Tag Archives: Scott Horton

The Last Magazine by Michael Hastings: Gawking at the Wreckage

(The following is a return to writing after a long hiatus. One earlier attempt at a return would have involved a long post about #TheFappening and a forgotten novel. That project was eventually left by the wayside because it dealt with the on-going, seemingly unending circle of poison on the internet, and the post itself felt like one more continuation of that circle. Though that post may or may not ever be written, some of its elements will eventually be brought into this one, where poisoned arrows are let fly with recklessness and abandon.)

(A NSFW warning: this post contains several passages from The Last Magazine that are very sexually explicit.)

“The ice monarch had installed his agents in my heart.”

Harlot’s Ghost, Norman Mailer

The last time I wrote about Michael Hastings, it was to say that I thought an article of his was a fucking disgrace. It was not idle clickbait malice, or malice carried over from something else, but from a passionate feeling aroused over bad work1. I don’t regret that expression, because I thought it was entirely honest, without extra venom for the pleasure of poison – such sadism would have been pointless anyway, as he was already several months dead. Hastings was an excellent reporter, a passionate, committed reporter, an ideal expressed throughout his work; his best known piece, “The Runaway General”, a profile of Stanley McChrystal which resulted in the general’s firing, did not come up about through luck or happenstance, but was an expression of skills honed for years. The flaws I saw in his last pieces were not the result of bad habits, but the collapse of his best ones, with his relapse in sobriety reflected in the thing he put his life into, which was journalism2.

The Last Magazine was his last book, and it was very much unfinished, but it haunts me and stays in my memory months after I read it – and this is not, I think, because of the virtue of the unfinished which allows the reader to project whatever they wish on the spaces in-between. The overemphasised aspect of the novel is that it was a gossipy romp, a barely veiled look at Hastings’ workplaces, Newsweek and Gawker, and the main pleasure is to play peekaboo at the names behind the pseudonyms. “There was interest in The Last Magazine,” sniffed Paul Constant, “the novel about magazine culture written by…Michael Hastings, until the first people to get their hands on the book realized it didn’t have much to offer besides thinly veiled media gossip.”3 The book’s dark heart did not so much elude reviewers, as pass willfully unseen.

The book moves back and forth between two narratives, a “Michael Hastings”, a rookie journalist working at an unnamed magazine that’s the old Newsweek (given here the brown bag pseudonym of The Magazine), and A.E. Peoria, both an excellent war correspondent and a drug-taking, scatterbrained babblemouth. As said, most of the book’s reviews dwelt on the who’s who aspect. Newsweek editor #1, Sanders Berman, “a 37-year-old trapped in a 67-year-old’s body” is, as everyone knows, Jon Meacham, and Newsweek editor #2, Nishant Patel, the man with “chocolate emeralds that a profile writer for The New York Herald said were like an Indian Cary Grant”, is Fareed Zakaria4. Hastings had already expressed his disdain wtih Meacham in a blog post, “Newsweek: Should Jon Meacham get the blame?”, where he quotes Lee Siegel’s “News-bleak! Or Is It? Grahams Succumb to Panic”, “Mr. Meacham’s deft maneuverings reaped him recognition and acclaim while his magazine tumbled toward irrelevancy,” and more directly in an interview with Cenk Uygur: “Meacham sucks,” he says, making an emphatic thumbs down gesture, “he’s on my enemies list. One of the people I wanted to go on a rant on.”5 The laughter at these men in 2014 was relatively safe; Meacham’s failure at Newsweek was so complete that he would retreat to book publishing, and Zakaria’s profile had already been diminished by one plagiarism scandal, though a second one was still to hit after the Magazine was published6.

Gawker‘s “A Guide to IDing the Real People Disguised in Michael Hastings’ Novel” [archive link] by J. K. Trotter gives a good overview of the others, with one major misidentification and one glaring omission, an omitted ID that, given the source, you might find surprising or not surprising at all. They do, however, mention that Timothy Grove is very obviously Nick Denton, the owner of the Gawker network, and that the Wretched of the book, whose guiding policy is that “we live in a society of assholes. The media is a reflection of these assholes. We’ll show you what the inside of the asshole’s asshole looks like,” was Gawker‘s as well (though Trotter’s overview doesn’t use this quote) – then, however, there was enough of an old school publishing industry for Gawker to feed exclusively on that, and their content was shorter Page Six type items, without the interruptions of insufferably smug high mindedness that afflict it now. This, however, is letting this essay get a little ahead of itself, and letting certain feelings rise to the top already. I don’t think Gawker read the book that closely or carefully, and they leave out Tabby Doling, who is very clearly Lally Weymouth7, as well as the very gossip worthy Delray M. Milius, right hand man of Berman (Meacham) and of whom I have a few guesses, but over which I don’t feel like a libel suit8. James Rosen’s review in the Post, “‘The Last Magazine,’ by Michael Hastings”, however, does ID Doling, and makes the crucial point that A. E. Peoria isn’t just a lightly fudged verion of reporter Adam Piore, as described in Piore’s insightful account, “I Am A.E. Peoria”, but a depiction of Hastings himself: “both of these characters reflect Hastings at different points in his career, and…the author — if this novel is really as semi-autobiographical as it seems — was forever struggling to reconcile the disparate facets of his personality.”

Whatever Hastings’ intent with this name, when I see “A. E. Peoria”, I think of the proverbial ordinary American small town (as in “Will it play in…”) and, because of my own idiosyncrasies, the initials read as After Earth, just like the movie, Titan A. E., about a rocket that’s escaped earth’s destruction. A.E. Peoria is an ordinary man whose center has been annihilated, who spins out in a self-destructive circle as a war reporter. The relation of these two characters, I think, are a more complicated tension than Hastings as a Newsweek intern, and Hastings after going to Iraq and Afghanistan, but selves in Hastings that were always at tension. “I have a disorder,” says Peoria, “Compulsive disclosure disorder. I have no filter, my shrink says. I don’t know boundaries, I’m always revealing very personal and intimate details about my life,” he tells Hastings, and this seems nothing like the writer of The Operators whose work keeps a tight focus on the subject details, and though he lets a voice of exasperation or anger into his work, it’s often difficult to find life details there, or even in the usual sink of self-obsessiveness, your blog; The Hastings Report keeps its eyes on the grindings of political and foreign affairs. But this was Hastings as well, an earlier, more confessional version, as described in possibly the best account of the man, “Reckless and Inspired: An Interview With Jonathan Hastings About His Brother, the Journalist Michael Hastings” (equal to or superior to the best profile, “Who Killed Michael Hastings?” by Benjamin Wallace), from the blog Uncouth Reflections by “Paleo Retiree”. Jonathan Hastings: “I’m not sure what kind of writing he did when he was in that first year of college, but when he was living in Vermont again, he was writing all the time in journals…He actually ended up writing a memoir about this whole period. I’ve never read it and he couldn’t get it published.” Hastings was an excellent listener, allowing his subjects to talk, sometimes to indict themselves, yet this was through a deliberate act of restraint. “What I learned,” he told NYC radio host Leonard Lopate in 2012, “was that if you just sit and listen, and let them talk…I mean, I’m a big talker. Don’t get me wrong. Ask my wife. I’m a big talker. So the fact that I’ve been able to sortof train myself to sit back and listen, I think…that’s the most important thing a journalist can do.”9

Peoria snorts coke on the plane back home from an assignment in Chad. On vacation in Thailand, he takes hallucinogens laced with amphetamines. When Michael Hastings and Peoria go to a bar, Peoria orders two tequila shots while Hastings has a club soda. Perhaps because he was a prominent reporter for Rolling Stone, Hastings was tagged with being a journalist in the manner of Hunter S. Thompson, a wild, crazy, rambling addict. Nothing embodies this wrongheaded notion more than the obituary by John Dolan10, “Michael Hastings, Dead of Gonzo”: “Hastings never bought into that consensus, as his choice of car demonstrates. He died at the wheel of a C-Class Merc with 200 HP. The point of a car like that is to drive into palm trees at 4:30 a.m.” According to this epitaph, Hastings’ success had something to do with the fact that he wasn’t a homeowner who thought about mortgages (he owned a place in Vermont) with his domestic partner (he was married) and their golden retriever (he owned a Corgi). He was out in his Merc the night he died too young, and this crazy spirit supposedly informed his entire life and journalism. Where Thompson went for a crazed, hyperactive, hallucinatory style, Hastings’ writing always stayed calm, cold, and on the matter at hand. I don’t think McChrystal could have been dismissed over something which was covered in Thompson’s nightmare exhuberance, because the very style would place the account in doubt. The precision and the seriousness of Hastings’ piece is what made it so damning; this isn’t the reporter ginning anything up to get a better or more exciting story, this is what actually happened. In The Last Magazine, the character of “Michael Hastings” offers a withering critique of A.E. Peoria on TV, and we see exactly what Hastings wished to avoid so that his reporting would be taken seriously. What he describes is something like Thompson in his public appearances: “I know they will take one look at Peoria and think: This guy is fucked-up, this guy doesn’t know what he’s saying, he’s not making any sense at all.”

Kafka’s “Hunger Artist” is about a man whose starvation would become a spectacle, and Thompson’s college tours became something like “The Opiate Artist”, his voracious drug taking the overriding object of attention. It’s difficult to conceive of Hastings being this kind of showman; when he appeared on TV or on podcasts, he avoided glib pronouncements, easy nostrums, or simple provocations, but gave detailed analyses of what was taking place in Afghanistan or Iraq. To give an account of what actually took place, not to distort it into something more exciting, entertaining, or attention getting was crucial to the man, as we hear in this moment from the 2010 Polk Awards (where his “Runaway General” was one of the winners) between the moderator John Darnton and Hastings11:

I don’t mean for this to be a contentious question, but do you think, obviously your piece has created some controversy among your colleagues. Do you think it is, uh, fair…to hang out with someone over a long period of time, or even a short period of time…and kindof go drinking with them, listen to them…

I didn’t drink with them.


I don’t drink, actually.

Go to a bar with them in which they’re getting hammered.

Have you read Rolling Stone?

Yup. No, hang out with someone, and hear their off the cuff comments-

They weren’t off the cuff comments.

I’m not saying they were-

I’m going to contest every inaccurate thing you say, so…let’s just…

Jokes. And I’m not saying they’re irrelevant jokes. But just comments. Things people say.


Banter among them.

I- I-

Let me finish. Do you think it’s fair to-

I’ve heard this before, that’s why I know where you were going.

…into a larger portrait.

Sure. I think the key in this sense was that these weren’t just offhand comments, [they were] comments that got directly at the idea of civil-military relations. And the civil military relationship is the key component to our counter-insurgency strategy in Afghanistan, so when you have the top general of the war, showing such disdain, and his staff – and the general is responsible for the command – when you have the top general of the war, and his staff, consistently making comments that were derogatory about the civilian leadership, whether they were justified or not to make those comments, that to me was clearly an important story to tell.

Peoria is Hastings’ difficult past and his sad future. Jonathan Hastings would give an account that was neither picturesque or romantic of his brother’s early difficulties with drug use, before he recovered and shifted his intense focus to reporting. Again, from “Reckless and Inspired”:

There was some relief from my parents when he went off to college. But that environment turned out to be really bad for him. He started using all sorts of drugs and it triggered a kind of manic episode. When he went home for summer after his first year of college, he wasn’t in good shape and ended up crashing a car, getting arrested, and going to detox/rehab. Though later he told it as a kind of gonzo, Hunter S. Thompson-style adventure, it was a really traumatic experience for him and my family. But he was always looking for risks: even after he sobered up and got his life on track and had his career underway he still wanted to push the envelope, such as having himself assigned to Newsweek’s Iraq bureau.

Paleo Retiree asks a little later: “What did being a foreign correspondent and a war reporter mean to Mike?” Jonathan Hastings: “He was a self-proclaimed war junkie.” It is always dangerous to analyze the dead, because we are allowed the arrogance of a multitude of hypotheses without the dead being able to shout out an argument against them; but I don’t think it’s an astonishing or difficult leap to say that after going into detox, Michael Hastings found an adrenaline surge in war and war reporting that he could not find in ordinary life, could not find in drugs, though he also knew that war was incredibly dangerous, that it could obviously destroy you physically, that it could destroy you inside as well, and that however much you wanted this surge, however much you couldn’t live without it, you had to turn away from it; but when he returned to civilian life, he still craved this energy, and he eventually went back to the old substitute of drugs.

Though he rarely let personal details come through in The Operators, he makes brief mention of his addiction, the craving for the strange energy of a war zone, on the way to an interview in a very dangerous part of Afghanistan:

I had reservations about going. I knew my security advisors wouldn’t be happy that within one day I was already ignoring their advice. I knew that the risks weren’t worth the payoff. But I felt the pressure to get a good story and I’d traveled down to this shithole of a city. I wasn’t just going to stay in my hotel, self-aware enough to know I was behaving in the classic war junkie fashion.

And so I found myself driving along a road from Kandahar to Herat in a white Toyota Corolla, thinking, You never put yourself in these situations, but you always seem to find yourself in them. Thinking of it as something out of my control decreased the blame—and there is plenty of blame if things go wrong, and it’s all blame on me. I know it’s a risk, I know it’s a rush, I know it’s not a healthy lifestyle. I know it’s an addiction; I know it’s the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.

In the middle of the book, we have Hastings explicitly merging these addictions. He is in Dubai, on the way to the war in Afghanistan, and he gets drunk for the first time in a decade. He goes over a twentieth century history of war correspondents, until he hits the nineties:

In the nineties, the conflicts were bloody and didn’t usually involve American boys. A new phrase was popularized in the lexicon of journalism: the war junkie. It was rare to find a reporter to admit to being one, at least in public. There was more honor in self-identifying as an alcoholic. It was not appropriate to speak of the perverse fun of war. It must be buried under other motives. The war correspondent had to wrap himself in the language of human rights. He must bear witness, performing some kind of pseudo-religious rite. He was forced, in public, to talk about war as damning, ignoble, awful, tragic. Yet he kept going back for more. The irony had slowly crept in. A British journalist’s account of his time in the Balkans twins his heroin addiction with his compulsion to cover the conflict. He kicked the heroin. The book became an instant classic. I saw him in Baghdad a few years later. Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Chris Hedges summed it all up: “The rush of battle is one of the most potent and lethal addictions, for war is a drug, one I have ingested many times.”

A little later, he writes: “I’d learned from all the literature that I had read that war always ended in violence, pain, self-destruction, madness, and tragedy. I confirmed this well-proven thesis for myself.” And: “Here’s what else I learned: The correspondent’s identity becomes inseparable from war.” In his memoir I Lost My Love in Baghdad, when his plane takes off out of Iraq, Hastings writes of the two as similar and intermixed:

The flight starts to take off. There is a draft coming from somewhere. The 737 is shaking more than it should. The wheels lift off the ground. I don’t hear any loud noises. The music in my headphones plays. I smile. I smile in a way I haven’t since the days before I got sober seven years ago. The addict in me is alive again and oh what a feeling. I survived. I made it. I didn’t fuck up. Bliss.

I know now what they are talking about when they say “war junkies,” now I understand exactly what they mean. I’ve felt it before. I know the pull, the intoxication, the life-affirming chemicals released after seeing the abyss and coming back from it. When I was a teenager I used to snort cocaine and smoke crack and party all night and booze for months because I wanted to know what it was like to hit those highs and to feel those highs when they all came crashing down.

He also quotes from a letter to his fiancé about his drug addiction as an attempt at self-destruction:

It’s not easy, this love thing, and we both have dark corners in our hearts. Yours is dark in the places where you have been betrayed and abused; mine is cloudy and bruised near the left ventricle; self-destruction does haunt me, an old and nasty friend, a habit, because there was a long time in my life where I thought the only thing to do with my self was to destroy it.

That war became an integral part of his existence, where your life becomes an admixture that barely contains this element, and that the last part of his life was an attempt to return to this strange energy, is too often avoided for the preferable wilds of conspiracy theory. “Some of the pieces of this puzzle are just so bizarre, they almost cannot be explained any other way than that there was some kind of foul play involved. A brand new Mercedes C250 does not simply explode into flames at the drop of a hat very easily,” says one amateur analyst on Hastings’ accident12. You could follow that mazing trail, or you could take the path Hastings already laid out in an essay explaining his own fascination with war, as well as what might finally have overwhelmed him. The Hurt Locker, and What it Means to be Addicted to War”, uses the movie as a foundation on which to discuss the longing of the war correspondent as a physical addiction. War, says Hastings, has nothing to do with heroism, valor, or the nobility of sacrifice. “It destroys what we love, people, children, sons and daughters, things, culture, buildings, possessions, morality, emotions, and our own sense of who we are as human beings. There is not much new for me to learn about war,” he writes. “And yet, I’ve kept going back.” And: “Am [I] doing this for the right reasons? Are there right reasons? Or have I, like Sgt. James in The Hurt Locker, fallen prey to an addiction? Am I about to take another potentially lethal dose?”

Jessica Coen, the former editor-in-chief of Gawker and later editor-in-chief of Jezebel, was friendly with Hastings and she would write the following after the publication of The Last Magazine13:

Eventually Newsweek sent [Michael] to Iraq, and after that he was different. He said there was a lot of stuff that I just couldn’t understand. He wasn’t crazy or anything, but he also kept a gun under his bed (futon, actually, in a shitty Allen Street walkup down the street from my shitty Orchard Street walkup). I also remember him saying that he was incapable of relaxing, not even in NYC, after that experience. He was also 100% certain he would go back. It was what he wanted to do. Very Hurt Locker-esque, like one of those people who just couldn’t return to regular life.

I think Hastings gives us some hint as to why he couldn’t sleep without a gun by his bed from the nightmares he began to have in Iraq, what he calls “insurgent dreams”, and which he relates in his memoir, I Lost My Love in Baghdad. They’re dreams which almost everyone in Iraq ends up having, which he never have before, and which he first hears about from one of his translators:

I should have asked him about his dreams, but it is only in the following year, long after our conversation, that I’ll come to really understand what he meant by insurgent dreams. One night, I’ll even dream of him and another translator, Ahmer, stuck on the side of a cliff in the middle of a blizzard. We were all at my old home in upstate New York sitting on snowmobiles, and then I send them out on a story without the proper clothing and with radios that are running low on batteries. The storm gets worse and the temperature drops quickly, and they freeze to death on the ledge of a mountain.

There are other dreams: My mother is in Baghdad, but this time Baghdad looks like a college town, and she’s dropping me off to work at a twenty-four-hour convenience store. As we commute, I lie down in the backseat of the car (a ’92 Buick Park Avenue, the car I crashed drunk when I was nineteen). In another dream, Baghdad appears as a campus on a hill. A group of us—reporters, I think—take a walk to some kind of cultural center. There are a series of checkpoints, but the grass is green and there are maple trees so we aren’t worried. The insurgents don’t show themselves in such nice weather and ideal surroundings. In another, I am in a car with Scott and it looks like the real Baghdad now. “Why are we going this way?” he asks. “We should turn back.” And then I am driving a bus on a dirt road. A veteran correspondent, Rod Nordland, tells me to drive faster, there is a pickup truck following us. Head to the lake and the beach. I think the only safety is the lake. I jump in and start to swim. Insurgents can’t swim, can they? Yes, they can, and one comes after me, splashing me as he gets closer and then he kills me. I wake up in my bedroom in Baghdad and stare at the clicking ceiling fan. Something profound has changed in my thinking. Never before had I died in a dream. I usually woke up first.

