Whether intended as a veiled threat or an insinuation of deeper knowledge, this tweet could imply some things.
Michael Hastings was an American investigative journalist who gained significant notoriety for his fearless reporting on national security issues and influential government figures. His work led to groundbreaking revelations and controversy, culminating in his untimely death in a mysterious car crash in 2013. Despite the official ruling of an accident, suspicious indicators surrounding the incident have left many questioning the truth behind his demise.
At the time of Hastings' passing, I had recently returned from a tour of contractor duty working in information security on Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, Africa. As a voracious reader at the time of the mythos surrounding General Stan McChrystal, I remember reading anything I could find about the circumstances surrounding Hastings' death.
At the time, his death struck me as deeply suspicious due to the circumstances, but not being a conspiracy theorist, I wanted to believe Hastings had simply had a tragic accident.
A recent tweet by Joseph Flynn (whose account has amassed 460,000 Twitter followers), brother of retired four-star General Michael Flynn and current four-star General Charles A. Flynn, adds another layer of intrigue to the story.
Who was Michael Hastings?
Michael Hastings began his journalism career as an intern at Newsweek in 2002. After covering the Iraq War, Hastings accepted a full-time position as a reporter for Newsweek's international edition. He also worked as a reporter at Buzzfeed and as a contributing editor to Rolling Stone.
In 2010, he wrote "The Runaway General," a profile of General Stanley McChrystal, which exposed McChrystal's contemptuous attitude towards civilian leadership and ultimately led to his resignation. Hastings continued to write hard-hitting pieces on national security issues, including the government's overreach in intelligence gathering, the erosion of civil liberties, and the Obama administration's drone warfare program.
Hastings was married in 2011 to Elise Jordan, a Yale graduate with a History degree and former speechwriter for Condoleezza Rice. Notably, Barbara and Jenna Bush gave toasts at their wedding rehearsal dinner. Jordan is now a correspondent for MSNBC and NBC News.
On June 18, 2013, at around 4:20 in the morning, Michael Hastings died in a fiery single-car crash in Los Angeles. His Mercedes-Benz C250 Coupe crossed an intersection at approximately 80 miles per hour, crashed into a palm tree, burst into flames, and continued "exploding", as described by a witness, for quite some time afterward.
What happened to Michael Hastings?
The official ruling was an accident, but several aspects of the case raise suspicions about whether his death was an accident or something more sinister:
- The day before the crash, Hastings sent a somewhat cryptic email to various people claiming he was under investigation by the FBI, that they were interviewing his "close friends and associates" (Author's Note: Those are Hastings' own quotes), and that was he was onto a big story for which he needed to "go off radat (sic) for a bit". In my opinion, the email is suspiciously unlike Hastings in style and tone, and we cannot be sure he sent it given those who reported receiving it. One of the people he supposedly sent this email to was Joe Biggs (a man Hastings met when was embedded with his unit in Afghanistan on reporting assignment for GQ). Biggs later became a leading figure in the Proud Boys who was indicted on seditious conspiracy charges in connection with January 6th. Although Biggs ran a minor publicity tour using the email from Hastings, even going on Alex Jones and propping up a few conspiracies about Hastings' death, he hadn't spoken to Hastings for three months prior to his death and didn't appear to have a close relationship with him. Another organization who claimed to have received one of these day-before emails was Wikileaks, whose lawyer Jennifer Robinson had been working with Hastings as recently as the week prior to his death.
2. New York Magazine (2013) reported that three days before the crash,
Saturday the 15th, he called Matt Farwell, his writing partner, and said Farwell might be interviewed by the FBI. Farwell was unsettled. “He was being really cagey over the phone, which was odd, very odd,” Farwell says.
3. New York Magazine (2013) reported that at the time of his death, Hastings was working on a profile of CIA director John Brennan for Rolling Stone, although his writing partner claimed there were no bombshells.
