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By John Helmer, Moscow

If China’s journalists, foreign intelligence analysts, and People’s Navy staff have needed an opportunity to demonstrate, if not to the Middle Kingdom audience,  then to the US exceptionalist public how peripheral and how mediocre American legends have become, Seymour Hersh has provided it in an interview Hersh (lead image, right) recorded with China’s state broadcaster CGTN on Saturday.

For the first time since Hersh’s earlier interviews with American, British, German, and Russian reporters, Hersh faced skepticism and cross-examination of the account he published  on February 8 of what he claimed then, and insists still, was a joint US and Norwegian operation to destroy the Nord Stream gas pipelines on September 26, 2022.

According to Hersh,  the operation was directed by the White House and ordered by President Joseph Biden, with the reluctant support of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

In his 28-minute interview with Liu Xin (left), Hersh repeats his original claims;  makes fresh mistakes of fact; discloses new source information.

Hersh also reveals he is so confident of the seniority and veracity of his  US intelligence ageny source – make that the CIA – he is not reading nor understanding the fresh evidence which has been published in the German mainstream media, the international internet, the US alt-media, and the New York Times. Dismissing it all, while revealing he has analyzed none of it, Hersh told Beijing television: “they are trying to divert attention from the story I wrote.”

Hersh also reveals that for verification of his story,  he employed fact-checkers from the New Yorker, the most virulently anti-Russian, pro-Ukrainian magazine in New York.

Listen and watch Liu’s interview with Hersh aired on March 10.   Read CGTN’s partial English transcript here.  For background on China’s legendary journalist, click to read.  For background on the legendary Hersh story, read this from February 10  and then this sequel on February 19.   

These are the dozen news-breaking points made by China’s CGTN:

  • Asked by Liu interviewing whether it was “not possible for ‘pro-Ukrainian group’ to carry out this explosion”, Hersh answers “I know that the few things I know about the Ukrainian navy is they are capable of dropping mines. I’m not an expert on it. I just happen to ask questions after that story came out. They don’t have a working decompression chamber” – Minute 3:21. Liu was expressing skepticism from the start; her inverted negative and inverted commas were the clues which Hersh missed. Liu was implying that only a state agency could have carried out the attack. Hersh’s answer confirmed the point. But he made a mistake about Ukrainian Navy capability for deepsea diving operations of all kinds, and his claim about a “decompression chamber” reveals his source cannot have been a US Navy diver or US Navy intelligence source. For evidence on Ukrainian diving operations, click.  Instead, Hersh was revealing that the source for his story was non-Navy; most likely the CIA at a remove from the actual operation planning committee. The New York Times reporting corroborates this.  
  • Asked why the New York Times leaked its story, and “what do you think they [US intelligence officials] are trying to send as a message”, Hersh replied: “They are trying to divert attention from the story that I wrote, which included enormous specifics” – Min. 5:38.  This was narcissism on the reporter’s part: it blinded him to the second of Liu’s questions which focused on US intelligence officials. Since one of them had been Hersh’s acknowledged source, Liu was asking for his explanation of why others had leaked to the newspaper. He didn’t know.
  • In his reply, Hersh went on to claim that National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and White House officials “had a series of meetings at a secret room in the White House. They gave clues, I know the title of the room” – Min. 5:59. This location contradicts Hersh’s earlier reporting of the meeting-room in the Old Executive Office Building. His new claim that the room has a secret name he hasn’t reported yet and won’t reveal is nonsense.
  • Asked what his investigation reveals about the recklessness of US officials, Hersh is evasive, claiming “those are questions above my paygrade” – Min. 7:21. Hersh doesn’t answer the question.
  • “It’s not a bomb,” Hersh said, “it’s a mine” – Min. 10:09. This contradicts Hersh’s reporting that a cargo of up to half a ton of “volatile” C4 explosive was the operational weapon. Hersh’s new claim appears to confirm he has no naval source; he is uncertain what exactly the weapon was, and how it worked.
  • “In the Baltic Sea there is no oil” – Min. 10:18. This is false. The Poles have operated the B3 oil and gasfield on the Baltic seabed for more than twenty years;   and substantial gas reserves have been explored and proven under the seabed. However, they have been uneconomical to bring into production so long as Poland has been buying Russian and Norwegian gas.  
  • The vessel used by the divers to plant the explosives on the pipelines was a Norwegian Alta class minesweeper – this is a new disclosure by Hersh at Min.11:31. In a search of NATO, Swedish, US Navy, Pentagon, and other reports of the BALTOPS [Baltic Operations] 2022 exercise between June 5 and June 16, no such vessel has been identified.   Click for background on this vessel.  If there is a record of such a Norwegian vessel sailing in the area when Hersh claims the explosive charges were laid, no evidence of maritime trace, military press release, or other open-source journalism has appeared yet; Hersh has jumped the gun.  