If we wish to think of the death of Michael Hastings as a puzzle, something with clean edges that could be solved, for me the end of “What it Means to be Addicted to War” lands down with a solid click that fills the curved space, but which gives no satisfaction at all, only a heartbreaking “Yes. That’s it.”:

Normal life can’t compete with the potent drug of war.

I don’t disagree. Normal life doesn’t stand a chance against war, in the same way that shooting up or swallowing a pill of ecstasy trumps reality every time. But I do take issue with how The Hurt Locker ends — not because I didn’t like the movie, or that it wasn’t enjoyable. It just doesn’t go far enough. In fact, I don’t think it was enough like Kathryn Bigelow’s earlier classic on adrenaline junkies, Point Break, a film about a gang of bank robbing surfers. That might sound ridiculous, but the movies’ themes are identical.

In the finale, the late Patrick Swazye (playing Bodhi, Point Break‘s version of Sgt. James) is found on an Australian beach, chasing the ultimate storm, the big wave. Bohdi gets swept away by this overwhelming, violent, thrilling, force of nature. Keanu Reeves, playing the troubled cop hero, speaks the film’s last memorable line: “He’s not coming back.” That’s what happens when you embrace dark and wild forces beyond control. The Hurt Locker, on the other hand, doesn’t take war addiction to its logical, unambiguous, conclusion. That is, death.

Addictions destroy, junkies usually die, and the war always wins.

The Last Magazine is very much about this addiction to war, about never wanting to leave it and always wanting to return, though it does so at a slant. The actual cruel details of war are actually very uncomfortable to talk about, and war here becomes something else whose actual details often cause a great deal of conversational discomfort, and that’s sex. If you don’t see this twinning, the focus and explicit detail of the sex scenes in the book will produce bafflement. “In places there are unusually detailed sex scenes that are just plain bizarre,” writes Adam Piore. “Occasional cringe-inducing passages on the pornographic tastes of the principal characters notwithstanding, this book has points of interest at every turn,” writes Tom Gallagher in “Michael Hastings Skewers Them From the Grave (with a Scoop of Gawker)”. Or they might be viewed as simple joking around, “Multiple prostitutes are called into the scrum; sexual organs end up in bandages,” writes Dwight Garner in his Times review, “War’s Hell, Especially for Editors”. “Do not, unless you are mischievous, recommend this novel to your aunt’s book group.” In the next sentence, however, Garner mentions a book episode where Hastings tips his hand as to his intent: “One memorable and weirdly incisive chapter is made up entirely of the narrator’s flipping back and forth between cable porn and the start of the Iraq war on television.” The Michael Hastings of the book watches on, a voyeur to war and sex, while Peoria engages in the acts that Hastings only gazes on.

The bar for my porn watching keeps going higher. Rewind again. The man shooting his jizz in the faces of Ying and Yang doesn’t do it tonight. The gaping holes don’t do it. Fast-forward. Maybe the next scene with Gauge will. Gauge is dressed to look like a fourteen-year-old girl. She’s earns her living the hard way—it’s not fair to say just on her back, but with all different parts of her body flattened against floors, walls, designer chairs, soiled mattresses, leather couches, bent and acrobatic, ass pointed to the air, the weight of her body on her neck, knees somehow stretched backward behind her ears. I read on the Internet that she does five scenes a week in a good week.

I am waiting for what is making me come lately.

Ass to mouth—shorthand: ATM.

I watch the man, whose hair could have been styled in 1991 and never been changed, take his penis from her ass and then grab her by the waist to twist her face toward his cock. I wait for the moment when he puts his cock in her mouth, the moment of entry.

It doesn’t happen. There’s a jump cut.

I’m pissed. That is no good at all. I need to see the full-body motion, I need to see the uninterrupted movement from ass to mouth because I am savvy enough, my penis is savvy enough, to know that if there is a jump cut, then things could have been done, organs cleaned, wiped off, made more sanitary; my brain is trained to sense these kinds of illusions, to sense when it’s not real enough—when it’s too clean.

The intersection of sex and war:

Fast-forward. Gauge is kneeling and spitting and the man’s hand is on his penis, a point-of-view shot, and he ejaculates in her face. I shoot too.



I hit the Last button and jump back to a CNN correspondent with the 1st Armored Division.

The correspondent has positioned himself on a road to somewhere, and the trucks are rolling by him.

I reflect. I know I am being somewhat self-conscious. I know I am somehow, in some inexplicable way, being ironic. But I am not being ironic. This is just what life is for me. What else am I going to do when sitting in front of a TV alone? Jerk off. And if my country is going to war, I’m going to watch my country go to war.

This moment is taken entirely from Hastings’ own life, as can be read in his memoir, I Lost My Love in Baghdad:

That August, I listened to Vice President Cheney say we were going after Saddam. I remember my initial response was, what a crazy idea. What a crazy, crazy idea, flying thousands of miles with an invading army to topple a government. But as the debate began, I started to think, well, democracy, freedom, 9-11, WMDs, maybe it’s not such a bad idea. Being a contrarian, I argued with my antiwar colleagues, taking on the neoconservative talking points just to see how they felt, even though the talk of mobile weapons labs all seemed like complete bullshit to me, like whoever drew up the diagrams of mobile weapons labs had watched too much G.I. Joe as a child and could only imagine some kind of fantastic weapon that C.O.B.R.A (the evil terrorist organization fighting to rule the world, as the theme song pointed out) used to attack the real American heroes. On February 5, 2003, Colin Powell posed on 1st Avenue in New York City with a vial of fake anthrax. On March 20, 2003, the war started. For the next forty-eight hours, I watched TV, nonstop it seemed, switching between live coverage of the invasion and Adult Videos on Demand, alone in my New York apartment, thinking, I want to be over there, I want to be in Iraq.

Two years later here I am.

The book’s “Michael Hastings” wants to look at sex the way others want to look at war, something that looks real, like it’s dirty, like it’s gritty, like it’s actually happening, yet part of a simple structure allowing for release. There’s a sense that what the adult performer goes through is strenuous – “I read on the Internet that she does five scenes a week in a good week” – and yet this is secondary to the entertainment, just as the soldier’s life and struggles are secondary to the glossy war narratives of his magazine’s managing editor, Sanders Berman. For Berman, war is a kind of pornography distant from the reek and violence of the actual, a repeated veneration of sacred historical relics. “I read his book, The Greatest War on Earth,” narrates the Hastings of the book. “If I am in the mood to be cruel, I’d say his book does really well at nourishing our national myths. It’s a real comfort, reading his book. It gives you a real warm feeling about that whole time between 1939 and 1945. A real black-and-white-photo wholesomeness to it, a breast-fed narrative of good versus evil.”14 The perspective of the fictional Hastings towards the fictional Jon Meacham was shared by the actual Hastings toward the actual Meacham. “Newsweek when Jon Meacham was editor, they would not have printed my story [“The Runaway General”],” Hastings told Cenk Uygur. “Why do you think that is?,” asked Uygur. Hastings: “Political reasons, for reasons that there’s a sense that at Newsweek we were supposed to uphold…that we are supposed to reinforce our societal myths, not deconstruct them, and not kindof expose them. And there’s a real mission there, certainly under Meacham, Meacham sucks.”15 The actual physicality of existence deflates all these myths. In “Hack: Confessions of a Presidential Campaign Reporter”, his account of the 2008 primaries, Hastings makes his contempt for the process and participants obvious, but he keeps out personal details except for one habit, which effectively deflates the idea of a rarefied arena of democratic process, unending high flown music of regal trumpets and anthems:

There was no small amount of hypocrisy when it came to journalists discussing the sex lives of the people they cover, since fidelity wasn’t exactly a prized virtue among reporters on the campaign trail. For my part, I watched a lot of porn. A colleague told me the first thing he did after checking in to a hotel was to check out their porn selection. I followed his example. I’d become an expert on the various hotel chains and what they offered. The best was clearly the Hyatt Regency; the Homewood Suites had the usual selection of XX features. On my last night in Manchester, after the primaries were over and the campaigns had moved on, I selected one called Nasty Older Sluts or something like that for $11.95. (Note to Newsweek accounting department: I never expensed the porn.)

It occurred to me, as I sat there watching an interracial couple banging, that jacking off in a hotel room was not unlike the larger experience of campaign reporting. You watch two performers. You kind of like it when one of them gets humiliated. You know they’re professionals, so you don’t feel much sympathy for them. You wish you could participate, but instead you watch with a hidden envy and feel vaguely ashamed for watching. You think you could probably do as good a job or better. You sometimes get a glimpse, intentionally or not, of society’s hidden desires and fears. You watch the porn week after week, the scenes almost always the same, none of them too memorable. The best ones get sent around the Internet.

The ultimate refutation of any ideal of war is what it does to the body itself. There was one moment that stayed with him for a long time, I think, as it would with most people. He described the moment at length on Scott Horton’s show on Anti-War Radio, “Scott Horton Interviews Michael Hastings (April 21, 2009)”, a podcast on which he was a frequent guest16. I bold one key line:

In the article [“Obama’s War” in GQ], you describe it as a really beautiful scene, all the shooting stars and everything up there at the roof of the world.

There was the shooting stars, there was all the Americans shooting flares to taunt the Taliban to attack. It is a very scenic, I always thought, and I say this cynically and in jest, that at least in Aghanistan, it’s a scenic war, and in Iraq, I don’t remember too many moments of beautiful sunsets there.

Yeah, it just looks like Houston or something.

Yeah. (laughs) Houston with more concrete.

Uh, now, one of the things that you wrote about in your article that was pretty shocking, it’s the kind of reporting that we don’t usually hear, we don’t usually hear this kind of detail, anyway, in real narrative form, but the story of a suicide bombing at what I guess was the gate of the base you were staying at?

Yeah. Yes.

Tell us the story. What happened there.

I’d actually just got off the phone, I was standing outside this base, we were about eight miles from the border, the Pakistan border, and it was a beautiful sunny day, and all of a sudden there’s this loud boom, and I see over my shoulder about seventy five feet away, this plume of smoke comes up, the kid who was on guard, the American, yells, “Oh my God! We’ve been hit by a suicide bomber!” And there was some shooting, and- But what had happened was, this was really the sort of disturbing thing. That the suicide bomber had used local Afghan kids, seven-eight year olds, who used to hang out at the base, hang out at the base with the Americans, as cover to walk right up to the gate. And the kids ran away, a few seconds before the suicide bomber detonated it. And two- Luckily, no one was actually killed in the suicide bombing attack. Two Afghan security guards who were working for the Americans were injured quite badly. But the disturbing, more disturbing part was afterwards, the clean-up. They had to clean up the suicide bomber. Because his body had been spread all throughout the base. And to clean up…literally, they call it the police crawl, where all the soldiers, all the Americans sortof walk one step and then another step, trying to pick up different parts of the body and to put in a sortof plastic bag to bury it. And what I remembered, about this moment, I saw the guy’s leg, laying near one of the barbed wire fences, and on his foot was this nice high top with a yellow stripe. And later that day, the suicide bomber’s remains were buried, they had put his hightops on top of his grave about a hundred yards from the base. About an hour after that, a couple of guys from the village went to the grave to pay their respects, I guess, looked both ways, then grabbed the guy’s high tops, then left.

Nice. Well. I guess that doesn’t sound too much different than America. (laughs)


It’s part of a very bleak picture of the country that you paint in the article. And, I guess, it really goes to the question of whether the Center for a New American Security’s plan for a ten year occupation in the building of a nation has any credibility at all.

Sure, and I think…what I’m always fascinated with, is this human aspect of it. The effects of violence on the Americans who witness it, the Afghans who witness it, whether they’re children or teenagers or adults, and yeah, this idea that we’re going to buy into ten more years, and ten years, by that way, that’s the low estimate. You talk to David Kilcullen [senior counter-insurgency advisor], one of General Petraeus’s advisors, was one of General Petraeus’s advisors, who was also a major proponent of counter-insurgency, and he’s a really smart guy…but what he’s calling for is, literally, a twenty five year commitment, to Afghanistan and Pakistan as a region. So, even ten years is a very hopeful estimate.

Though Hastings is almost always on point with his answers, at the end of this interview, when Horton asks about an Afghanistan occupation plan, Hastings briefly goes off on a tangent: “Sure, and I think…what I’m always fascinated with, is this human aspect of it. The effects of violence on the Americans who witness it…” and here, I do not think he is simply talking of the soldiers in the field, but himself.

Hastings distinguishes the contrast between the ideal of war, the beautiful brutal valor, the ideal that cannot be tarnished through defeat or atrocity, with the vile details of war in two prominent moments in his writing. There is a speech by Graeme Lamb, a British Special Forces Commando and one of McChrystal’s advisors in The Operators:

The arena: It was a favorite concept for men like Lamb, capturing a dangerous and seductive worldview when applied to war. The idea came from Theodore Roosevelt’s famous speech, trashing critics and valuing the experience of risk over all else. “It is not the critic who counts…The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs, and who comes up short again and again…” I’d heard other generals use the quote in Iraq17. What mattered wasn’t what the war was about, or what might or might not be accomplished; what mattered was that there was an inherent value in being a man, in going into action, in bleeding. There was little difference in victory or failure. The sacrifice of blood had an almost spiritual value beyond politics, beyond success, beyond good and evil; blood and sweat and pain made up its own ideology, existing within its own moral universe of a very narrowly defined concept of honor and bravery. It was as brave and honorable to take a bullet for the brotherhood as it was to cover up a bullet’s mistake. It didn’t matter that in Afghanistan, the U.S. military had come up short again and again. What mattered is that they tried. The simple and terrifying reality, forbidden from discussion in America, was that despite spending $600 billion a year on the military, despite having the best fighting force the world had ever known, they were getting their asses kicked by illiterate peasants who made bombs out of manure and wood. The arena acted as a barrier, protecting their sacrifices from the uncomfortable realities of the current war—that it might be a total waste of time and resources that historians would look back on cringing, in the same way we looked back on the Soviets and the British misadventures there.

And then there is the episode that Hastings brought up on Scott Horton’s podcast, from “Obama’s War”:

“There are body parts all over the place, all through the district center,” Hilt [Captain Terry Hilt] says. “Doc, we got plenty of rubber gloves? We’re going to get some and do a police crawl across the DC. If you find fingers, any of that stuff, don’t touch it. Call for one of the HIIDE [Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment, device for obtaining identity through fingerprint and retinal scans] guys. We might be able to get it to hit on the HIIDE system.”

Hilt pauses and then adds, “Pictures. Do not be taking pictures of friggin’ body parts. You’ll get in a lot of trouble if you try to take pictures of body parts home18. We got really lucky. Stay vigilant. Here’s the good news: The sandbags worked, the gate worked. Because of that, we’re not putting anybody in the ground.”

The soldiers pull on rubber gloves and go outside and begin walking slowly over the gravel, looking for pieces of the bomber. One soldier scrapes up a chunk of flesh with a shovel. “Mmm, pancakes,” he says. “Why the fuck couldn’t they have used a car bomb? I don’t mind cleaning up after car bombs. Everything’s burned up.”

They dump the body parts in a clear plastic garbage bag. The bomber’s legs are still there near the gate, intact from the knee down. His legs are hairy. He was wearing white high-tops with yellow stripes. The scalp is on the ground next to a Hesco barrier, a blood-wet mop of black hair.

Staff Sergeant Daniel Smith spots a blackened finger hanging off the concertina wire, and Staff Sergeant Aaron Smelley, who’s in charge of identification, takes it and places it on the portable HIIDE machine and presses hard to get a scan. After a few tries, he gets a reading, but the fingerprint doesn’t match any known terrorist in the database.

The Afghan police bury the leftover body parts a few hundred meters away from the base in a small cemetery. They place a pile of rocks on top to mark the grave, then lay the bomber’s yellow-striped high-tops next to the rocks. Later that afternoon, two Afghan men from one of the nearby villages come to look at the grave site. As they start to walk away, one of them turns back and picks up the high-tops and takes them for himself.

That night the dogs are back, barking and fighting over the bits of flesh that flew so far from the base they were missed during the cleanup.

There is nothing of the heroic or epic in Peoria as he stumbles around Iraq and Chad, and this is not Hastings mocking the lesser, weaker man in contrast to the truly heroic, but a depiction of how people act: you are scared, you want to get out alive, you don’t know what to do. When Peoria is in Iraq, the war experience we see is defined again and again by sex. There is a discussion before the fighting starts. Soldier #1: “That’s fucking gay, dude.” Soldier #2: “Ball flaps aren’t fucking gay…I want to start a family when I get back, not just give fucking blow jobs like you. I’m keeping mine on.” Soldier #3, to Peoria: “If you haven’t noticed, the Army is a twenty-four-hour gay joke,” and Peoria writes down an observation that Hastings had already made on his blog, “‘The Army Is A 24-Hour Gay Joke'”: “Over the last couple years, I’ve had the privilege to spend a lot of time with American combat forces in Iraq, and, more recently, in Afghanistan. If there is one persistent form of humor it is this: jokes about homosexuality. Lots and lots of gay jokes. So many that, on my last embed, a soldier told me this gem: “When my family asks what it’s like to be in the Army,” he said. “I tell them it’s like a 24-hour gay joke.”” Peoria has been told by his editors to come up with color for their package on the ground war, “examples of fear”: “Soldiers afraid of gay men wouldn’t cut it. But the fear of getting your balls blown off was something he could work with.” Whether it be cannonballs tearing through a ship’s wood and throwing splinters into sailor’s privates, or the Bouncing Betty, a mine that jumped up a few feet so the explosion would tear up a man’s balls and dick: “The soldier’s number-one fear, Peoria writes in his mind, throughout the history of human warfare.”

Peoria is embedded in a convoy that’s part of the initial approach to Baghdad, and they come under fire, with almost everyone in his Humvee killed. Peoria survives alongside a badly wounded soldier, Justin Salvador. This soldier’s number one fear has come true: his groin is torn up by bullets, but Peoria staunches the bleeding and manages to keep Salvador alive till reinforcements show up. Peoria reaches Baghdad. Hastings gives us a brief chapter, “Interlude”: “My attention strays from the war after the first summer of the invasion…Anyway, mission accomplished. You might forget that at the time, people took that seriously.” We follow Peoria on a vacation to Thailand, where he has sex with a series of whores. “After one come two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight . . . Like pills, like shots, like hands of blackjack and lines of cocaine and potato chips and cheese fries.” The colonialism of the past shadows his brief sense of supremacy now. He stays at the Bangkok Mandarin Oriental. “The Oriental: the hotel of Graham Greene and Joseph Conrad and Somerset Maugham and James Michener.” He is entirely alone, speaking only to those who take his orders. “He has spoken only to whores and concierges and maids for two weeks now. Conversations, one-sided as was his way, but conversations with people there to serve him. Should he feel bad about that?” He meets with a frenchman, Marcel, and his wife, Valerie, with Marcel looking on while Peoria has sex with Valerie, Marcel fellating Peoria as well. This again is sex as a metaphor for war, the colonialist of the past looking on with rapture at the colonialism of today. “We have the Arabs in Paris and you must treat them like that—with spit and kicks.” But Peoria doesn’t have any ideas or attitudes of supremacy, he is simply here, a figure of chance. “It is all savage and torture and Islam,” says Marcel. “Oh, you can’t say that about just Islam, dude, all religions are fucked,” replies Peoria. Marcel, Valerie, and Peoria have sex, and just as there are things you see in war close-up that occasionally make it into the movies, that might make you say just like in the movies, Peoria glimpses something that is a highlight and theme of some pornography, but which he’s never seen in the actual before:

Peoria falls over onto the bed. Valerie rolls to her back. Marcel gets to his knees, and starting at his wife’s breasts, licks and caresses her body, moving toward her belly button, moving toward her pussy. Valerie puts her hand on his head and pushes lightly, her fingers tangled in her husband’s thinning hair. Valerie puts her left hand on the top of her pussy, and in a move that Peoria has seen only on a computer monitor and television screen, she squeezes and a dollop of his sperm pops up.