4. A witness to the crash stated that the car was traveling at high speed and was already creating sparks and flames before it crossed the intersection, hit a dips or pothole in the road, fishtailed, and crashed into a palm tree. The vehicle's transmission was ejected from the force of the impact. The fire which engulfed the car was inconsistent with the crash patterns of the type of car he was in. Additionally, the witness stated he saw a series of small explosions after the crash, potentially suggesting the presence of explosive material within the vehicle.
5. Richard A. Clarke's statement about the crash was that it was "consistent with a car cyber attack". Clarke stated: "There is reason to believe that intelligence agencies for major powers—including the United States—know how to remotely seize control of a car. So if there were a cyber attack on [Hastings's] car — and I'm not saying there was, I think whoever did it would probably get away with it." The Huffington Post quoted Clarke saying that, while he was “not a conspiracy guy,” his rule has always been “you don’t knock down a conspiracy theory until you can prove it. And in the case of Michael Hastings, what evidence is available publicly is consistent with a car cyber attack. And the problem with that is you can’t prove it.” Politico went on to claim The Huffington Post had published a conspiracy theory, which their standards editor rebutted by stating Hastings' work "helped expose people who were trained killers". However, Computer World (2013), New Scientist (2013) and various other (Car and Driver, 2017) publications printed (TechCrunch, 2020) what security experts know to be true: cars can be hackable in various ways.
6. Hastings believed his car had been tampered with. He asked his brother to look under the vehicle with him. He even tried to borrow his friend Johanna Thigpen's car at 12:30 AM on the night of the crash, when he presented himself at her apartment looking scared, she said, and trying to get out of town.
L.A. Weekly covered it like this:
Hastings was intensely interested in government surveillance of journalists. In May, the story broke about the Department of Justice obtaining the phone records of Associated Press reporters. A couple weeks later, Edward Snowden's revelations about the National Security Agency's massive surveillance program became public.
Hastings was convinced he was a target. His behavior grew increasingly erratic. Helicopters often circle over the hills, but Hastings believed there were more of them around whenever he was at home, keeping an eye on him. He came to believe his Mercedes was being tampered with. “Nothing I could say could console him,” Thigpen says.
One night in June, he came to Thigpen's apartment after midnight and urgently asked to borrow her Volvo. He said he was afraid to drive his own car. She declined, telling him her car was having mechanical problems.
“He was scared, and he wanted to leave town,” she says.
The next day, around 11:15 a.m., she got a call from her landlord, who told her Hastings had died early that morning. His car had crashed into a palm tree at 75 mph and exploded in a ball of fire.
As noted by Ms. Thigpen, Hastings's behavior and mental state deteriorated in the days leading up to his death, and he was afraid of his own vehicle. Despite his 14 years of sobriety, his family members believed he might be under the influence of drugs, and had flown into town the day before to try and organize an intervention.
The same article notes, "LAPD ruled out suicide", and I agree. The Toxicology report notes he wasn't under the influence of anything, and that he was wearing his seatbelt at the time of impact.
7. The speed with which the police reported the lack of foul play seemed bizarre and out of step with other investigations.
As The Berkeley Daily Planet reported (2013):
"The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) was unusually eager to announce that there had been no evidence of "foul play" surrounding the reporter's death. Typically, police departments withhold such judgments until after there has been an investigation -- including a coroner's report and toxicology tests, which can take days, if not weeks."
It is important to note that Hastings' own family members had differing views on what may have occurred.
The possibility of a conspiracy or some sort of government involvement in Hastings's death has been discounted by members of his own family, who were with him around the time of his death.
His brother suggested the possible use of drugs, but the toxicology report makes clear that Hastings was not under the influence at the time of death.
What did Joseph Flynn say?
On March 28, 2023, @JosephFlynn1 tweeted the following phrase in reply to podcasters @jimstewartson and @hifilofipod:
"Michael H had some problems with his car that night ... Too bad ... so sad"
Jim Stewartson retweeted Flynn's tweet with the following context:
Stewartson went on to state:
In June 2013, Proud Boy Joe Biggs, currently on trial for seditious conspiracy in the insurrection Mike Flynn executed, was in communication with Michael Hastings hours before Hastings died in a mysterious one-car crash. At the same time, Mike Flynn was at GRU headquarters.