This is the Rauma, one of only two Alta-class minesweepers still in the Norwegian Navy’s active fleet. First built in the mid-1990s, three of the five original vessels in the class have beeN scrapped or sold. Open-source analyst Joe Galvin has reported that another Norwegian vessel of another class,  "the M343 Hinnoy (MMSI: 259019000), did track near the sites of the blasts as reported by @DMA_SFS  in June, but its track does not match up to what you'd expect (holding position over the sites for a period of time so the divers could deploy”. Galvin explicitly challenged Hersh’s reporting on February 23. Hersh has either ignored Galvin’s report of the tracking evidence, or he is ignorant of it.

  • Hersh was asked by Liu for his understanding of the motivations of National Security Adviser Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. He answered: “hatred of all things, particularly [President Vladimir] Putin, and also communism per se – they’re so Cold Warriors. They are really out of sorts” – Min.30-45. Hersh appears not to understand as much as his Chinese interlocutor of what US strategy is in Europe and the Pacific.
  • The first Nord Stream pipeline was “stopped by Putin, so he controlled it” — Min. 14:42. This is false.  Hersh misrepresents the impact of US and Canadian sanctions on the maintenance of Nord Stream-1’s turbines, and the consequences for the pipeline’s deliveries to Germany.   
  • Hersh’s idea of the US operational strategy is that it was intended to prevent German Chancellor Olaf Scholz lifting sanctions against Russian gas imports in order to keep “his businesses…his people warm” – Min. 15:30. Hersh reveals his ignorance of the evidence of German involvement in the operational plans and the German Green Party’s advocacy for the operation before Scholz’s meeting and press conference with Biden in Washington on February 7, 2022.  Hersh’s story is concealing the German part of the Nord Stream secret; this is his CIA source talking.

Source: https://www.whitehouse.gov/
Note that when Scholz was asked to comment on Biden’s threat against Nord Stream, he gave an unqualified endorsement. “And possibly this is a good idea to say to our American friends: We will be united, we will act together, and we will take all the necessary steps.  And all the necessary steps will be done by all of us together. [Q]   And will you commit today — will you commit today to turning off and pulling the plug on Nord Stream 2?  You didn’t mention it, and you haven’t mentioned it. CHANCELLOR SCHOLZ:  As I’ve already said, we are acting together, we are absolutely united, and we will not be taking different steps.  We will do the same steps, and they will be very, very hard to Russia, and they should understand.”

Source: https://www.whitehouse.gov/

  • As the interview went on, Liu became audibly and visibly skeptical of Hersh’s responses,  and so she asked him how he judged “your source was reliable”– Min. 19:30.  Repeating statements he has made before, Hersh avoided giving a direct answer. The implication revealed by Liu is that Hersh trusted his sole source because he ranks at a very high level of the CIA.
  • Questioned by Liu to identify who was the editor for his reporting on the Nord Stream story, and who proofed his text before he published it, Hersh tried to avoid answering concretely.  Pressed by Liu, he said his editor is “a very prominent literary figure” from the London Review of Books (Min 23:45) and the fact-checkers he employed “work for the New Yorker” – Min. 24:07. Liu replied: “OK. Good, good. Well, it’s reassuring to know that.”

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