Clams, seashells, mollusks, mussels, oysters. White discharge. Membranes and inverse epidermal layers. Pink jowls, a string of soy milk drool. A raw baked good, doughy, whipped egg-white batter uncooked.

Pushing himself up on his elbows, Peoria sees for the first time—in the dimming lights of the HDTV and the digital clock and the faint city lights cutting through the open drapes—what a cream pie looks like.

Peoria returns to the United States, and though the book never speaks of Peoria being changed by the war, he is changed: this is a book where war merges with sex; Peoria has picked up a veneral disease and after a doctor removes some skin, he now has a bandage on his dick. The character of Hastings is honest, but merciless, in his assessment when the two see each other again: Peoria looks weak, unwashed, unhealthy, a wheezing wreck who can’t stop talking. Peoria works on a story about the Koran being desecrated at the Abu Ghraib detention facility with Mark Healy, which provokes rioting and multiple deaths – an incident from actual life, when Michael Isikoff, on whom Healy is based, reported that the Koran had been desecrated at the Guantanamo Bay internment facility (see “Newsweek Reporter Michael Isikoff Discusses His Coverage of Koran Desecration at Guantanamo”, an interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!). The various pundits and cable outlets are at a righteous boil. “Off to CNN?” Sanders Berman asks Nishant Patel when they meet by the elevator. “Oh, no, no time for television today,” says Patel. “Me either,” says Berman. If Peoria has ever had any political sense on what to do here, he has lost it completely after the war. “Peoria, man, I think they want you to take the blame for this,” Hastings tells him. Peoria goes on CNN. “I don’t think, I mean, you have to understand that I’m sorry that this rioting happened, but you know that cleric, that guy, he’s a real jerk—he’s not like a good guy, you know?” He is shouted down by the other panelist, a Daniel Tubes19: “Can I just respond to what Mr. Peoria said first? What he’s doing is classic. He’s blaming the victims for his own reckless reporting.” Peoria is suspended. Afterwards, he stabs himself in the leg with a pencil by accident, and he doesn’t feel it at all, doesn’t notice anything’s wrong except for the people screaming in horror. He takes a leave of absence, and falls into a depression when he’s no longer writing, and during a period when he confines himself to his bedroom, he speaks of his wounds, visible and invisible:

Back to the darkness he went. Back to the darkness, for another three-week stretch, the bills and dirty laundry piling up, redux. Resorting to reusing the coffee filter in his coffee machine after running out of paper filters, ordering groceries and deliveries, ordering everything and keeping the door shut. Vowing to never again check his email, never to look at what other news it would bring—the wound on his leg had healed, the puncture wound had healed, the molluscum contagiosum had run its course, but a new wound had opened up.

The darkness didn’t help him heal that wound. The darkness hid it from him, hid what he didn’t want to recognize. He went over the scenarios in his head again and again. This wound was deep, cut to his core. He tried to ignore the wound, tried to pretend it wasn’t there, but he knew he was burying his feelings, burying his emotions, burying the truth. I’m a journalist, he thought, and if I can’t look at truth within myself, how can I see the truth out there in the world?

Peoria tries to put his life together. He gets rid of the drugs, works out, starts teaching journalism at a college class. He tries to move on: “if every summer in his mind has a theme, the theme this summer is self-acceptance. I’m okay, I’m okay.” At his first class, his attention focuses on a female student who stares intently at him throughout. Afterwards, Peoria: “What’d you think of the class?” Student: “You don’t recognize me?” Then he asks, “You’re a friend of my ex-girlfriend’s, right?”, “Okay…we didn’t hook up before, did we?”, “Did I interview you for an immigration story?” No, no, no…“You saved my life.”

We know that Hastings was a big fan of the work of Norman Mailer20, and given his interest in and reporting on national security matters, I think it’s highly likely he read Mailer’s novel about the early CIA, Harlot’s Ghost. There are two hints in Last Magazine that he has read the book, one stronger than the other. In Ghost, there is a prostitute named Libertad La Lengua (from Ghost: “which in loose translation does not signify Freedom of Speech nearly so much as “Ah, Freedom—your tongue!””), who, it turns out is a transsexual. Ghost is filled with spies, double agents, truths given in the cover of falseness, and Libertad embodies this idea of double agency and deception, “She is all the beautiful women put together!” exclaims the narrator, but she is also undercover: “Libertad is an agent in the world of women”.

Peoria has had some skin shaved off of his dick, while Justin Salvador has had the whole thing sheared away. Just as Libertad is a symbol, Justina Salvador is a symbol as well, of the overwhelming change war effects, but her relation to Peoria also represents Hastings’ view of war and the war journalist: war is the woman you can never leave. The narrator of Harlot asks of his attraction to Libertad, “Was he, himself, a homosexual? That stands out, doesn’t it? To be so attracted to a transvestite, or whatever else you could call it—a transsexual?” Justina is a vivid, real character, so vivid that I regret that the book ends so abruptly after she comes onstage, but she’s also very much part of a metaphor, of Peoria wanting to stay close to war, and just the way ordinary life becomes dull to the war junkie, sex with an ordinary woman becomes dull to Peoria. He has the same doubts as Harlot‘s narrator about his attraction, but he is also specifically attracted because of this woman’s past identity:

But as he watched, he instinctively started to touch himself, and he started to hold the images in his head of Thailand, enhancing a sexual experience that he had avoided masturbating to at all costs—he was straight after all, it was his parents who were gay—but the transsexual porn brought these memories back, and he no longer felt revulsion, and in fact, started to get off on the idea that the man fucking the woman was actually fucking a man, a dirty little secret that wasn’t a secret but added a level of fantasy to the moving video clips, a level of fantasy that his own memories augmented.

This attraction is one step beyond what he’s already felt, appetites already sated, a man numbed to the violent intensities of erotica the way a war junkie becomes numb to the intensities of war:

As a young man growing up, photos in magazines were enough to get him off. First, publications like Playboy were good enough, but then he upgraded to Penthouse; the open vaginal and anal shots of Penthouse, still done respectfully, were the next level. Then, he discovered Hustler, and his masturbatorial bar was set even higher—Hustler, now that was explicit, threesomes, full penetration, dripping cum shots, and a new and enticing category called Barely Legal, which forever altered the way he viewed young female teenagers running cash registers at ice cream stands and in grocery stores and Japanese school uniforms and cheerleading outfits.

The Internet proved to be a disruptive force for self-abuse. With the Internet, the sheer range of digital images did the job at first—he was able to stop watching videos on the VHS and start watching, on his computer, acts that he had read about but never seen—women sucking off farm animals, women urinating on the faces of other women, women urinating on the faces of other men, men urinating in clear streams into the open mouths of women, defecating even, strapped and bound with metal and leather contraptions, penetrated with massive objects like baseball bats and giant rubber dildos, a foot in diameter, or shaken soda cans stuffed in rectal canals, and on and on. These images—who was putting them out there? Where was it all coming from?

What he’s watching is changing him in ways that he’s not sure of at all, blankly indifferent to the violence of the imagery, and the connection to a growing numbness to war’s atrocities is obvious. Though the following excerpt is no more grim than that of the suicide bomber aftermath in Afghanistan, I do have to preface that the following is very explicit:

He was not terribly concerned about the moral implications until June 2002, when he’d gotten the fastest speed available and clicked on a link that said “vomit porn,” and at that moment he had a crisis of faith, or the closest thing one who does not believe in anything can have to a crisis of faith.

A white girl, wearing a blue skiers’ tuque with an embroidered golden star, had been kneeling down in front of a crowd and giving head to a black male of significant perpendicular length. Using the now ancient deep-throating technique, she worked the man’s cock avidly, eyes watering, his large hands clasped around her ears, occasionally pulling out to the left or right to make a popping sound against the suction on her cheek. At minute 2:33 into the clip, the standard degradation went off course; at first, the male performer responded as if it were still part of the performance, but then she ripped his hands away and started to crawl away, a desperate move, as if she were a child with motion sickness in the back of the car trying to unroll the window, or a coed searching for a bathroom stall after expecting to come into the restroom only to touch up her makeup. She started to puke, a yellow and a watery flow, all over the ground, and the camera first zoomed in on her face as she vomited, and then the camera pulled back to get the reaction of the cheering crowd and the still-hard penis of the black performer, and then the video ended, and A.E. Peoria himself felt sick, he felt ill, and wondered if maybe he shouldn’t be watching this stuff, maybe it was destroying his soul, if there was such a thing.

That didn’t last long.

This is not, I think, about a man becoming comfortably numb to the images of a girl vomiting, but about becoming comfortably numb to a clump of scalp being picked up, a blood soaked mop of hair, a chunk of flesh, where you become so used to the gore, you make jokes. “Pancakes,” says the soldier shoveling up the flesh, and you’re thinking the same thing. You are repulsed by the image, and yet you end up somehow wanting to see it again and again, going back one more time to Afghanistan or Iraq. Peoria is reminded of this moment of getting into vomit porn when he starts watching the transsexual stuff: “He thinks of it now because he’d had the same first reaction to the transsexual performers: that something was somehow unholy or desperately sick in the acts that were being performed, that it was somehow disturbing to his subconscious that the women being fucked in the ass used to be men.” Peoria and Justina sleep together, and when they are together they both are brought back immediately to the intimacy of war, and maybe that previous intimacy is why they’re attracted to each other now:

He usually has a hard time coming in hot water—he never masturbates in the shower, for instance—but he lets his imagination go, and his imagination goes back to the memory, the first time he had touched Justina, while he was still Justin, his hand warmed by blood, bodies pressed together, the absolute fear and excitement of death enveloping him, a memory so powerful he had pretended it didn’t exist, and with the warm water falling off his short, five-foot-seven frame, splashing to the top of the long black hair at his knees, he lets the memory wash over him, maybe even washing it away however briefly, and he comes.

Swallowing, Justina looks up.

“I know what you were thinking about,” she says. “I was thinking it too.”

They both start to cry.

In the epilogue, we are told Peoria and Salvador eventually get married; Peoria is chained to the war, he cannot let it go, does not want to let it go. Before that, there is the possibility that Peoria will publish Salvador’s story – the war, the gender reassignment, everything – because he’s a reporter and this is what he does. “Justina will be happy to help me tell this story,” he tells himself, but she isn’t. “You can’t do this. You can’t write about me. I’m not ready, I’m not ready for it,” she says. “I’m a fucking story to you,” she says. “I’m a fucking story.” He briefly falls apart, but they are reconciled by the morning. The book ends with Hastings taking Peoria’s notes, and doing the story instead. “I know by taking Peoria’s story, I’m putting the last nail in the coffin of his career, and I know that I’m also jeopardizing the privacy and future of Justina,” he says. But but but, and this is one of the last lines before the epilogue: “But I don’t agonize over it.” If the longing for sex in this book can be seen as a lightly guised account of the longing for war, then this betrayal by Hastings of Justina, and her near betrayal by Peoria, can be seen as Hastings reckoning with something else very real to him, something of the past almost entirely forgotten, something disgusting and outrageous, something to do with Gawker‘s “A Guide to IDing the Real People Disguised in Michael Hastings’ Novel” [archive link], the one identification they get very wrong and the one that’s prominently missing.


From “Hack: Confessions of a Presidential Campaign Reporter” by Michael Hastings:

In the weeks after New Hampshire, I went down to Florida to watch Giuliani lose for good. I received a press release saying academy award–winning actor jon voight endorses mayor giuliani, which seemed as good a death knell as any. Voight joined the mayor on the campaign trail. Most of Rudy’s senior staff were hiding from the press, so Voight filled the void with an impromptu press conference. He explained how being cast in Midnight Cowboy was similar to Rudy’s decision-making ability on 9/11. It didn’t make sense then, either. After running out of campaign questions—and since nobody cared what Jon Voight thought—a reporter from The New York Observer asked him about his daughter, Angelina Jolie. This was an answer worth listening to. He couldn’t confirm the rumor that she was pregnant, but he did “wish her the best in life.” Then a Fox News embed posted a blog item featuring clips of a movie he did called Karate Dog.


“Before we get into it, your career owes a lot to a volcano in Iceland, doesn’t it?” radio host Leonard Lopate asked Hastings about the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, which resulted in flight delays that allowed Hastings to spend more conversation time with McChrystal and his aides. “My career owes to a lot of things,” answered Hastings, “that have put me in the wrong place at the right time, or the right place at the wrong time.”21 And one instance of being in the wrong place at the wrong time which may have led to all his later work, which made this ambitious, driven reporter even more driven, was the killing of his fiancé, Andrea Parhamovich, on January 19, 2007. Parhamovich had followed Hastings to Iraq, where she worked for the National Democratic Institute while Hastings was a correspondent for Newsweek. Hastings would make clear the importance of this for everything he did later in an interview with Scott Horton22.

So, now onto our next guest. It’s Michael Hastings. He is a reporter who’s got a new article in GQ magazine, you can find it in men dot style dot com…it’s called “Obama’s War”. Welcome to the show, Michael. How are you?

Great. Thanks for having me.

Well, you’re very welcome. I’m really glad you’re here. I’m sorry, I did not take sufficient notes…I know that you wrote a book about, I Lost My Heart in Baghdad or something, tell us about that.

Yeah, I wrote a book, I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story. It came out last year. It was about my girlfriend and fiancé, Andi Parhamovich, who worked for the National Democratic Institute, and she had joined me while I was the Newsweek correspondent in Baghdad. She was, unfortunately and obviously, tragically killed there…so, it was a way…so after that happened, you know, screw it all, I’m going to write (laughs) I’m going to write the truth about what the war’s really like, and what the actual cost is. So, that’s what that book was about.

And so that’s why you’re not at Newsweek any more?

Well, you know, I had a great time at Newsweek, you know, great place to sortof come up as a reporter, but one of the things I felt…I wanted to say, I needed a different sort of venue for that. So to speak.

Hastings, in all the appearances I’ve looked at and listned to, comes across as a congenial everyman, and despite being very knowledgable in the areas of politics and war, he never affects smugness or superiority – and yet there is a brief moment in that interview, a moment that recurs in several other places, that is always haunting, and that briefly makes him an alien figure, taking him out of the ordinary. It’s here in the interview, when he says “She was, unfortunately and obviously, tragically killed there…so, it was a way…so after that happened, you know, screw it all, I’m going to write”, and then he laughs, and it’s not like his other laughs, it’s like a laugh at a sick joke nobody back in the world, back in a peaceful United States, back in a country that doesn’t even remember that it’s at war, would know. It’s a laugh without cruelty, a strange mix of being very much a sincere laugh by someone full of passion and energy, but one that stands out as so empty – like the laugh of a ghost or a dead man.

“Reckless and Inspired”, the interview with Jonathan Hastings by “Paleo Retiree”, underlines, if necessary, the impact:

PR: How did your family feel about her [Andi Parhamovich’s] decision to follow Mike to Iraq?

JH: We definitely had misgivings about her going to the mideast. The last time I saw her my parents and I had just had dinner with her. Mike was already back in Iraq, and she was waiting to hear back about whether or not she had gotten the job with NDI in Iraq. I told her, in all seriousness, that I hoped she didn’t get the job. I also talked to Mike about her going and said that I didn’t think it was a good idea. I don’t think HE thought it was a great idea either, but he said that ultimately the decision was up to her — which was true.

PR: How did her death affect him?

JH: He was a real wreck. My parents — my father especially — got him through the first part of all of it.

Hastings would write of the moment before he hears of her death in Lost My Love, as something like the micro inch of time before one is sealed behind a prison door, or before the darkness breaks and the sunlight illuminates the stark and unending landscape of the savage and merciless desert:

There is no pause, but I will pause here. There is this moment before I know, before I have this piece of information. A moment before when life was normal, when life was good, when I was in Baghdad with Andi and my career was skyrocketing and I was writing stories about the war, when we were planning trips to Paris, to Budapest, to Istanbul, when I looked at a diamond ring in Dubai, when I got an American Express Platinum Card because it gave me a free complimentary business or first class ticket so she could join me on my travels. The life before I have this piece of information, before the three missed calls and the three new voice mails and the two cryptic emails, this life, my life, our life. There is the moment when the information has not been delivered. The moment before 7:58P.M., Baghdad time. This moment before I know, but not before I understand because there is no understanding moments like this, the moment before the future no longer matters, before the future is nothing but a wish for the past.

The second half of the Last Magazine devoted to “Michael Hastings” is about his attempts to be published somewhere, anywhere, while he interns at Newsweek – I mean, The Magazine – and so he starts posting to Wretched.com under the pseudonym K. Eric Walters, and this is entirely based on real life. Wretched is actually Gawker (“HA. Subtle.”, Jessica Coen, the site’s then editor would write23), which is edited by “Sarah” (Magazine intro: “She’s cute, and I recognize her face because her picture is always up at Wretched.com”), who is actually Coen. “I remember taking him to random media parties (Molly Jong Fast’s book party at her mother’s condo comes to mind),” and this very item, published as “Team Party Crash: Molly Jong-Fast’s Book Party” [archive link] by “lock” (Lockhart Steele), is there in the book:

The book party is for a daughter of a famous writer who wrote a women’s liberation classic back in the ’70s. The daughter’s memoir is one of those tell-alls about what it was like growing up around all these other famous writers. About all the fucked-up shit she saw at a young age, about the different men who passed through her mother’s life, and how that led, inevitably, to promiscuity, drug addiction, expulsion from high-priced schools, and, finally, a career in writing, the shadow of her mother looming over her.

The shadow has its advantages, like the fact that her mom is a famous writer with a really nice corner apartment on 81st and Park, a perfect place to host a book party.

Afterwards, Hastings is brought in to guest edit, and he uses the same pseudonym, K. Eric Walters (Magazine: “the name of a little-known and short-lived Irish revolutionary who had accidentally punched out a Brit in a drunken brawl, sparking a rebellion that Michael Collins would later take credit for”), that Hastings had when he edited Gawker for a week, from the first post, “Guest Editor: A Brief Introduction” [archive link] (5/16/05) to the last, “Guest Editor: Acknowledgments, Feedback Still Welcome” [archive link] (5/20/05). The workload is grueling, ten posts a day. “Ten posts a day. Where to find them?” There’s a press release on Steven King’s son publishing a collection of short stories. “Think he deserves this on merit?” asks the tipster. Answer: No. “I copy a chunk of the press release then write a few lines about how Stephen King’s son got a book deal because he was Stephen King’s son. Scathing.” Again, from life. “Owen King: In Praise of Nepotism Redux” [archive link] by “kewalters”: “We don’t envy writers who have to scribble away in the shadows of their superstar parents. (See: Amis, Martin; Bellow, Adam.) Actually, we’re lying. They get book deals! We’re so sick with envy we can’t even finish our own ‘works in progress.'” It was through this job that he met Andi Parhamovich.

