Michael Hastings, the Buzzfeed writer who appeared to have died in a fiery Hollywood crash early today, had reported extensively on the CIA and was rumored to be continuing work on that beat at the time of his demise.
That Hastings had the Central Intelligence Agency in his sights is no surprise to those who knew his work. In March he gave what could now be seen as an eerie interview to Current TV about his recent Rolling Stone coverage of a CIA operative, Andrew Warren, who grew to believe he was being followed:
He started drinking heavily. He started abusing these drugs, Xanax and Valium, he started hearing voices. He believed he was being followed. He might have actually been being followed. Maybe, probably not, you don't know. It gets into this very strange …
“Well, he's CIA, he might have been followed,” says host Cenk Uygur.
Hastings: “He might have been followed for sure. For sure.”
The subject “starts leading this double life,” Hastings said. “No one knows he's undercover.”
Leon Panetta was asked about Warren at his Senate confirmation as CIA director and said he should be fired. Soon after, he was.
Hastings said that Warren's career unraveled, in part, because he was the only black officer in the agency. “If he was a white guy from Yale or Harvard,” he told Current, “he would not be in jail right now.”
Indeed, Hastings suggests in his April 7 Rolling Stone piece about Warren that it was his knowledge of “severe” interrogation techniques used by the CIA in the war on terror that helped lead to his demise.
In 2008 the agent was recalled to the United States to face allegations that he “drugged and raped an Algerian woman while serving there as station chief,” reads the piece.
Warren was fired and jailed, but not without controversy.
Buzzfeed announced in October that Hastings “will bring his hard-hitting reporting on national security and politics to the BuzzFeed Los Angeles Bureau while contributing to entertainment coverage as a Correspondent-at-Large.”
Indeed, the shadowy world of intelligence and off-the-record American aggression was a favorite topic of the journalist. Last year he wrote this Rolling Stone story “killer drones” in Afghanistan.
In a tribute to the late writer tonight that says Hastings died in a “high-speed wreck,” Buzzfeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith notes that Hastings lost his fiance while they were in Baghdad. He'd been there as a Newsweek correspondent:
His fiancée was killed in Baghdad in January of 2007, when he was a Newsweek reporter there, and her death was still utterly raw to him when he published his first book, I Lost My Love In Baghdad.
This morning's single car crash on North Highland Avenue near Melrose Avenue was reported at 4:25 a.m., police said. Positive ID had yet to be made because the body had been so badly charred, LAPD Officer Christopher No told us. He added:
The vehicle crossed over a median and collided into a tree. The impact caused the vehicle to catch on fire.
That stretch of Highland Avenue is notorious for its late-night crashes involving DUI drivers, though Tuesday at 4:25 a.m. would probably stick out as an unusual time for such a case.
The cause of this fatal accident is still under investigation.