17). Then he added: “Everything I know says no. Not true….Who’s been in the water longer? The Brits have been in the water longer than anyone else. You know, but there may have been some advice given or contact on technical stuff. But it’s an American operation all the way” (Min 57:49).  But this wasn’t what Hersh had admitted in the Scheidler interview: “Inside the [White House operation planning] group there was a panic to find the right means. And actually we had to go to other intelligence agencies, that we did it. I didn’t write about that. I just chose not to” (Min 20:49).

Describing where the Norwegians advised the US to place the explosives, Hersh said the location was “in shallow waters between Sweden and Denmark” (Min 29:36). In fact, the location was between Denmark, which owns and garrisons Bornholm Island, and the Polish coast about 100 kilometres due south, and the German coast the same distance to the southwest.  A few minutes later, Hersh became confused. Asked whether the bombings took place in Danish territorial waters or international waters, he said: “Actually the pipelines in that area – both were in territorial waters of Spain and Sweden” (Min 45.51).

Asked why the Biden Administration timed its Nord Stream operation as he said it had, Hersh agreed with the goal, not with the implementation. “It was certainly Russia’s intention [to use gas as a weapon]. I mean, obviously, the reason they were selling gas so cheaply is because that gave them leverage in Europe.”

Hersh also attacked the Russian special military operation. “Nothing I’m saying should minimize, you know, the decision to, Putin’s decision to start this, the bloodiest war in Europe, in western Europe since World War Two… Starting a war is a helluva thing to do. You can only fault him [Putin] for that” (starting at Min 13:03).  He repeated himself: “Look, you gotta say the guy [Putin] started a war, you know. A bad war. You gotta say that. That’s a mark against him in history” (Min 42:17).

Hersh referred to the US putting “missiles on the border with China, missiles that we called defensive  that could very easily be converted into missile that could take out Moscow in 7-8 minutes”(Min 13:24). He was referring to the Aegis Ashore missile bases in Romania and Poland, not China. “We did a lot of aggressive acts too”, he conceded.

Listen to the new War of the Worlds broadcast discussion:

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