“How did Mike meet Andi?” asks “Paleo Retiree”. Jonathan Hastings: “I’m pretty sure Mike met Andi when she was working at Air America and he was trying to get on the radio more.” From one epitaph, “Activist slain in Iraq `was an idealist'” by Louise Roug: “Parhamovich met Hastings when he came to interview Jerry Springer, who was on an Air America show in New York.” This interview is in “A Moment With Jerry Springer For Air America” [archive link], a post made two weeks after his guest editing stint24: “So we sent Gawker rentboy K. Eric Walters to brave the salsa at Rosa Mexicano on the Upper West Side”. Interview high point: “Springer: That’s where Democrats are getting it wrong. They’re talking about a strategy to win an election without first understanding that we have to offer a combination that reflects the culture. Hastings: And since your show has been called the lowest point in American culture, you think you can help the Democrats understand?”, though the overall high point is the disclaimer: “K. Eric Walters has never watched a full episode of the Jerry Springer Show, nor listened to any program on Air America. His political biases include NASCAR, Neo-Stalinism, and the Church of Scientology. In fact, he was totally unqualified to conduct this interview.” From “Activist slain”: “”It was the most boring Jerry Springer interview in history,” Hastings recalled. But an e-mail exchange about the story led to that first date — diner milkshakes.”

Hastings would describe their first meeting and the interview, perhaps purposely dull because of his growing disenchantment with an unnamed gossip site’s pointless venom, in Lost My Love:

Despite the training course, I still didn’t know if the magazine [Newsweek] was serious about sending me to Iraq. So I was doing some freelance work to get other kinds of reporting experience, writing under a pseudonym for a website that traffics in New York gossip. My freelance assignment on June 1 was to interview Jerry Springer. The editor had called me in the afternoon to see if I’d like to go to a party hosted by Air America Radio for the launch of Springer’s new radio show. I didn’t really want to go, but I said I would. I took the F train up to 57th Street and walked to Rosa Mexicano, the restaurant where the event was being held. Andi was one of Air America’s two publicists, and she was in charge of hosting and organizing the event. She and her colleagues had flirted with the idea of disinviting me—they didn’t know if it was a good idea for the gossip website to cover the launch after all—but decided that protesting had the potential to make the situation worse.

After the interview, I spoke with Andi for about fifteen more minutes. Her coworkers watched in horror as she talked to “the gossip guy.” I made sure to mention that I was really a Newsweek guy, and that this gossip thing was just for fun. “Real news only,” I told her. “Most of the time, at least.”

“That’s quite a notebook you’re carrying,” she said.

It was a classic reporter’s notebook, spiral bound, sticking out of my back pocket.

“Do you think you’re covering World War II or something? I mean, it’s like you think you’re in the movie, Newsie. Did you leave your fedora at home?”

There was an edge to the flirting. I could tell she thought I was full of myself, and she wanted to take me down a peg.

I transcribed the Springer interview and sent in the piece. There wasn’t much to work with, and beyond that I was no longer in the mood for the casual pettiness the gossip site required. I’d been working with them for a few months, and I’d lost interest in writing about topics that I felt were essentially meaningless. The Springer interview was probably the most boring and harmless item the website ever published. Maybe it was intentional, maybe it was by accident, but her colleagues at Air America would say that it was a “Valentine to Andi.”

From “Activist slain”:

Sunni Muslim insurgents linked to Al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility Thursday for the attack that took the lives of the 28-year-old and three bodyguards — a Hungarian, a Croat and an Iraqi. Two other security workers were wounded. None of these other victims’ names had been released.

“She was an idealist,” Hastings said of Parhamovich, who grew up in Perry, Ohio. “She always believed that people were good. Certainly, those ideals were put to the test when she came to Iraq.”

Parhamovich, known as Andi, followed heart and ideals when she came to Baghdad. Hastings, a reporter with Newsweek, was working in Iraq. But Parhamovich was also drawn to political work in Baghdad, teaching Iraqis about voting and how to establish a functional government.

She worked first for the International Republican Institute, joining the National Democratic Institute a few months later.

On Wednesday, Parhamovich had gone to meet a group of Sunni politicians from the Iraqi Islamic Party. “She was really excited about the meeting,” Hastings said.

After Parhamovich conducted her training seminar for the Sunni politicians, she left in a convoy with her armed guards. Moments later, the convoy was ambushed. The guards fought back but were outgunned by the attackers, whose arsenal included grenades.

“With God’s assistance, we have succeeded in the destruction of two SUV vehicles belonging to the Zionist Mossad, killing all who were in them, attacking them by light and medium weapons,” wrote the group that took responsibility, in a statement on a well-known Sunni insurgent website.

The group often refers to its targets as members of Israel’s intelligence service.

But in fact, Hastings said, “they killed a wonderful, unarmed girl.”

Shortly after this incident, Hastings would write a book about Parhamovich, her death, and their time in Iraq. Scott Horton: “I know that you wrote a book about, I Lost My Heart in Baghdad or something, tell us about that.” Hastings: “Yeah, I wrote a book, I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story. It came out last year. It was about my girlfriend and fiance, Andi Parhamovich, who worked for the National Democratic Institute, and she had joined me while I was the Newsweek correspondent in Baghdad.” Three weeks after her death, Hastings had sent the book’s proposal to agent Andrew Wylie, and there has been some questioning of his Hastings’ motives in coming up with a book so quickly, but I can think of one reason why he did so: Hastings wrote to survive that moment.

In “A Guide to IDing the Real People Disguised in Michael Hastings’ Novel” [archive link], Gawker identifies a character named Brennan Toddly, a journalist who writes for a prestige magazine like The New Yorker, someone who meets with Iraqi dissident Kanan Makiya, someone who’s an advocate for the war, and Gawker names, wrongly, Jeffrey Goldberg. It was left to Tom Gallagher in his review in the L.A. Review of Books, “Michael Hastings Skewers Them From the Grave (with a Scoop of Gawker)”, to do excellent work making the case that this writer is actually George Packer. He notes that Toddly’s books – A Peaceful Village (1989 memoir about the Peace Corps), The Typewriter Artist (1996 novel), Awash in Red (1999 memoir of self-discovery on whether to stay a socialist) – line up almost exactly with Packer’s: The Village of Waiting (1988 memoir about the Peace Corps), Central Square (1996 novel), Blood of the Liberals (2000 memoir about deciding to leave the Democratic Socialist Party of America). One other similarity that Gallagher leaves out is Packer’s pre-war 2003 “Dreaming Of Democracy”, which features a meeting with Maikya whose elements are slightly re-written for Magazine, but whose source remains obvious.

This is an excerpt from one of Toddly’s articles in The Magazine:

After the panel discussion, I made my way backstage, where I encountered Kanan Makiya. I introduced myself to Makiya. He invited me to his home for tea. We walked across the campus yard, where a new class of coeds had just arrived, playing Frisbee and hacky sack. Easy, carefree thoughts. The opposite of what Makiya was thinking. “This is what Iraq was like when I was a child, before I had to leave,” he told me. “You Americans are finally paying attention. You must finally take action.” Three hours later, I had left his office, a bladder full of sweet chai, convinced. But the arguments with myself would continue.

This is “Dreaming”:

Last summer, the State Department convened a number of Iraqi exiles to advise the United States government on the problems that Iraq would face after the fall of Saddam Hussein. It was called, rather grandly, the Future of Iraq Project. Among the topics was democracy, and among the Iraqis invited to join was a dissident named Kanan Makiya.

“It’s the architect in me,” he says, nursing a cold over Japanese tea in Cambridge, Mass., where he lives. Makiya is a balding and somewhat disheveled Brandeis University professor of Middle East studies with a soft, intense manner. His office in a Cambridge apartment is lined with leatherbound books on Islamic history and literature. When his cellphone rings, he apologizes for having temporarily acquired one — “a disaster for a writer.” The immediate world of waitresses and crosswalks constantly surprises Makiya out of his thoughts, which these days are elsewhere. This unlikely revolutionary is taking the huge gamble that by riding on the back of an American war, he can hold the Americans to their own talk and help direct the outcome.

There is no single sentence substitute for “But the arguments with myself would continue”, but there is this paragraph later on:

The unease among Americans, even those who support the president, about the war and its aftermath is certainly due to fear of unknown consequences. It might also come from the sense that we’re trying to have it both ways — guns and butter, war without sacrifice, intervention without commitment. If Iraq succeeds in becoming a democracy under American protection, it will represent the triumph of hope over experience for both countries. It’s a notion that I always found easier to imagine when I was within earshot of Kanan Makiya.

“Frankly, I was tickled to see George pilloried in this book — even though it appears that few have realized he was part of its inspiration,” is one sentence filled with Gallagher’s glee over his ideological opponent being made a target. Though he does excellent deductive work, Gallagher does not seem to know why Hastings has picked out this particular war advocate, that the choice was not arbitrary, and Hastings’ animus is not due entirely to Packer’s position on the war. It was Packer who reviewed I Lost My Love in Baghdad for the New York Times, “What She Did for Love”. It is not an uncharitable or unnecessarily cruel review. There are two stories in this book, writes Packer, and “[o]ne senses that the war story, conveying an experience that consumed Michael Hastings during a crucial period in his mid-20s, is the book he really wanted to write. It is better written, more vividly rendered, more intensely felt”. And there is the second storyline: “The love story is told with greater insistence and less conviction, without memorable passages or surprising recognitions. It accounts for the embarrassing title and the whiff of exploitation that hangs over “I Lost My Love in Baghdad.”” Packer compliments Hastings’ succinct descriptive skill, as a journalist who “learned his trade and kept his eyes open amid the grotesque history being made around him”, and picks out this description of Saddam Hussein in a courtroom, after the nimbus of power was gone: “He had the look of a depressed businessman, a former C.E.O. in a corporate fraud case.” When it comes to the second plot, this writer’s power fails: “Why is Hastings unable to summon anything like this facility when describing Andi Parhamovich, the young woman whose death prompted him to write this book?”

There are many sections in the review that might have roused Hastings’ anger, none more than the last:

Hastings comes close to blaming the N.D.I. [National Democratic Institute, the NGO which Parhamovich worked for] for Andi’s death. It seems senseless to him, inevitably — not just because of his anger and grief, but because he has little to say about the substance of her work there and her attitude toward it. Beneath the literary shortcomings in the love story there is a deeper flaw. Hastings didn’t take the time to struggle with the issues that writing this book should have forced him to face: the nature of Andi’s motives and his own, the conflict between work and love, between ambition and a normal life, and his sense of the degree, however small, of his own responsibility. That effort would have made a better — though more painful — whole of the book’s two halves.

Hastings would release his venom toward Packer in two places besides The Last Magazine. Packer would review Mark Danner’s Stripping Bare the Body: Politics Violence War in the Times in 2009, “Heart of the Matter”. This would provoke a lengthy letter from Danner, “‘Stripping Bare the Body’: Letters”, where Danner took exception to Packer not making his early support for the war explicit and clear in the review: “Whatever this may say about eccentric attitudes toward journalistic fairness or personal integrity, it certainly shows contempt for Times readers, who might have found themselves puzzled by the oddly personal and defensive tone of the review and many of its gratuitously nasty and distinctly strange observations”. Hastings would send in his own letter during the controversy to Editor & Publisher, “UPDATED: Packer Responds to Hastings Letter on ‘NYT’ Book Review”:

I saw your story [“UPDATED: Danner Challenges ‘NYT’ Choice of Book Reviewer in Lengthy Letter — Packer Responds”] on the Mark Danner versus George Packer controversy. This isn’t the first time George Packer has reviewed an Iraq book in the New York Times that should have raised conflict of interest questions. In April 2008, he gave a fairly negative review of my book, “I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story.” My book was also very critical of the war in Iraq, a war that Packer supported. He did not disclose his support for the war in that review.

The more egregious conflict of interest, though, was his close relationship with the National Demoractic Institute, an NGO that I was highly critical of. (Andi Parhamovich, the women I was set to marry, was working for NDI when she was killed, in a large part due to NDI’s failure to provide proper security.) Packer had even met with the president of NDI, Kenneth Wollack in the spring of 2007; in the meeting, her death was discussed. A year later, the negative review in the Times came out, defending NDI, and parroting NDI’s talking points against the book. (NDI refused to cooperate with the writing of the book, and it was only under great pressure that they even shared details of what happened with Andi’s family, almost nine months later, another fact Packer failed to mention.)

At the time, I decided to take my lumps–bad reviews are part of the deal, and the majority of reviews the book got were favorable. However, I actually happen to have just read Mark Danner’s “Stripping Bare the Body.” It is an excellent work, and for Packer to have reviewed it seems quite unfair. Obviously, I’m not a neutral observer, but there does appear to be a pattern. (For the record, I have great admiration for Danner’s reportage, and I think Packer is a talented journalist, though I’ve never met either of them.)

What seems to bug Packer about Danner’s book is similar to what bugged him about mine: the books focus on the what Packer calls the “creepy” details of the consequences of war, details which clearly make him uncomfortable. That is, what war actually does to human beings, and how human beings actually behave. After having been one of the many thoughtful cheerleaders for the war in Iraq, Packer has never been able to come to terms with the human cost of the bad ideas he promoted. I fear he suffers from the anxiety of getting it wrong — it’s certainly a blow to the ego for a self-styled foreign policy writer to have whiffed on the most critical foreign policy question of this generation. So it’s easier to attack others who got it right, to criticize a writer like Danner who saw the folly of the Iraq excursion before the fact, not after.

Michael Hastings
(the writer is currently in Baghdad)

Packer would respond:

You’re right: my review of “Stripping Bare the Body” didn’t say “history proved Danner’s position on the war right.” That was a loose (maybe too loose) paraphrase of what I did say: “[His] point of view has served Danner well in his far-reaching criticisms of the foreign policy of George W. Bush, especially on Iraq.” The meaning is similar.

I conveyed to the Times in advance that Danner and I knew each other but had no history of friendship or enmity.

The length of Danner’s letter (1400 words, about the length of my original review) and my reply (300 words) might say something about prolixity but not about wrongdoing. I answered Danner’s charges as succinctly as I could, in the belief that readers shouldn’t be subjected to drawn-out quarrels between authors and reviewers.

In my review of Hastings’ “I Lost My Love in Baghdad” (New York Times Book Review, April 20, 2008) [hyperlink added], I wrote that I had met members of the National Democratic Institute on several trips to Iraq. In other words, they were sources of mine, and I was capable of coming to my own conclusions about NDI’s responsibility for Andi Parhamovich’s death (mixed: “a terrible mistake, but not an incomprehensible one”). By Hastings’ standards, it would be unethical for a reporter with sources in the Bush administration to review a book that criticizes the Bush administration. These are the provisional standards of an author who didn’t like the review he got. I gave his book a not-so-good review because it was a not-so-good book–in fact, a bad book, and undeserving of mention alongside Danner’s.

George Packer

Although it goes unmentioned specifically in Hastings’ letter, I would think the sentence that would upset him the most was one of the last in Packer’s review: “Hastings didn’t take the time to struggle with the issues that writing this book should have forced him to face: the nature of Andi’s motives and his own, the conflict between work and love, between ambition and a normal life, and his sense of the degree, however small, of his own responsibility.” Why, Hastings, might ask, is he being charged with confronting responsibility for Parhamovich’s death by someone who advocated in favor of the war? Hastings would underlie this issue on his own blog post devoted to the Danner-Packer argument, “Mark Danner versus George Packer, and the nature of a bad review”: “Packer, a vocal supporter of the war in Iraq, seems to like to trash books that are quite critical of the war in Iraq. And in doing so, he always fails to mention that he was a vocal supporter of war in Iraq.” Even the small parenthetical, “For the record, I have great admiration for Danner’s reportage, and I think Packer is a talented journalist, though I’ve never met either of them,” contains hidden poison. It understates the admiration that Hastings once had for Packer as a journalist, and is something like the dog that doesn’t bark: Hastings had never met Packer, but Andi Parhamovich had. From I Lost My Love in Baghdad:

After two weeks readjusting to Baghdad and her new job, she is making friends. She tells me about a girl named Anne; another blond from the Midwest, also dating a reporter, who shares Andi’s interests in spirituality. Magic stones and whatnot. I smile when I hear this. She is excited because she ran into a reporter from The New Yorker, George Packer, in the lobby of her hotel compound. She says she wished I could have been there, because she knows how much I like his work.

So, this is the misidentification that Gawker makes, and that was caught by Gallagher. There is a missing identification, however, of a very minor character, who is nonetheless given a relatively lengthy descrption in The Last Magazine. His appearance will puzzle most readers, and certainly he puzzled me. Why give so much space to a man who simply appears briefly and then disappears? Gawker most certainly would have been able to make the ID, as he was a prominent and highly placed employee, but they make no such naming. The character appears at a party held at a club called The Dark Room, and we might contrast this figure with the far briefer overview of these other cameos, almost all of whom are limited in appearance to only their names in this paragraph, all of whom are based on actual people:

There is Allan Tool, who holds some kind of deputy managing editor title for Wretched; Franklin Liu, who blogs on Mediabistro; the other Sarah, Sarah Klein, who does Gothamist; some guy named Arnie Cohen, most notorious for his ability to get mentioned on everyone else’s blogs without actually doing anything of note, except hitting on Sarah Klein in the back of a taxicab and then blogging about his rejection; Jennifer Cunningham, who would later have a “crisis of conscience” and leave Wretched to focus more clearly on herself; and on and on, names with a “blogspot” and a “dot com” attached, names that I’ve heard of before by reading one referring to the other. The closest thing to someone from a traditional media outlet, besides myself, is a kid with short dark hair and beady eyes and a skinny tie who works for the New York Herald named Jonathan Lodello—he is here, Sarah whispers, to do a story on the new new media scene, a story that will surely then be linked to on all the blogs of everyone sitting around the table, generating traffic and page views that can help with the advertisers and buzz.

Allan Tool is Lockhart Steele, the managing editor of Gawker Media in 2005; Franklin Liu I have a very good guess for, but since the character does cocaine and people remain uptight about that habit, I’ll keep it to myself; Arnie Cohen is, I think Joshua David Stein, who would go on to write “The Dangers of Blogger Love”, which, disappointingly, is not about a herpes outbreak in the wordpress community; the self-absorbed Jennifer Cunningham can only be Emily Gould, infamous for her self-absorbtion25, and I’ll take a guess later as to why Hastings puts crisis of conscience in such poisonous quotes; Jonathan Lodello is…who knows? Maybe Ben McGrath, who would write probably the best profile of Gawker founder Nick Denton, the New Yorker‘s “Search and Destroy” and whose piece about an artists’ collective which designed habitats for writers, “Writers at Work”, was linked by K. Eric Walters in “The New Yorker Unlocks Secret to Blogging” [archive link]: “The New Yorker‘s always enterprising Ben McGrath made the harrowing, God-awful trek to Queens last week to visit Flux Factory, an alleged artist’s collective.” Maybe Andrew Ross Sorkin, who profiled Denton in 2003 for the Times, “Building a Web Media Empire on a Daily Dose of Fresh Links”. However, a blogger party at some horribly fashionable bar with a journalist looking on, if not partly taken from Hastings’ own experience, is very much from “Everybody Sucks: Gawker and the rage of the creative underclass” by Vanessa Grigoriadis.