The entire thread is interesting; I suggest you take a look.
A. First Tweet, 3:32 PM
Seemingly unsatisfied with his first tweet, Joseph Flynn decided to send a few more tweets about Hastings, the first of which was posted early the next morning–Hastings must have been on his mind!
B. Second Tweet, 6:54 AM (Next Day)
C. Third Tweet, 11:58 AM
D. Fourth Tweet, 12:00 PM
Note these tweets were all replies to Stewartson's original tweet, and not part of any further active discussion.
There are various potential implications to these tweets:
- Suggestive of Prior Knowledge: The tweets raise questions about whether Flynn had any prior knowledge of the incident. Although these could be interpreted as simple rude commentary, the choice of words and audience may lead some to speculate whether there is more to the story.
- Possible Access to Classified Information: Given that Joseph Flynn's brother, Michael Flynn, is a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General, former National Security Advisor, and former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the tweets may inadvertently point to a connection between uncleared members of the Flynn family and the intelligence community. While these tweets do not directly implicate Joseph Flynn in any wrongdoing, they may raise questions about whether he has access to information or contacts within the intelligence community that could provide further insight into the case.
- Intention to Discredit Hastings: By making light of Hastings' death and insinuating that his car troubles were his own fault, Flynn could be attempting to undermine the credibility of the late journalist and his investigations. This attempt could deflect attention away from potential foul play and reinforce the official narrative that Hastings' death was merely an unfortunate accident.
- Fueling Conspiracy Theories: Given the suspicious circumstances and the unanswered questions, these provocative tweets may encourage further speculation and investigation into the possibility of foul play or a cover-up.
- Ethical Concerns: These tweets certainly highlight a variety of ethical concerns given their grossly insensitive nature. Mocking the death of a journalist, especially one who has left behind a legacy of fearless reporting, can be seen as distasteful, inappropriate, and potentially harmful to freedom of the press due to Flynn's close familial relationships.
A Veiled Threat?
Furthermore, Joseph Flynn's tweets could be interpreted as a veiled threat.
By directly referencing Michael Hastings' car problems with a dismissive attitude using phrases like "Too bad … so sad," Flynn's initial tweet might be seen as a warning or a cautionary message to others, such as journalists who might be investigating sensitive topics or influential figures, especially within this specific context of harassing replies to independent investigators with whom he has a publicly adversarial relationship.
A potential implication could be those who delve too deeply into certain subjects could face similar consequences.
While Tweets can be notoriously challenging to interpret due to their brevity, the provocative nature of these tweets and the potential implications discussed earlier can certainly contribute to a sense of unease or perceived threat, particularly for those in the field of investigative journalism who all too often face threats to their lives when reporting on power and influence. Speculation over whether Flynn's tweets were intended as veiled threats or sarcastic remarks has only added to the intrigue surrounding Hastings' tragic passing.
Michael Hastings' life and work stand as a testament to the power of fearless journalism in holding the powerful accountable.
As for his widow Elise Jordan, who is happily remarried (LEAVE HER THE FUCK ALONE); she had this specific statement to tweet several years after her husband's death:
This is a very good clue. In fact, when I dug into Hastings' book The Operators—the one that got Stan McChrystal fired—I also found the following helpful excerpt about McChrystal, the Flynns, and their entourage.
"C." was described earlier in the chapter as a member of the SAS.
“Whenever I’d been reporting around groups of dudes whose job it was to kill people, one of them would usually mention that they were going to kill me.”
Dear Reader, I published this article before it was fully ready and worked on it in public, allowing some of the subjects of this article to review my work before a formal announcement.
As of this writing, March 30, 2023 at 2:27 AM ET, Joseph Flynn just deleted every single tweet from his Twitter account.
Joe Biggs has been indicted, not convicted, for his role in the January 6th Insurrection. I have amended the text to reflect this and apologize for the error.