Sarah Klein is just about the only character in the paragraph who stays a while on the stage, with her and “Michael Hastings” hooking up that night. Jessica Coen, on Gawker’s “A Guide to IDing the Real People Disguised in Michael Hastings’ Novel” [archive link]: “I am pretty sure he briefly dated Rachel Sklar. Relevant, I know.” “Michael Hastings’ Dangerous Mind: Journalistic Star Was Loved, Feared and Haunted” [archive link: https://web.archive.org/web/20180202142341/http://www.laweekly.com/news/michael-hastings-dangerous-mind-journalistic-star-was-loved-feared-and-haunted-2614816 ] by Gene Maddaus: “Writer Rachel Sklar met him, and dated him for a few months, when he was living in New York and working for Newsweek.” Sklar in 2005 wasn’t at Gothamist, but MediaBistro’s FishbowlNY (she was, however, profiled on Gothamist: “Rachel Sklar, co-editor and writer of FishbowlNY”, an interview with Rachel Kramer Bussel), would go on to run the Eat the Press blog at the Huffington Post (including the insightful piece on Gawker, “Wow, Everybody Really DOES Suck: Drowning In The Bile Of Gawker, Page Six, and New York”), and now works at The Li.st, a tech start-up. That Sarah Klein is “the other Sarah” might be a joke on the fact that Jessica Coen and Rachel Sklar bear a passing resemblance to each other. Both literati voyeurs and those doubtful that the sex in the book is anything other than an expression of Hastings’ pervy impulses might wish to note that the moment between Sarah going to his apartment after the party and her leaving the next morning is left chastely to the readers’ imagination.

There is one character, the one already referenced several times, who is set aside from this paragraph, and who is given a considerable amount of space, seemingly for no purpose, leaving the reader to wonder: why? Here is the full excerpt in which he appears. I bold the most important lines:

I sit down next to another kid.

“Kelly,” he says.

“Mike,” I say. “Kelly, as in Kelly Treemont?”

“That’s me.”

“I’ve read your blog. I thought you were a woman. The name.”

“I get that. You don’t do the powder either?”

“Nah, I used to do that shit a lot but stopped.”

“Me too,” he says. “I’m very boring now. I live with cats. I’m in recovery.”

“Great. I work for a magazine.”

“Dead tree, oh no.”

“Yeah, the trees are pretty dead.”

“You know, to be honest, I take a little Adderall still,” he says. “It helps me in my writing. I’m working on a memoir. About my experiences with drugs and alcohol, and I don’t know if you know, but I’m gay, so it’s about my experiences with drugs and alcohol and being gay and everything.

“Sounds great,” I say.

“You know, I think it’s been out there, a little, but my experience, I think I have a really unique perspective.”

“How long have you been working on the book?”

“Three years. This blogging, you know. But I found an agent. She’s excited.”

“Very cool. Having fun?”

“I’m waiting for Timothy. He’s supposed to show.”

“Timothy Grove?”

“Of course. He doesn’t like these places—he prefers Balthazar, a place where he can pretend he’s Anna Wintour or Graydon Carter—I think coming here reminds him too much that he’s not really one of them, no matter how hard he tries. He’ll always be more Larry Flynt. But you should watch out. He’s a collector of straights.”

“Is that right?”

“Aren’t you the one they have guest blogging this week?”


“There are things you could do, you know, if you want to make it permanent.”


“Yes, things.”

“Good to know. Is that how, uh, I mean, has anyone else ever done those things?”

“Me, of course, but it was brief, and I thought I loved him, though he is such a fucking scumbag.”

“Yeah, sounds like it.”

“Oh, watch this, this should be good.”

The other Sarah, Sarah Klein, stands up from the table and grabs Jonathan Lodello’s hand.

“She has such huge tits,” Kelly says. “You know the backstory?”

“Uh, no.”

“Franklin broke up with her three days ago. She’s totally pissed about it, and she is totally convinced that Franklin is going to go and sleep with Sarah, and so she has to make him jealous by dancing with Lodello. If you want to get laid tonight, you should really talk to her, I’m mean, she is going to be ready to go away with someone cute like you.”

“Oh, thanks, right.”

“You have very nice eyes.”

“Yeah, I appreciate that. They work okay.”

Timothy Grove is a very, very obvious Nick Denton. Kelly Treemont: “He doesn’t like these places—he prefers Balthazar”. Nick Denton runs things from his apartment, according to “Everybody Sucks” by Grigoriadis, “which is around the corner from the Gawker offices and across the street from his unofficial office, Balthazar (hence his faux IM name on Gawker.com, DarkLordBalthazar).” Magazine gives this caricature a guise ridiculous in being so obvious in its inversion. Magazine: “In all the profiles I’d read about him, the writers mention his unusually tiny head on a skinny six-one frame.” From a 2005 New York Observer profile by Tom Scocca, who will be mentioned later and who would go on to be a Gawker editor: Denton’s face “is mounted on a gigantic head, a head worthy of Linus Van Pelt or Antoine Walker.” Kelly Treemont and Timothy Grove have been in a relationship together – “it was brief, and I thought I loved him” – and this is the detail that makes me certain that Hastings had read Harlot’s Ghost. Two major characters in the novel are a high level spy chief and his wife, a researcher-analyst, and we are given their full names on the day of their wedding: “Hadley Kittredge Gardiner [Garden-er] to Hugh Tremont [Tree-mont] Montague.”

One might compare how Hastings views this character, and the man who may be its inspiration, by looking closer at his George Packer, Brennan Toddly. Tom Gallagher might take overwhelming joy in seeing a one time advocate of the Iraq war skewered, but in this case, Hastings’ venom overtakes him, and I think he draws Packer very wrong. He re-makes Packer as a fussy intellectual, whose thoughts are full of inflated, exhibitionist portent. In Packer’s “Dreaming”, he writes of Maikya’s office to establish some sense of the man; in Hastings’ re-writing of the article, the campus details are there to ennoble and elevate above the ordinary folk, who are indifferent to great issues: “We walked across the campus yard, where a new class of coeds had just arrived, playing Frisbee and hacky sack. Easy, carefree thoughts. The opposite of what Makiya was thinking.” There is the final line, “Three hours later, I had left his office, a bladder full of sweet chai, convinced. But the arguments with myself would continue,” which makes Toddly the center of all things: Toddly is important, the arguments with himself are important, his bladder is important too. Again, we can contrast this with the last section of “Dreaming”, where the doubts are not Packer’s, but the entire country’s: “The unease among Americans, even those who support the president, about the war and its aftermath is certainly due to fear of unknown consequences. It might also come from the sense that we’re trying to have it both ways — guns and butter, war without sacrifice, intervention without commitment.” Packer represents himself as a member of that national body: “It’s a notion that I always found easier to imagine when I was within earshot of Kanan Makiya,” and the idea that Iraq could be re-made through American invasion and war was sold through the very equation he gives, “the triumph of hope over experience for both countries.”

I think of Hastings’ animus as rooted in that last paragraph of Packer’s review – that Hastings did not struggle “with the issues that writing this book should have forced him to face”, most specifically, “his sense of the degree, however small, of his own responsibility.” My responsibility, I imagine Hastings thinking. I was against this war from the outset and you were for it. Who are you to speak of my responsibility? Hastings re-builds Packer entirely out of this paragraph of occluding self-importance, and in doing so, makes a caricature that rings false. The question is not whether Hastings is fair or unfair for me, or whether Packer has sufficiently repented, and I make no attempt to involve myself in the fracas between Mark Danner and Packer; only whether we, as readers, think that’s him, and this reader does not. Hastings makes you think Brennan Toddly must be some academic who writes of everything at a great distance, and it’s this quality that made me certain that the ID of Jeffrey Goldberg, who worked for years as a crime reporter26, must be wrong, and that Hastings was aiming for someone more like Paul Berman or Michael Ignatieff. Packer’s book on the Iraq war, The Assassins’ Gate is a devastating history, and its power lies with the diligent, detailed, closely observed reporting, in D.C. and Iraq. The same is true for his recent account of inequality and dysfunctional American life, The Unwinding. The Assassins’ Gate may not have been a sufficient mea culpa for Hastings – perhaps nothing could be – but anyone familiar with the book will find Toddly a false, bad impersonation.

Hastings feels a passionate, live wire anger for Toddly and Packer, a man he feels worthy of hatred, someone with sufficient intelligence and influence to help bring about the war. Hastings may not acknowledge Packer’s skills in his caricature, but he does in his letter – “I think Packer is a talented journalist” – and part of his anger stems from this very fact, the ends to which he put his talents. Hastings’ anger erupts in the one scene where Toddly makes a live appearance, rather than a simulacrum, and the last time he’s referred to in the novel, and the only moment that Toddly and A.E. Peoria meet. It takes place at the Baghdad Hamra Hotel27, at a party after the invasion, when Peoria gets hold of a spray can28:

Holding the spray paint, he steps up to where the water laps against the filter, and he stares at the concrete, water from the pool gathering in small rivulets.

He thinks of two words


There is no “No Diving” sign, no warning!

Christine swimming, the crowd getting noisier, louder.

Peoria bends over, arm outstretched, the spray paint can good and shaken.

He starts spraying, in large, yellow, sloppy letters: NO DIVING.

The next few hours: black, image, black, black, image—a face.

The face of Brennan Toddly.

A conversation—no, an altercation.

“I think,” says Brennan Toddly, sitting next to Christine, Peoria sitting next to her poolside, “that what you did was disrespectful.”

“Christine jumping in?” Peoria says.

“No, you. Your spray-painting. That was a sign of disrespect.”

Peoria, yelling, now five months or seven months of what—of anger, of disillusionment, and thinking about the dead Americans and Chipotle without a dick and how cold he was that night in the desert and thinking of those slaughtered goats and donkeys and Iraqis he’d seen on the side of the road on the way into Baghdad, the piles of man shit in the terminals at the newly liberated international airport—is screaming: “Aren’t we a little late for that, Brennan, disrespect? You’re the motherfucker who said this was going to be a great idea, you’re the motherfucker who advocated bombing a city and occupying a country and killing all sorts of fucking people, and you think I’m the one who is being disrespectful? I read your shit, man!”

A salsa bowl spills, a table gets turned over, crashing drinks.

In his review, Gallagher chortles at this, “On behalf of at least a few of Packer’s former colleagues, I’d like to say, “A.E., I couldn’t have said it better.””, and in doing so, he misunderstands why Peoria is made to be so angry at this moment, and it’s for the same reason missing from his review as for why Hastings picks out George Packer, of all the war advocates, to caricature. Toddly has only two lines, and one of them is crucial: “I think that what you did was disrespectful.” Why does he say this? Because Peoria is spray painting “NO DIVING” near the pool. Why does he do this? Because a woman, a correspondent, has dived into the pool, not knowing how deep it is, not knowing how dangerous it is. “Peoria, with his years of being trained in the art of American safety…realizes it is very dangerous, the pool.” And so, Peoria writes a massive warning for others. Again, what does Toddly say right afterwards? “I think that what you did was disrespectful.” Packer doesn’t accuse Hastings of this exactly in his review, but I think he says something of equal meaning: “The love story…accounts for the embarrassing title and the whiff of exploitation that hangs over “I Lost My Love in Baghdad.”” Peoria yells back: “Aren’t we a little late for that, Brennan, disrespect?”, and here we see why, once again, it’s a mistake to think of Peoria as Adam Piore. This is Hastings yelling at Packer, and this scene about graffiti and a pool isn’t about those things at all, but about Hastings’ writing an account of the death of Andi Parhamovich, to give a sense to others of how dangerously wrong things had gotten in Iraq, and Packer alleging that it exploited the dead.

Hastings says something close to this in I Lost My Love in Baghdad, where he writes of his efforts to get as much public exposure of Parhamovich’s death as possible, so there will be some sense of the person who was killed there, and under what circumstances: a woeful lack of preparation for the stunning level of violence and turmoil, a de facto civil war, in Iraq. Without difficulty, one can see Lost as part of the same intent.

Andi’s body is still missing, as Thursday night comes to a close. Her name has been released to the press. Her photograph is released, too. I want to talk to the press about it. I don’t want Andi to be a one-day story. I don’t want her to be just a headline on the wires. I call a friend at the Los Angeles Times. I tell her why I loved Andi; I try to explain who Andi was, what she believed in. It is the first of ten interviews I do on her death. The headline in the L.A. Times on Friday reads: “American Woman Follows Heart, Ideals, to Baghdad.” [the article that run on their website as “Activist slain in Iraq `was an idealist'”] The New York Times also calls; it is their guy from Cleveland [Parhamovich was from Ohio].

The Associated Press, Knight Ridder…I repeat myself. I want her story to be front-page news everywhere. I want people to know what kind of woman has been killed in this war. My editor asks me to send my thoughts about Andi for the “Editor’s Note,” the page at the front of the magazine. I write them down in between interviews. I say that if there was such a thing as love at first sight, this was it. I say that she hated the suffering she saw in Iraq, that she wanted to fix the mistake her country had made. I say she was the best and brightest of her generation. I say she was the best face America could offer to the world.

Again, I make this detour to contrast the intensity of feeling that Hastings has for Brennan Toddly, and what he has for Kelly Treemont. There is the passionate anger that Hastings has for Packer and Toddly, and there is the low volume disdain he has for Kelly Treemont. Almost every detail of Treemont’s character renders him a pathetic figure. He loves Timothy Grove, but he is only badly used in return. “I’m working on a memoir. About my experiences with drugs and alcohol, and I don’t know if you know, but I’m gay, so it’s about my experiences with drugs and alcohol and being gay and everything,” says Treemont, as if such a book by a New York City writer would stand out in any way now, but Treemont thinks it will, thanks to something that’s intended to convey a sense of self-delusion: “I think I have a really unique perspective.” Hastings wrote quickly and wrote a lot, four books including The Last Magazine, and there’s an exchange here to prick writerly self-indulgence. “Michael Hastings”: “How long have you been working on the book?” Kelly Treemont: “Three years.” Treemont has only gotten his position at Wretched by sleeping with Grove, he tells Hastings that he has a chance with Sarah in the sleaziest way possible, he is attracted to Hastings but Hastings wants nothing to do with him. Hastings, the writer, has contempt for this man, but he also feels sorry for him; there is nothing of the deep, lasting anger that he has for Toddly.

The reader is given a few clues as to who this might be. “Kelly, as in Kelly Treemont?” “That’s me.” “I thought you were a woman. The name.” Also this: “I’m very boring now. I live with cats.” “How long have you been working on the book?” “Three years.” I think these small details lead you to one person, involved in one incident which again dealt with Andi Parhamovich and I Lost My Love in Baghdad, and which would have affected me deeply as well. It’s an incident that has been almost entirely forgotten, and I would never have known about it, were it not for its mention in David Weigel’s obituary for Hastings, “”I’m Asking You a Question. That’s My Job.” Michael Hastings, R.I.P.”:

Hastings was a cynic blessed with talent and purpose, and he was a survivor. When he was 25, he moved to Baghdad. His girlfriend followed him there, and died there. He wrote a memoir about his heartbreak and it was leaked to snotty New York literati, who mocked it on the Internet [archive.today link]. The controversy (Hastings would tell people later, with a remarkable lack of bitterness) opened the gate to legal purgatory.

That link, “was leaked to snotty New York literati, who mocked it on the Internet,” goes to a story, “(Not an) April Fools Book Proposal: ‘I Lost My Love in Baghdad'” (link at archive.today) by Jonathan Liu (stories at Gawker credited to “jliu”), which, as Weigel says, was a vicious mocking by the writer and Gawker‘s commenters. Liu was one of the weekend Gawker writers, along with his fellow Harvard grad Leon Neyfakh (stories at Gawker credited to “lneyfakh”)29, and this post was made at noon Saturday. They had obtained the manuscript through the New York Observer, and when literary agent Andrew Wylie asked the Observer to take down the manuscript and for Gawker to stop linking to the material, Gawker mocked the request the following Monday with “The Michael Hastings Memoir: Book Proposals Kill” (link at archive.today), a post written by the site’s then editor, Choire Sicha. For the longest time, I thought this writer was a woman because of the first name, and for the longest time I mispronounced it as SCHWOIR, when it’s got a much simpler sound: Co-ry. Kelly. Cory30.

“I’m very boring now. I live with cats,” says Kelly Treemont, and Sicha mentions his cats quite often. Sample: “Q: How many cats do you have? Do you ever let them drive? etc. Sicha: “I only have two cats…One of them is a fucking ENORMOUS cool black-and-white frat boy. The other is this tiny neurotic gray lady. THEY ARE IN LOVE.””31 Sicha was working on a novel, or non-fiction or memoir presented as a novel, or whatever, for what seems like the longest time, with the book announced in 2009, “It’s going to be about being young in recession-era New York, and it will be published…when he finishes his reporting about a year from now” (from “Choire Sicha, An Ancestor of Ephemeral Gawker, Writes a Book” by former Gawker weekend writer Leon Neyfakh), and Sicha’s Very Recent History finally coming out in 2013.

Though it was published several months after Hastings’ death, it was a novel that felt like it had been conceived entirely so that Sicha could say to the man: yes, you got me entirely. Though Sicha emphasized the reporting he did for the book, it appeared to follow a protagonist who worked for the New York Observer till it was taken over by Jared Kushner, just as Sicha did, who suffered tax problems, as Sicha did, and which very much feels like a not badly written, but very undistinct autobiographical tale of a gay man in New York City in 2009. The unremarkable story is burdened by a unique perspective where mundane aspects of political and economic life are explained in the most tedious, abstract, and unnecessary detail, a kind of “explain our present world to the ten year olds of the distant future.” One example, part of a multi-paragraph explanation on currency:

Those who had very much money, who retained these markers of value, even if the value was very abstracted, could avail themselves of other people’s money. They used their money as an insurance of the borrowed monies’ return. This sort of money might not even be in paper form but might instead just be distributed through banks, whose job it was to hold money, and therefore the “actual” money might be put to thousands of different purposes by those banks and only be registered as attached to the current “owner” of the money by means of records.

These explanations mean that you make it through the familiar points of a narrative about young social life with agonizing slowness, with the young social life itself not terribly interesting. This novel appears to be a preparatory exercise for what it’s like to live in a rather spartan home for the elderly, to know what it’s like to eat milkless cereal after you’ve had a massive stroke. I’ll put in a link to a contrasting perspective from the New Yorker, “Choire Sicha, the Anti-Blogger” by Alice Gregory, which credits Sicha not only with a great novel but with changing the way we speak now, and which, to my mind, has the delusional quality of promotional brochures for real estate inside war zones.

However, I do not want to come off as uncomfortable about literary experimentation. Perhaps the best way, I think, to present Jonathan Liu’s “(Not an) April Fools Book Proposal: ‘I Lost My Love in Baghdad'”, whether it’s because I’m possessed by a desire to be overly clever, or perhaps something else, something darker, is by interweaving his work with the articles on the death of Parhamovich.

The Last Magazine by Michael Hastings

“(Not an) April Fools Book Proposal: ‘I Lost My Love in Baghdad'”: “April Fools’ Day? Tomorrow? No way! That’s it, we’re out for the weekend to plan some cyber-pranks to do on AOL.” “American Killed in Iraq Was Set to Marry” by Kim Gamel: “Andrea Parhamovich was fully in control of her impending engagement, detailing the ring she wanted as well as helping to plan the formal engagement trip [to] Paris, Valentine’s Day.” “April Fools”: “But we won’t leave you hanging without fin-de-semaine reading material.” “Killed in Iraq”: “Parhamovich was killed in an ambush in Baghdad, and the Newsweek reporter in Baghdad who planned to marry her said Friday she had e-mailed him just last week with specifications for the ring.” “April Fools”: “Thanks to the Observer, we’ve read the 131-page proposal for Newsweek reporter Michael Hastings’s upcoming I Lost My Love in Baghdad, which we’re told agent Andrew Wiley has sold to Random House Scribner for a cool north of a cool half-million.” “Killed in Iraq”: “”We were going to formalize everything,” said 26-year-old Michael Hastings, recalling that Parhamovich’s ring finger was a size 6.” “April Fools”: “Far as we can tell, ILMLIB — which begins with epigraphs from Iraq General George Casey, Prussian icon Carl von Clausewitz, and “Angel of the Morning, 1960’s pop song” (!!) — is some sort of experimental memoir about Green Zone romance leading up to the literal (that is, literal literal) January death of Hastings’s gf Andi Parhamovich.” “Activist slain in Iraq `was an idealist'” by Louise Roug: “Hastings hoped they would spend their lives together. But on Wednesday, Parhamovich died in a hail of bullets, ambushed outside a Sunni Arab political office in Baghdad. Sunni Muslim insurgents linked to Al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility Thursday for the attack that took the lives of the 28-year-old and three bodyguards — a Hungarian, a Croat and an Iraqi. Two other security workers were wounded. None of these other victims’ names had been released.” “April Fools”: “And, yes, it is called I LOST MY LOVE IN BAGHDAD. Needless to say, this portends the end of Western civilization as such; highlights from the 75,000-word manuscript after the jump.” “Activist Slain”: “”She was an idealist,” Hastings said of Parhamovich, who grew up in Perry, Ohio. “She always believed that people were good. Certainly, those ideals were put to the test when she came to Iraq.””

“Activist Slain”: “Parhamovich, known as Andi, followed heart and ideals when she came to Baghdad. Hastings, a reporter with Newsweek, was working in Iraq. But Parhamovich was also drawn to political work in Baghdad, teaching Iraqis about voting and how to establish a functional government.” “April Fools”: “Yikes. Before “The Day,” Hastings and Parhamovich were just your typical twentysomething Baghdad power-couple:”

The week before a major battle had taken place on Haifa Street, a five minute drive from the bureau but outside the Green Zone… I wanted to get to Haifa street, what was being called “an insurgent stronghold.” It took two days to process the request.

Andi had come over to the bureau Thursday afternoon. Everything was going well until I was about to leave her alone in the office. I got worried she would check my email on the screen of my computer.

“I have to close my email account, I don’t want you looking at my email.”

“What are you hiding,” she asked.

“Nothing,” I said,” but I know if you see the name of any girl you’ll get upset.”

She didn’t like this, and for about fifteen minutes I apologized, before we went to my bedroom.

This time, she forgave me quickly; she seemed to have gotten upset only because that was what was expected, the role we were so used to playing. I say something stupid, or do something stupid, she gets angry at me, I beg and apologize, tell her she is the love of my life, and we make up. We layed down for about an hour or so. We didn’t have sex.

“Activist Slain”: “After Parhamovich conducted her training seminar for the Sunni politicians, she left in a convoy with her armed guards. Moments later, the convoy was ambushed. The guards fought back but were outgunned by the attackers, whose arsenal included grenades.” “April Fools”: “So much smoldering emotion. Almost makes you forget about the massive human suffering taking place out on Haifa Street. There are also text messages involving pandas:”

The messages I sent her from my Iraqna gives me space for only 25 of them, and they don’t have a date.
Love you cub [jan 17.
Love jan 17
Hug panda [jan 17

Cub love you
Leaving now love
Love cub
Love you
Hi cub
I miss you
Love you cub
Love you baby
Almost over!
Love you
Oh cub
Love you
Love cub
Be careful love
Going home soon

“Activist Slain”: “After graduating from Marietta College in Ohio, Parhamovich worked in the Massachusetts governor’s office. In 2005, she got a job doing fundraising and publicity for Air America.” “April Fools”: “It’s hard to know what to think.” “Activist Slain”: “”She was beautiful,” [Hastings] said. “Funny. Intuitive. Really brilliant. And a bit of a nut.”” “April Fools”: “Personal tragedy bleeds into History; insurgents; lovers’ squabbles; suicide bombs; $500 K book deals.” “Activist Slain”: “Parhamovich thrived, hitting the ground running, Hastings and several of her friends say. “She wanted to be here, at the center of things, helping people,” Hastings said. “She was fearless.”” “April Fools”: “Yeah, someone get us a coping mechanism: things are pretty fucked up.” “Activist Slain”: “”She is pure at heart,” [Hastings] said, bringing her to life — momentarily — in the present tense.” “April Fools”: “April Fools! —Jon”

I have many intellectual failings, and one of them is that I lack the aesthetic genius of Jonathan Liu. One of the last passages of this book, which perhaps provoked hearty laughter from Liu and whose failings my peon ears are deaf to, I find so very deeply haunting, part of a series of powerful chapters where Hastings describes in simple unsentimental detail accompanying the passage of Parhamovich’s body back to the United States in a series of military planes, the grandeur of the ceremony and the colossal engineering power of these steel plated birds as worthless as dust or stale air for bringing the dead back to life, a passage which concludes in apocalypse, death, mass death, and the revelation is that this death has no meaning, because the one most important to you in this world is already among the dead:

My eyes are shut tight and I can see Andi perfectly in the third row and I know exactly what it would look like if we began the spiral down, if this plane crashed, if the cargo bay burst open right now and shot its cargo out, tearing off the metal clasps, the force of the catastrophic failure jettisoning each silver casket, twirling and spinning, mad batons, temperature-controlled containers though probably not too aerodynamic, flags ripping away from them, not at all like parachutes but like magnificent streamers, the twenty-five caskets falling in a beautiful burst, a grand finale, until finally they hit the ocean’s surface one by one, an honorable splash, each making its own powerful ripple but one that will never make it to shore. The war is so far away now. Baghdad is now eight hours ahead, as I move back to the time zone of the United States, and half the passengers on this plane are still dead.

The follow-up piece, “The Michael Hastings Memoir: Book Proposals Kill” by Choire Sicha, had no sympathy whatsoever for Hastings:

On Friday at a little after 5 p.m., the New York Observer posted up a 131-page book proposal by Michael Hastings, a Newsweek Baghdad correspondent. The memoir is about his time overseas and the death of his fiance. The Observer post promptly disappeared. Besides the obvious copyright issues with making the whole shebang available, there was another reason mega-lit agent (and poet!) Andrew Wylie wanted the proposal disappeared from the internet: it was going to get people killed in Iraq.

While al Qaeda doesn’t obsessively monitor Gawker yet, despite the frequent aid we supply to terrorists by means of identifying ideal targets (Simon Hammerstein’s Box theater and Schiller’s Liquor Bar—plus all of Blue States Lose!), there is the question of why then it’d be acceptable for Wylie to distribute a book proposal that identifies targets in the first place.

The Last Magazine by Michael Hastings

The letter from law firm Covington & Burlington gave another reason for why the document should be taken down – there were details that Parhamovich’s family didn’t know about, including that Hastings was writing a book about their daughter:

In addition, please take notice that Mr. Hastings advises us that the Work contains information that relates to the security of personnel at the Baghdad bureau of Newsweek and identifies certain news sources by name. Obviously such material was never intended for public distribution [actually, sic: It’s a manuscript], and by publishing the Work in its website, the Observer is potentially endangering all of these persons. Continued posting of the Work on the Observer’s website only increases the chances that some harm may result.

Furthermore, Mr. Hastings advises us that private and information [sic] regarding the late Andrea Parhamovich, as yet not know [sic] to her own family, is reflected in the Work.

Choire Sicha thought this all was hilarious:

Okay, so, that’s just messed up. The military-industrial-entertainment complex that was so quick to encourage young Hastings to sell his diaries at a tasty price is in way over its head. They felt compelled to put this on the market so fast that no one even did any sort of clearance, including with the family of the woman the book is ostensibly about. Sick. Was there some reason this had to rush to market? Was there a competing, equally tragic memoir? Are purchasing editors going to be “over” Iraq memoirs in the next couple months?

We sorta figured that the whole Didion death memoir thing would go seriously wrong on the next iteration anyway.

Apparently the person that we understand is the purchasing editor, Scribner’s Nan Graham, is qualified to possess material that supposedly endangers Americans abroad—material that, given all these claims, will need to be removed before publication anyway. Meanwhile, Andrew Wylie can’t be enjoying that he’s spending down his $75+K commission on lawyers with minimal English skills. —choire

In his flattering profile of Nick Denton, “The Gawker King”, Tom Scocca, the future Gawker editor, would compare this kind of writing to that of the Algonquin Round Table: “the kind of Internet astringency that Alexander Woollcott and his crew of gossip-wits would almost certainly have been sprinkling on the blog world if they were around to click and cluck in 2005.”

There were various comments for “(Not an) April Fools Book Proposal”.


Good thing I took my fucking Zoloft today. All tears aside, good one! Im totally throwing this one at my ex-Marine husband tommorrow. I’ll keep him on edge (weary,forlorn) just long enough to get that new Marc Jacobs bag Ive been dying for. Muhahahha


You really had me at “Ever wonder why first-person accounts of terrorism can’t read more like haikus?”

Because I have, dammit.

I Brad Pitt [sic] pre-purchased the film rights, it wouldn’t be such a stretch. Watch what happens. Your April fools post will spur someone to actually do this.


I’ve written better Gawker comments. Not that they’ve been published or anything. Buncha fuckheads.

BarbieBlonde26, again:

Best Gawker T-Shirt Ever:


I lost My Love In Bagdad [sic]…


April Fools Douches!

There were various comments for “The Michael Hastings Memoir: Book Proposals Kill”.


what is up with the androgynous spellings of “fiancé/e” these days? when I see “fiancé,” I expect the affianced to be a man — so either there have been a lot more gay weddings and engagements recently, or people just can’t be bothered with literacy. Actually, either of those is pretty likely.


I more often see people referring to “fiancees” with XY chromosomes and external genitalia to match. That’s even more wrong.

And the perfect first line for this book is:

What can you say about a twenty-eight-year-old girl who died IN BAGHDAD?


@JupiterPluvius: A 500k advance means (almost) never having to say you’re sorry?

Another T-Shirt suggestion, this time from JupiterPluvius:

Gawker T-Shirt suggestion:


There was a single comment that expressed anything like sympathy with the subject, from cabbage:

That book proposal is all kinds of redonkulous — but I know Mike and he’s a really decent, friendly guy. Also, have you forgotten that he once guest-edited this site?

There was a disclosure at the end of “Book Proposals Kill”, of the time before Iraq, before Michael Hastings came home and started keeping a gun by the bed: “[Disclosure: According to Radar, Hastings briefly guest-blogged on Gawker anonymously some time ago.]”

In the December 5, 2007 Gothamist interview “Choire Sicha, Ex-Gawker Editor” by John Del Signore, which came after Sicha’s resignation from Gawker, there would be the following question and answer:

Are there any Gawker posts you regret? I don’t know that I regret anything. I know I’ve definitely done misinformed or knee-jerk things. But I think it’s important not to regret anything.

They had not finished entirely with Hastings, yet. There is the line in the blogger party about “Jennifer Cunningham, who would later have a “crisis of conscience” and leave Wretched to focus more clearly on herself,” and this, as said, can only be Emily Gould. For a post made at the end of that week on April 6, 2007, “Gold Star Motel: Trumping In Her Kushner” (archive.today link), a curation by Gould of the site’s best comments of that week, she had picked out a lucky winner from “The Michael Hastings Memoir: Book Proposals Kill”. Stand up, JupiterPluvius, you get a prize: “And the perfect first line for this book is: What can you say about a twenty-eight-year-old girl who died IN BAGHDAD?” This post was made on the same day that Emily Gould would make an infamous appearance on a “Larry King Live” episode hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, devoted to the new paparazzi and Gawker‘s often questionably sourced gossip.

This very moment would be well known enough to be re-played, with dialogue almost verrbatim, in an episode of The Newsroom (via “Sorkin Recreated This 2007 Fight Between Kimmel and Gawker on The Newsroom” by Matt Wilstein):

From the transcript, “Paparazzi: Do They Go Too Far?”:

KIMMEL: My problem is you post things that simply aren’t true on the site and you do no checking on your stories whatsoever. I’ll give you an example. There was a story about me that popped up on my Google search. It said “Daily Gawker Stalker, when isn’t Jimmy Kimmel visibly intoxicated?” And there’s a story about me being visibly intoxicated. I know it may be funny to you but I didn’t find it that amusing.


KIMMEL: And a matter of fact, the story that talks about me being drunk, I was coming home with my cousin’s — my cousin’s 1-year- old birthday party with my elderly aunt and uncle and my kids and my cousins and I was — I may have been loud but I was far from intoxicated and you put these things on there. I mean I know you’re an editor. What exactly are you editing from the website?

GOULD: There’s a whole other aspect of our website that doesn’t have anything to do with the Stalker Map. But what the Stalker Map is citizen journalism. People don’t read with the expectation that every word of it will be gospel. Everyone who reads it knows that it isn’t checked at all.


GOULD: What they read it for is immediacy.

KIMMEL: I don’t think that’s necessarily true.

GOULD: You don’t unfilter sort of the way people that perceive celebrities in real time that you don’t get from any other media. And that’s what I think is great about it.

In a long confessional, “Emily Gould – Exposed – Blog-Post Confidential”, Gould would write of the appearance, “Called upon to defend Gawker’s publication of anonymous e-mail tips of celebrity sightings, I was dismissive and flip. My untrained, elastic face betrayed the shock and amusement I was feeling about being asked, somewhat aggressively, to justify something that I thought of as not only harmless but also a given: the idea that anyone who makes their living in public was subject to the public’s scrutiny at all times.” She would react badly to the exposure and the hateful reaction to her appearance: “I started having panic attacks — breathless bouts of terror that left me feeling queasy, drained and hopeless — every day. I didn’t leave my apartment unless I absolutely had to, and because I had the option of working from home, I rarely had to.” Only when she read “Gawker and the Rage of the Creative Underclass” did she realize the harm she was doing: “The article painted Gawker as a clearinghouse for vitriol and me as a semisympathetic naïf who half-loved and half-loathed what her job was forcing her to become,” and this prompted her to resign. Gould would publicly quit the site in November 2007, announcing it in the post, “A Long, Dark Early Evening Of The Soul With Keith Gessen” [archive link], but that time, she was leaving because of the exposé, “Gawker: 2002–2007” written by Carla Blumenkranz and published in n+1, the magazine edited by Keith Gessen, Gould’s future husband. “I took a phone call and when I got back, Choire had told Keith he was quitting Gawker.” Gould: “Yup, we’re quitting!” Gessen: “Because of this?” Gould: “Sort of. Well, not because it was written. But because it’s not untrue.” It’s this context that perhaps makes Hastings’ reference to her, “Jennifer Cunningham, who would later have a “crisis of conscience” and leave Wretched to focus more clearly on herself,” understandable, and why he was filled with sufficient malice to make sure she was on the Wretched staff in 2005 so he could make this crack, even though Gould only joined Gawker in 200632.

A year after Hastings had died, Gould would say the following, in Aaron Hicklin’s “Overstepping the bounds: how blogger Emily Gould has been oversharing”:

“If I wanted to get really melodramatic about it, I could say that I feel like I was punished,” Gould says today. But whatever remorse she feels, it is not for stalking celebrities; it is for making fun of other writers — once a meat-and-potatoes target for Gawker’s editors. “I don’t think people understand that writers, with very few exceptions, aren’t rich and don’t have power,” she says. “I don’t think I understood that when I was at Gawker, and now it’s been made abundantly clear to me, by a God who has a sense of humour, if you want to believe in stuff like that.”

Though the posts making fun of I Lost My Love in Baghdad appear on the second page of results for a search of the name “Michael Hastings” on Gawker (link), this moment was never brought up in his obituary, “Journalist Michael Hastings Killed in Car Accident at 33” (archive.today link) by Taylor Berman – though it did feature links to his older posts as K. Eric Walters, which preceded the “(Not an) April Fools Book Proposal” and “Book Proposals Kill” posts. It was given no mention in the post, “A Guide to IDing the Real People Disguised in Michael Hastings’ Novel” by J.K. Trotter, and as emphasised here, the Choire Sicha caricature of Kelly Treemont was left un-IDed. This was a little surprising, since the allegation that someone only got an editor’s position by sleeping with the publisher is the sort of thing that the old Gawker gorged on.

Jessica Coen, the former editor of Gawker and the later editor of Gawker Media site Jezebel remembers the book party for I Lost My Love in Baghdad, in her letter to Gawker: “He went back, then his fiancée died over there and I recall going to the memorial/book party (which was weird and felt a little garish but sincere at the same time, if that’s possible), and that was when we started to really lose touch.” No mention is made of the leaked proposal to the Observer or Gawker, though I find it difficult to believe that Coen, either now or then, did not know about the leaks and the mocking posts on Gawker.

“The darkness, the darkness, oh the darkness…The darkness in his bedroom had even taken on his scent.” The Magazine‘s A.E. Peoria collapses into a depression when he’s given forced leave after an outcry erupts about his reporting on abuse at Abu Ghraib. He suffers from the memories of the war, his girlfriend has broken up with him, he is utterly alone, and working as a journalist gives him life – but he no longer has his job. “A.E. Peoria had hated the lights at the office, the radiating lights…sucking the soul, draining life from the skin. But how he missed those lights now.” He wants The Magazine to go to hell, he wants it to burn. “But then, like a slave, he thought, he wanted The Magazine to forgive him, he wanted The Magazine back.” This is not, I think, Adam Piore’s life, but Hastings’ life after Andi Parhamovich was killed and his memoir proposal was published in the New York Observer and Gawker. The manuscript showed too much angry criticism towards the American occupation, which Newsweek felt was detrimental to his reporting, and so they gave him leave. This is mentioned in one of the few news pieces to cover the episode of Hastings and Gawker, “A death in Baghdad echoes in blogosphere” by Simon Houpt in The Globe & Mail:

A few days after the funeral, possibly to help himself work through what had happened, Hastings did what reporters do: He began to write. He wrote furiously for a month straight, churning out 75,000 words about Parhamovich’s death, about their relationship (the good and the bad), about his past battles with substance abuse and Parhamovich’s own dark past, about the abysmal security situation in Iraq. His ground-level view of Baghdad is eye-opening and depressing, and he is nakedly dismissive of those at the top. (“Bush proclaims a war and lists excuses for it,” he writes.) Hastings produced a very rough manuscript, bitter and raw and forthright, and it was full of spelling and grammatical errors and some embarrassingly intimate and cheesy prose, but still he gave it to someone at the Wylie Agency, the powerful literary shop with an office across West 57th Street from Newsweek, and they sent it to publishers around town with the title I Lost My Love in Baghdad and sold it on March 29 for a reported $500,000 (U.S.).

The next afternoon, Friday, March 30, someone (perhaps someone at a publishing company that lost out on the book, it’s unclear) e-mailed the manuscript to the New York Observer‘s media blog. Someone there — evidently a junior someone there, possessing limited experience with copyright law and a similar lack of good taste — followed the bloggers’ dictum about information wanting to be free and figured it would be a great idea to post the whole manuscript, all 131 pages of it. The post went up without the participation of the blog’s editor. (The Observer didn’t return requests for comment.) The next day, someone working the weekend shift at Gawker.com — evidently a junior someone there — decided the news about the book and its contents would make for fine comic fodder. He riffed on the text messages between the two lovers that were included in the manuscript, and joked about, “the literal January death,” of Parhamovich.” Never mind that Hastings had actually been on a freelance assignment for Gawker on the night he met Parhamovich; in the blogosphere, it’s all fun and games until someone gets — oh. Sorry.

By Monday, the grown-ups were back in charge. The Observer eradicated the post from its website after receiving a lawyer’s letter which suggested that the manuscript, aside from being copyrighted, contained information about the Baghdad operations of Newsweek that, if disseminated, could endanger people over there.

But there are other consequences to the Observer‘s post. The lawyer’s letter suggests that the manuscript contained private information about Parhamovich that Hastings had not yet related to her family. That’s putting it mildly: In fact, as I discovered over the weekend, Parhamovich’s family didn’t even know Hastings had been working on a book about their daughter.

He’d planned to tell them at some point, perhaps after sitting down with them and telling them about how Parhamovich had died. They don’t yet know all the details. But then, neither does Hastings. He’s back in Baghdad, searching for the truth about her death. That’s the only work he can do over there now. When the book contract was being hammered out, he was in transit to the Middle East, intending to do more reporting for Newsweek. But last Friday, Mark Miller told me the manuscript’s release by the Observer had suddenly scuttled those plans because it exposed Hastings’s cynical view of the war. “We don’t normally want our correspondents to be expressing these kinds of views,” said Miller. “Given that it is out there, I think it’s best that he not be reporting for us from Baghdad. There is a perception issue.”

There is the major misperception here of this being a rogue, unintended action by a Gawker staffer; a weekend writer posted the initial piece, but his editor, the then over-thirty Choire Sicha, backed him up entirely, and piled on in the mockery and ridiculed the idea of taking down the manuscript. Because this moment has been ao little looked at, a central question remains unanswered, in this article and after: how did this manuscript that was at the offices of the Observer, end up at Gawker? Both weekend writers, Jonathan Liu and Leon Neyfakh would go on to work for a long period at the paper, and both Liu and Neyfakh had already published several articles there33. The manuscript was originally excerpted in the Observer‘s “Media Mob” section, which was edited by Tom Scocca, who, two years earlier had done the Denton profile, “King of Gawker”, and would later join Gawker Media, first as an editor at Deadspin, then at Gawker34. Those who’ve read Scocca’s Beijing Welcomes You will know that he was in China at the time, covering the preparations for the Olympics. Scocca is, however, good friends with Sicha. They shared a by-line on “Miracle on 33rd Street”; Scocca has a regular column on The Awl, the site co-founded by Sicha after he left Gawker in 2007; Scocca and Sicha thank each other in their book acknowledgements – Beijing: “Choire Sicha was a good-enough friend and adviser to read the first pile of words, before it even qualified as a manuscript”, while Very Recent History features a half page of names, including Scocca and Emily Gould. Choire Sicha would start out as an editor for Gawker from 2003 to 2005, then go to the Observer as an editor until early 2007, when he returned to Gawker as editor again, before quitting in November and going back eventually to the Observer35. So maybe, while Scocca was in China, Sicha helped manage the “Media Mob” section, and that’s how I Lost My Love in Baghdad made it from Point A to Point B.

Scocca, Liu, Sicha, Gould

(From left to right: Tom Scocca, who was editor of the Media Mob section which first published the “I Lost My Love…” proposal; Jonathan Liu, who wrote “(Not an) April Fools Book Proposal: ‘I Lost My Love in Baghdad'”; Choire Sicha, who was his editor at Gawker, and who afterwards wrote “The Michael Hastings Memoir: Book Proposals Kill”; Emily Gould who would pick out the best comment in “Book Proposals Kill” for their weekly comment round-up, that week titled “Gold Star Motel: Trumping In Her Kushner”. Photo credits, respectively: Riverhead Books, Capital New York, Rachel Sklar, Lisa Corson)

Hastings did not let any feeling of violation easily show through. “I remember getting an e-mail from Mike that was like, ‘Fuck them, I’m on Haifa Street,’” said one close friend36. He did, however, remember. In the obituary, “Michael Hastings Popped The Press Bubble, From The Campaign Trail To The Front Lines”, Michael Calderone would write “The first time I met Michael Hastings, he confronted me.” Calderone had worked at the Media Mob section when they’d published the proposal, and Hastings wanted to know if he’d had anything to do with it. “Despite his suspicions, I had nothing to do with the story. And after a contentious back-and-forth, we ended up chatting over drinks.” For what it’s worth, I believe Calderone’s account. And Hastings must have remembered the incident with some animus at least until 2009: given the shared material of the book and the May 2009 post, “‘The Army Is A 24-Hour Gay Joke'”, he was working on the book as late as then. He remembered what had happened, and he made sure to put in a caricature of Choire Sicha as an inconsequential, pathetic figure.

We do know what someone else felt after their proposal was leaked onto Gawker and published, someone who’d already had to grow a thick skin to all manner of slights and insults, and that was Lena Dunham. “Dunham says the worst Internet-related experience of her career came in December 2012, when Gawker got hold of her book proposal and posted all 66 pages of it,” writes Meghan Daum in “Lena Dunham Is Not Done Confessing”. Dunham: “It felt like such a violation to put my unedited work out into the world. As a writer, there is nothing more violating. I would rather walk down the street naked — no surprise — than to have someone read my unedited work.” This was a much smaller violation than what Gawker did to Hastings, but one can understand the sense of being exposed raw, of being out of control, and one can fathom that Hastings was in an even deeper pit than A.E. Peoria in The Last Magazine: “he had faced the darkness for three days and he didn’t want to move.”

We think of those in mourning as inhabiting a sacred space, a place not to be violated, that we too will feel the same depths that they will when we suffer loss, and that is why we feel the Westboro Baptist Church protests to be obscene, and that is why I think this act was obscene as well. I picture Nick Denton, Choire Sicha, and Jonathan Liu as a bunch of schoolboys coming across a stray dog wailing in the cold, a stray that simply wanted the biting cold to stop, and these schoolboys were bored, so they decided to set this dog on fire to hear what awful cries it would make.

“He’s not a fully human person,” says a former colleague about Nick Denton in Ben McGrath’s profile “Search and Destroy”. “He almost sees people as Legos moving around,” says another. Michael Hastings was a lego piece that didn’t act the way it was supposed to. He was supposed to break here, I guess, to wander off into some job in advertising in the Midwest, to stay away from journalism and war and all the horrific excitement of the world. The only problem was that they had miscalculated how exactly Hastings had been broken by war. He didn’t stay away, but instead kept going back again, and again, and again. I think, against my choice, I am without sentimentality now, but there is a moment in Hastings’ writing that truly gets to me, a small moment in his post from early 2010, “My advice to journalists: Smoke crack, Twitter occasionally”, and it’s not his facetious “I have smoked crack. I recommend it for all writers to try at least once, especially to New Yorker staffers,” but right after the line “It might be that the journalist’s life will be more of a hustle, more entrepreneurial than in the past few decades”, the small parenthetical: “I mean, really, how many times will I have to email Glenn Greenwald before he links to this blog…” Whenever I read that, I make myself ridiculous and have to fight back tears, and I might guess at why: Michael Hastings had no idea how successful he would be, in just a few short months. He would end up lauded one of the best reporters of his generation, a better reporter than Tom Scocca, a better reporter than Choire Sicha, better in this field than any hack to come out of Gawker, whatever small compliment that might be. He did his passionate best to fight against what he thought of as an insane, unending spectacle of death, he committed so much to it in a world where some people couldn’t even be bothered not to laugh at a mourning man. If you were to ask me if I thought his manuscript being leaked and jeered at was a part of the steps which led to his young death, I’d say: these things are somewhat like charity, and every little bit helps.

Let me be clear. The anger displayed here is entirely my own. It does not flow out of any connection to family or friends, or that I think I am acting on their behalf or Michael Hastings. It is my anger. This does not come out of snobbishness, or disdain for the low brow: I love the lowbrow, and I used to read Gawker every day. I’ve promoted Gawker in the past, I’ve promoted The Awl in the past, and I now feel like a fool for doing so. You need look for no other motive for my anger but this vile act. It is this, only this. This. It is a disgust that you can treat someone with such contempt, that someone in the depths of misery should be seen as nothing but one more shattered man, one more near dead body, to be spat on. I hear the ghostly laugh of Michael Hastings when he says “She was, unfortunately and obviously, tragically killed there…so, it was a way…so after that happened, you know, screw it all, I’m going to write,” and it inspires a ghastly, malevolent wish in me, that all those involved in this, all those who abided this, should have the person they love dearest, to whom they are closest, to have that love torn from this life, and as they collapse into weeping over the senselessness of it all, when they are falling in that pit of despair, when they truly wish for some sense of warmth or comfort to reach out in the world, that some fiend cackles at their pathetic form. That is my wish when I hear that laugh, and it is toxic, vile, and inhumane.

Choire Sicha would speak on the subject of reporters’ ethics in a 2012 interview with Ernst-Jan Pfauth, “The blogger and the murderer – an interview with Choire Sicha”, where he cited the usual touchstone on the subject, Janet Malcolm’s The Journalist and the Murderer:

I often profile people for magazines and one of the things I take from Malcolm’s book is being superconscious about what you know and what you assume about your subject. So, if I were to interview you, we would have an engagement, a personal involvement. I’d ask you all these personal questions and then, I could basically betray you and write down my coloured version of everything I thought about you. The book is a reminder about the fact I’m continuously selling people out.

I’m not sure why he felt the need to make such a high minded reference, since he appears entirely okay with betraying the sources of another journalist. In “The Michael Hastings Memoir: Book Proposals Kill”, Sicha writes that Andrew Wylie “wanted the proposal disappeared from the internet: it was going to get people killed in Iraq.” Then: “While al Qaeda doesn’t obsessively monitor Gawker yet, despite the frequent aid we supply to terrorists by means of identifying ideal targets…there is the question of why then it’d be acceptable for Wylie to distribute a book proposal that identifies targets in the first place.” That this material might be redacted or that sources would be given aliases in the published version is never brought up. Hastings’ lack of discretion when writing the proposal could be attributed to a torrent of feeling over the dead, and this is enough to give license to Sicha, Liu, and Gawker to print anything they want. That has nothing to do with Janet Malcolm. That’s just being a scumbag.

Lost My Heart reserves a special section at its end, “Note on Names, Security Procedures, Sources”, about the use of aliases, and that such second names are used for protecting those who live and work in the very dangerous conditions of Iraq, making sure not to reveal some of the details of the Newsweek cars:

Due to the deadly nature of working in Iraq, I’ve changed or used only the first names of the Iraqi security guards and interpreters employed by Newsweek. The exception is Mohammed—his full name is Mohammed Heydar Sideq, and he is currently studying in the United States on a Fulbright scholarship. I have changed the names of the men and women working for NDI and URG. The name of the Mortuary Affairs officer has been changed. The names of the Western security managers working for Newsweek have been changed. Also, Tony is not the real first name of Crazy Tony the German [an interesting and briefly mentioned figure who sells memorabilia].

I have slightly altered one aspect of a Newsweek security procedure described in the book: the color of cars we drive in Iraq. The cars are currently in use, and I do not wish to put anyone’s life at greater risk by giving out those details.

Hastings knew Malcolm’s words as well, and he brings her up in The Operators, when he discusses the editing of “The Runaway General” piece:

Over the next three weeks, Eric [Rolling Stone editor Eric Bates] and I went through two more drafts of the story. Under his guidance, the piece took shape. Eric had more than twenty-five years’ experience in reporting and editing investigative pieces, earning seven National Magazine awards, the industry’s highest honor. I knew McChrystal’s team wouldn’t be happy with the way the story was shaping up. It was the classic journalist dilemma. Janet Malcolm had famously described journalism as the art of seduction and betrayal. Any reporter who didn’t see journalism as “morally indefensible” was either “too stupid” or “too full of himself,” she wrote. I disagreed. Without shutting the door on the possibility that I was both stupid and full of myself, I’d never bought into the seduction and betrayal conceit. At most, journalism—particularly when writing about media-hungry public figures—was like the seduction of a prostitute. The relationship was transactional. They weren’t talking to me because they liked me or because I impressed them; they were talking to me because they wanted the cover of Rolling Stone.

It was one thing for Hastings to speak of a complicit subject like Stanley McChrystal, and another to write of the intimate dead. I sometimes wonder how much Sicha actually knows about the things he cites37, but I have no such questions about Hastings, or that he took such questions seriously. We have, I think, the evidence in The Last Magazine, which ends with A.E. Peoria nearly betraying the trust of Justina Salvador, and then “Michael Hastings” betraying it. The person who publishes the Justina Salvador story, who prints it without her permission, isn’t some otherly villain, but the old Michael Hastings, the earlier Michael Hastings who was working at Gawker, Michael Hastings before he went to war, “Michael Hastings”:

I’d like to say that I agonized over the decision, that I thought twice about it—because I know by taking Peoria’s story, I’m putting the last nail in the coffin of his career, and I know that I’m also jeopardizing the privacy and future of Justina. Who knows how the military is going to react to this? Most likely they’ll strip her of the GI Bill benefits. Who knows how the liberals at Barnard are going to react to having been deceived? Maybe they will support her, maybe not.

But I don’t agonize over it. I don’t want to lose my job, and if Sanders finds out that I’m the leak, then I’m done for too.

Plus, this is a great opportunity. My first cover story for the magazine.

I see this ending as Hastings genuinely struggling with the question of violation when writing about someone dear. They betrayed you, Andi, when they posted the leaked proposal, I imagine him thinking. But did I betray you first? If I was still at Gawker, would I have done what Jonathan Liu did? The book is an attempt to reckon with this whole moment again, but to tell it as fiction, to tell it slantwise, at such a slant as to be an obscurity to most. The graffiti sprayed poolside is writing about the mourned. Rather than to try and get at describing the sick addiction of war, war becomes sex, so The Last Magazine has “unusually detailed sex scenes that are just plain bizarre”, but whose toxic essence is easy to read if you’ve been following the writer’s intent.

Death makes things sacred, properly sacred, a nimbus of protection that is the right of the humblest of souls and which no amount of wealth (such as Nick Denton being worth around $70 million38) or education (Denton is an Oxford grad, Liu is a Harvard grad39) gives you a right to violate. It is the sacred quality of death which makes “Owen King: In Praise of Nepotism Redux” mere rudeness, while “(Not an) April Fools Book Proposal” is morally vile. It is death which dissuades the raising of questions, and death which impels us to raise them, as Hastings so often did. It is death, unexpected youthful death, which casts a nimbus of depth and mystery on the most ordinary moments, such as this one, Hastings’ first appearance on the Sam Seder podcast, “The Majority Report”40.

Alright folks, we are back. This is Sam Seder on The Majority Report. On the phone, it is a pleasure to welcome to the program as he traverses, apparently a snowstorm, on Route 87, he should be able to handle that, I mean the guy’s been to Iraq and Afghanistan, reporting, 87 is a fairly straight road, so uh, I think we’re safe. Michael, welcome to the program.

Thanks for having me, yeah, long as the state police don’t mind that I’m probably violating some sort of law while talking on a cellphone while driving, but we won’t tell them about it.

Alright. Let’s assume you’re talking on a headpiece, and…

(laughs) Yeah, hands free.

Hands free. In which case, I’m no longer, I’m not aiding and abetting anything.

“I mean the guy’s been to Iraq and Afghanistan, reporting, 87 is a fairly straight road, so uh, I think we’re safe,” is the line, of course, I dwell on. The unfinished, the unexpected blank space, the abrupt silence is thought to contain an exotic conspiratorial mystery, when the mystery may be more tangible, may be elsewhere. There is an exchange early on in Lost My Love In Baghdad, before Andi Parhamovich has left for Iraq. Andi: “You’re not coming home, are you? You’re going to stay there.” Michael: “I am coming home, and I still want to be with you.” In the end, maybe Michael Hastings never left Iraq, maybe neither one of them came home.

Death grants a nimbus to this final moment of Hastings’ last appearance on “The Majority Report”, where he discussed the David Petraeus-Paula Broadwell scandal41, and it’s with this exit that I end here.

I have a feeling there’s more to drop. I mean it just seems…

Oh yeah.

This thing has a lot of different aspects to it. So, drive carefully. Don’t text while you’re driving. Don’t check your email.


Alright buddy.

Take care man.

“Whom? In the immortal words of Vladimir Ilich Lenin, ‘Whom? Whom does this all benefit?’”


(On January 22nd, 2015 the footnotes, which were out of sync were corrected. On January 24th, the second section’s heading was changed to “My Reality, Your Entertainment” to “The Killing Joke”. Originally this post wrongfully refered to Jessica Coen as the current editor of Jezebel; this post was made on January 21, 2015 and Coen stepped down as Jezebel editor on July 7, 2014 – see “Mixed emotions as Jezebel gets new editor” by Peter Sterne, for one reference. On February 12, 2015, this error was corrected. On April 9th, 2015, this post received another badly needed session of copy editing. Due to various inconveniences, I was only able to get my hands on I Lost My Love in Baghdad after this was published, and was only able to read it in the week leading up to July 1, 2015. Before the copy editing, there was uncertainty about whether all the venom spilled on this page would remain; after re-reading what various Gawker writers did to this man, it was left all in. If Lost My Love had been read before this initial post, the venom would have been even greater. All additions featuring excerpts of the text from Lost My Love were added on July 1, 2015. The paragraph with accompanying excerpt from Lost My Love which begins “Hastings says something close to this…” was added on July 6, 2015. On March 8, 2016, this post was given a very mild copy edit.)


1 This criticism of Hastings’ work can be found in the long footnote to a long piece on Anthony Pellicano, “Rising Sun: The Image of the Desired Japanese Part Three, foonote #214”, and it dealt with his article on John McTiernan’s dealings with the Hollywood detective, “The Tragic Imprisonment Of John McTiernan, Hollywood Icon”. My language is strong, but I do not regret it. I think his editor should have passed on the story as submitted, and he should have either built up his case more against the prosecutor, or made a complex, nuanced piece, where McTiernan was no innocent, and where Pellicano acted illegally under McTiernan’s orders and with his knowledge, but where people who had used Pellicano with far more frequency had escaped prosecution.

I will also say that if you told me that Hastings came across the writing on this site during the 2012 campaign and thought it was the most awful, sycophantic garbage out there, it would not surprise me – I say this to avoid any charges of sentimentality in this post.

2 That Hastings, after a decade of sobriety, had relapsed in the period before his death is not a point of speculation. From “Reckless and Inspired: An Interview With Jonathan Hastings About His Brother, the Journalist Michael Hastings”:

PR [“Paleo Retiree”]: I know you flew out to check in on Mike just a day or two before the crash.

JH: As I told the police out in L.A., a few days before he died, Mike called me and I got the impression that he was having a manic episode, similar to one he had had 15 years ago which he had referred to in his writing. At that time, drugs had been involved, and I suspected that might be the case again. I immediately booked a flight to L.A. for the next day, with the thought that maybe I could convince him to come back to Vermont to dry out or (less likely) get him to go to detox/rehab there in L.A. When I got to L.A. and saw him, I immediately realized that he was not going to go willingly. I started to make arrangements with our other brother to fly out and help me possibly force Mike into checking himself into a hospital or detox center. I’d thought that I had at least convinced Mike to just stay in his apartment and chill out for the next few days, but he snuck out on me when I was sleeping. He crashed his car before anyone could do anything to help him.

3 From the review “Emily Gould Was a Gawker Star—How’s Her Novel?”, and after this superficial dismissal of Hastings’ book, Constant gets a major fact wrong about Gould’s book:

Curiosity will presumably bring lots of readers to Emily Gould’s debut novel, Friendship. Gould earned a certain level of internet notoriety (neteriety?) as a star blogger for Gawker, back when Gawker was a publishing-industry gossip blog and not an edgier Huffington Post. One of the two main characters in Friendship, Amy, has a job as an editor for Yidster (“the third-most-popular online destination for cultural coverage with a modern Jewish angle”), where every day she chooses “a few posts from other blogs for [her employees] to, er, reimagine” and works at the whim of a dilettantish wealthy man who has no idea how blogs are supposed to function. Everybody loves romans à clef, especially when the à clef is cracking open a media outlet that leered at everyone else’s dirty laundry for years.

This suggests that Gould’s writing about Yidster is a veiled look at Gawker, when it’s most certainly not, and most definitely a look at the far more obscure Jewcy, another website where Gould worked. This is not supposition, but something Gould said explicitly in an interview with Maureen O’Connor, “Emily Gould Didn’t Mean to Provoke Lena Dunham”:

So when people say that your foil is Amy, the character who “stood up for her right to be mean on the Internet” by quitting a gossip-blogging job, or that Bev is your Emily Books co-founder Ruth Curry, that’s not the case?

It’s just more complicated than that. Bev definitely has some of Ruth’s background, in terms of her midwestern, evangelical upbringing. Amy looks like me, and I gave her a job that is similar to one I had. The people at that job are made up, but the location of the job, in Dumbo, and also its ridiculous name, Yidster, is something like Jewcy, where I worked for a glorious three months right after I quit Gawker. But now I’m trying to think about what else is autobiographical in the book, because clearly none of that shit happened. Neither Ruth nor I has ever been pregnant. Sally is completely made up. And even though Amy looks like me and does some things that I have done, she’s not me. She’s more like some aspects of me that I’m trying to exorcise.

4 Hastings gives us some sense of Patel’s books in one conversation where a co-worker asks the character “Michael Hastings” whether he’s read Patel’s most recent book and what he thought:

“I thought it was good,” I say. “Especially the parts about transparency and corruption.”

“What’s it about again?” says Jerry, who makes a point not to pay attention to anything Nishant Patel–related that does not directly affect his stories or mood or job security. “Outsourcing, right? That fucking bastard.”

“Uh, sort of. It’s really about benevolent dictatorships.”

The editors are listening to me.

“Benevolent dictatorships. How, you know, democracies evolve, and how they really take time to evolve, and so, though human rights activists like to push for changes really quickly, stability is preferable to quick or immediate change, and expecting immediate change, you know, is really, really a folly. Illiberal democracies. You know, like Tiananmen Square was a good thing, because look at the economic growth of China, when a democracy there could have really fucked—sorry, excuse my language—really slowed everything down.”

“What countries does he talk about?” says Anna.

“Oh, you know, the Middle East, China, Indonesia, Pakistan, the, uh, warm countries. But America too, and he makes this kind of interesting argument that the problem with our government is that it’s too transparent, that it should, I guess, be a little more secretive—that the transparency sort of paralyzes us and prevents good decision making.”

A contrasting global perspective, Hastings’ own, can be found in The Operators, during his brief stopover in Dubai:

This was the role model we’d been pushing on the world. If only Baghdad and Kabul and Kandahar could be like Dubai! If they could all be tax havens and resort towns and business friendly. How beautiful it would be, to remake the entire “arc of instability,” as American war planners called the area stretching from the Middle East to Central Asia, into an archipelago of city-states like Dubai, which boasted the largest shopping mall in the world, the Mall of the Emirates, with boutiques for terrorists and tyrants and businessmen alike. What a model it was! Just ask the Uzbek who had brought up my luggage and the Paki who drove me to the Palm. The world was flat, the edges of the empire jagged and bloody, but we could smooth it all over, eventually.

5 An excerpt from this interview appears in “Crashes of Convenience: Michael Hastings” (7:45-9:38):

So, talk to me about it. So, if you guys don’t know, obviously, Michael, huge story about Michael…about General McChrystal, and eventually General McChrystal stepped down, because of the revelations in Michael’s story…that’s old school journalism, he documented it, he was there, et cetera, and i remember when it came out, I praised you to high heaven, not knowing you at all, because I was like, this is what you’re supposed to do, you’re supposed to cover them, then reveal to people what your government is doing, et cetera et cetera. So, it had real impact. Now, a story like that, Newsweek in the old days, you would think, would have loved, right?

Right, right. Depending on the…I’ll do a caveat. Newsweek when Jon Meacham was editor, they would not have printed my story. I can guarantee you that, because-

Why do you think that is?

Political reasons, for reasons that there’s a sense that at Newsweek we were supposed to uphold…that we are supposed to reinforce our societal myths, not deconstruct them, and not kindof expose them. And there’s a real mission there, certainly under Meacham, Meacham sucks. He’s on my eneemies list. One of the people I wanted to go a rant on at some point this week. They’re not going to push the button. Senior military officials, despite how they lied to us through a number of wars, despite the Pentagon Papers, despite all we knew from what we knew from that Newsweek mainstream perspective, we’re going to put them on this pedestal, and we’re not going to criticize them in that way. And I know this for a fact. You can actually go back and read Newsweek‘s profile of McChrystal [most likely “General McChrystal’s Plan for Afghanistan”, which came out September 2009] which was done by a really great reporter, a guy named…I don’t want to get him in trouble [Evan Thomas], but they took this great reporter’s stuff, and then they buried it. So, one of the reasons that I kinda knew there’d be an interesting story here, is when I read this original Newsweek story, a year before mine came out…wow, the reporter is trying to tell the truth here, and the editors are killing it. If you have editors who are kinda willing to let that stuff free, uh, let it go, maybe there can be something.

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6 The initial Zakaria scandal is discussed in “A Media Personality, Suffering a Blow to His Image, Ponders a Lesson” by Christine Haughney, while the second scandal is discussed in “Fareed Zakaria’s anonymous pursuers: We’re not done yet” by Dylan Byers, on the work done by @crushingbort and @blippoblappo, at Our Bad Media.

7 From Magazine:

Tabby Doling’s thing is that she’s friends with a bunch of famous and important people, media types, heads of state, Academy Award winners from the ’70s. Though she’s partial owner of The Magazine’s parent company, on the masthead she’s listed as “Special Diplomatic Correspondent,” which is kind of a joke, because that would lead readers to assume there are people above her in the hierarchy, which there are not—she even has a floor to herself, the notorious twenty-third floor.

Tabby is one of those people who, if you bring up her name in conversation around New York, you’ll most likely get three or four really great anecdotes about. Everyone who’s met her has a moment to recount, told with the bemused acceptance that if you’re that rich and that eccentric, it’s par for the course. Gary’s [Gary, no last name, Sci/Tech editor at The Magazine] Tabby Doling story, for instance, is that he was standing in the hallway on the sixteenth floor when he heard a knocking on the glass; someone had forgotten their ID. When Gary went to answer it, he saw Tabby through the glass and decided to make one of his customary jokes. “How do I know you’re not a terrorist?” he said, as if he wasn’t going to let her in. And she responded, “I’m Tabby Doling,” with a real flourish and emphasis on both her first and last names. Gary thinks that’s why he got passed over for the domestic sci/tech gig and has been stuck in international. That’s a pretty low-level story, too, not one of her best.

I don’t know her at all and haven’t spent time with her, which isn’t surprising, as she has a $225,000-sticker-price Bentley and a driver I always see idling outside the entrance on Broadway for her—though she did say hello to me in the hallway once, so in my book that’s a plus.

Perhaps one of the best, and easily the most acerbic profiles of Weymouth is in the bygone Spy, “Mom Always Liked Him Best: Why Lally Weymouth, Katharine Graham’s Difficult Daughter Does Not Run The Washington Post” by Henry Alford:

By virtue of being a multimillionaire third-generation V.I.P. – and despite being an occasionally very charming person, a devoted mother and an extremely hard worker—she represents to many people all that is feudal and high-handed in the world, And each time Weymouth confirms These preconceptions—such as the time she ran into an acquaintance at an airport, allowed him to lug her bags aboard the plane and then, once seated, turned to him and said, “So I hear you like Hitler”; or the times she has walked up to Newsweek employees and regally informed them. *My mother is really mad at you—Weymouth’s critics feel slightly more justified, a bit less surprised by her behavior. In effect her critics lower their expectations. Over the years, they have con• tinued to lower their expectations — and Lally Wemouth keeps on meeting the challenge. She is zealous, She is abrupt. She is noisy. In the manner of a rich. brattish child, she throws a brilliant party but can make an unpleasant guest: once. when required to wait about five minutes for a table at a Manhattan restaurant, Weymouth became incensed, screamed at her companion and proceeded to fly into a thrashing, flailing rage She was according to one of the restaurant’s owners, “uncontrollable, completely wacko.”

8 From Magazine:

At that moment, a semicircle of people starts to form, the employees and famous and semi-famous guests (Kissinger, Stephanopoulos, Brokaw, etc.) step away, leaving Sanders Berman, Tabby Doling, and Delray M. Milius in the center. Milius holds up his glass and taps it, chinking and bringing silence to the room.

Delray M. Milius is doughy-faced and five-foot-seven, and I don’t mention his height pejoratively, as I’m only five-foot-nine, and I’ve never put much stock in how tall somebody is in relation to their character. I know big pricks and little pricks, as I’m sure we all do. He’s Sanders Berman’s right-hand man, his hatchet man, if you will, or if you believe the story—and I believe it because it’s true—he’s “that glory hole ass gape cocksucker.” I don’t choose those words lightly, or to offend homosexuals, some of whom are my closest friends, but because those were the words that Matt Healy, a correspondent in the magazine’s Washington, D.C., bureau, put in an email, accidentally cc’ing the entire editorial staff. This was back in ’99, before my time, and when email mistakes like that were more common. It was also back when Healy was in New York. After that email, he was sent to DC in a kind of exile, while Delray M. Milius leveraged the potential sexual harassment suit to get a big promotion to assistant managing editor, where he’s twisted Sanders Berman’s bow tie ever since.

As you can probably guess, Milius isn’t too popular at the magazine. There’s a strong anti-Milius faction, and within this faction, there’s always a running bet about how long Milius is going to last—this time. He’s left and come back to the magazine five times in twelve years. “Don’t let Milius bother you” is the conventional wisdom in how to deal with him. “It’s just a matter of time before he wakes up one morning and just can’t get out of bed and quits again. Paralyzed. By depression, fear, anxiety, who knows—it’s happened before.”

9 From “The Leonard Lopate Show: Michael Hastings on the Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan – WNYC”, this excerpt runs from 2:24 to 2:42 on the audio file.

10 This critique should not mislay anyone to the fact that Dolan is often an excellent and perceptive writer. See “Charlie Hebdo: Unmournable Frenchies”, for instance.

11 This clip is taken from “Journalist Michael Hastings Interview: The Reporter Who Took Down Stanley McChrystal (2011)”, segment runs from 27:17-28:58.

12 From “Crashes of Convenience: Michael Hastings” (20:48-21:06)

13 This excerpt is taken from an email sent in from Coen to J.K. Trotter, and published as a comment to “A Guide to IDing the Real People Disguised in Michael Hastings’ Novel” (direct link).

14 One can contrast this with Hastings’ perspective, expressed on his blog, The Hastings Report, in the post “McNamara and America’s nostalgia for 70 million deaths, part II”:

I think the Greatest Generation mythology that’s taken hold in recent years, and the festishization of World War Two, is a rhetorical trump card that is played too freely when discussing the necessity of going to war. World War II should not firstly be remembered as a triumph of the American Spirit; it should be seen as the most horrible man-made tragedy we’ve yet produced, a conflict that left 50 to 70 million dead.

This nostalgic love for the Great Patriotic War wasn’t always that widely held: contemporary WWII writers saw it as an abomination–read what James Jones and Norman Mailer had to say about it, or the fact that the greatest anti-war classic, Joseph Heller’s Catch 22, is about the insaneness of WWII. That being said, I don’t have a good one or two sentence answer to explain how we could have got around fighting it in a way that seems either convincing, or moral. Either did the man who started this debate, Robert McNamara.

The best I can come up with is this.

There are two kinds of wars. Wars of tragic neccesity, and wars of unnecessary tragedy. WWII is about the only one I can think of that falls into the former category; almost every other war we’ve been involved in seems to fit firmly in the latter. Since the atom bomb, we’ve come up with all sorts of ways to still wage war without ever going as far as we did towards total annhilation from 1939 to 1945. These tippy toe wars have been a mistake, I think, from Korea to Vietnam to Iraq. We’ve convinced oursleves that the best way to stop the Ultimate War III is to keep fighting little wars to prevent it. We fought Korea and Vietnam with an eye to avoiding a deadly nuclear confrontation with Russia and now we’re fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan to avoid a deadly nuclear confrontation with Islamic terrorists. It has established a dangerous pattern. It encourages our leaders to think that war is something that can be tamed, contained, and waged in a way that seems lawful and just, when really, war is rarely any of those things.

15 This quote is taken from the excerpt fround at footnote #5.

16 From “Scott Horton Interviews Michael Hastings (April 21, 2009)”, segment runs from 19:05-23:12.

17 From I Lost My Love in Baghdad:

At 11 A.M., I’m on a quick helicopter flight with a handful of other journalists out to Camp Victory near the airport, to witness a TOA, pronounced “Toe-Ah,” a transfer of authority ceremony. Lieutenant General Ray Ordierno is taking over daily operations in Iraq from Lieutenant General Peter Chiarelli. It marks the completion of Chiarelli’s second Iraq tour. There are a lot of flags and a band, lots of saluting. The military loves their uniforms and flags and salutes. Chiarelli, along with his superior, General George Casey, has presided over a year in Iraq in which the violence has spiraled completely out of control. The attempt to restore security to Baghdad during the summer and fall has failed.

In his farewell address, Chiarelli quotes Teddy Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or whether the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust…who errs and comes short again and again…who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly…”

As he speaks, you can hear gunfire and helicopters in the distance.

Chiarelli said he and General Casey had often discussed that quote. I try to figure out if any of the two hundred or so soldiers in the crowd, or any of the other journalists at the ceremony, notice this remark.

This was our military’s attitude behind our Iraq policy? It’s better to have tried and failed daringly than not to have tried at all? Maybe if you’re playing football, but in war?

18 A moment which makes me recall a fragment from The Last Magazine when the character Michael Hastings talks about the seemingly arbitrary rules of what is allowed and not allowed in pornography on cable:

I am disappointed. I should never have trusted Time Warner Cable. They’ve given a nod to some kind of strange decency regulations. Is it a legal thing? Why did they edit it out? Who sets these standards? Who sat around the table, saying gaping assholes okay, assholes to mouth not okay? What does that look like in legal language? Was there a board meeting? “Non-explicit or internal visualizations of sex organs.”

19 In a book where the identities of the roman a clef characters are often obvious, but their pseudonyms carry no linkage to their real names, this one is an exception: “Middle East expert” Daniel Tubes is very obviously “Middle East expert” Daniel Pipes.

20 There is much proof on-line for this, such as “Interview: Writing a ‘big, big, life’ Plus: What Hemingway wrote to Norman Mailer”, his interview with Mailer biographer Michael Lennon, which also mentions his time at the Mailer Writers Colony. There is this question and answer from “Reckless and Inspired”, an interview with Jonathan Hastings:

PR: Did he admire much popular-type writing?

JH: Pop fiction-wise, he loved Stephen King. He also liked some sci-fi, especially what I would characterize as the liberal strain of military sci-fi: Joe Haldeman’s “Forever War,” John Scalzi’s “Old Man’s War.” As I mentioned, he liked Philip K. Dick a lot, too, in his case for the ideas more than anything else. I don’t know that he ever finished reading too many of Dick’s novels, but the PKD vibe was important to him. But I’d say that the writers he and I talked the most about over the years were: (1) Stephen King, (2) Norman Mailer, (3) Philip Roth. Although that was probably because I didn’t have too much to say about Hunter S. Thompson … and he didn’t really need to talk about Thompson.

From “Michael Hastings’ Dangerous Mind: Journalistic Star Was Loved, Feared and Haunted “ [archive link: https://web.archive.org/web/20180202142341/http://www.laweekly.com/news/michael-hastings-dangerous-mind-journalistic-star-was-loved-feared-and-haunted-2614816 ] by Gene Maddaus:

In his 20s, Hastings stayed clean and channeled his manic energies into journalism. Writer Rachel Sklar met him, and dated him for a few months, when he was living in New York and working for Newsweek. She remembers his apartment overflowing with books — Hemingway, Mailer, Roth, A.J. Liebling and many volumes on war.

21 From “The Leonard Lopate Show: Michael Hastings on the Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan – WNYC”, this excerpt runs from 1:04 to 1:17 on the audio file.

22 From “Michael Hastings « Antiwar Radio with Scott Horton” (2009/04/21), this segment runs from 0:14-1:32.

23 From a reply to “A Guide to IDing the Real People Disguised in Michael Hastings’ Novel” (direct link):


Anyhow, I liked Mike a lot—we spent a lot of time together, actually. It was 2004-06, we were all living on the LES and out and about all the time (though I remember Mike was already sober at that point; he had problems in hs and college, I think). I can’t remember for the life of me how we met. He was really friendly but also intense, and intensely ambitious…but also good-natured, at least from where I was standing. He struck me as a lot more “real” then many of the people I was meeting and socializing with at the time. He didn’t care about media hierarchy bullshit, didn’t blow smoke up my ass about Gawker. I remember having a lot of deep and honest conversations over coffee, but also taking him to random media parties (Molly Jong Fast’s book party at her mother’s condo comes to mind).

Mike was enthusiastic about Gawker and kind of game for anything—I think he was freelancing at Newsweek at that point, but I didn’t see a lot of contempt from him towards Gawker. Then again, we were paying him, so he was likely just biting his tongue. But I didn’t love working at Gawker, either—it was a brutal job at the time, I was terrified of Nick and worked 13 hours a day. I know I opened up a lot to him about that.

Eventually Newsweek sent him to Iraq, and after that he was different. He said there was a lot of stuff that I just couldn’t understand. He wasn’t crazy or anything, but he also kept a gun under his bed (futon, actually, in a shitty Allen Street walkup down the street from my shitty Orchard Street walkup). I also remember him saying that he was incapable of relaxing, not even in NYC, after that experience. He was also 100% certain he would go back. It was what he wanted to do. Very Hurt Locker-esque, like one of those people who just couldn’t return to regular life.

He went back, then his fiancée died over there and I recall going to the memorial/book party (which was weird and felt a little garish but sincere at the same time, if that’s possible), and that was when we started to really lose touch.

AJ was probably the last of us to hang out with him, like 2011-ish I think, and Mike was drinking again. But I hadn’t talked to him for years so who knows when that started back up.

Also, I am pretty sure he briefly dated Rachel Sklar. Relevant, I know.

24 Though the majority of posts by K. Eric Walters were made during his guest editing stint, he did several, mostly as part of “Team Party Crash”. Before his stint as guest editor: “WSJ: Who’s Wrong First?” [archive link] (4/26/05 6:10pm), “Team Party Crash: The F-Word Premiere” [archive link] (Party Crash 4/27/05 3:10pm), “Team Party Crash: Air Tahiti Nui Launch” [archive link] (4/29/05 12:06pm).

After this his guest editorship begins: “Rita Cosby: MSNBC Snags Well-Fed Blonde” [archive link] (5/16/05 9:00am), “Slate: Charles Manson is Hilarious!” [archive link] (5/16/05 9:33am), “NYT Makes Your Weekend More Boring” [archive link] (5/16/05 10:55am), “The Drudge Radio Report Report” [archive link] (5/16/05 12:15pm), “Blind Item Guessing Game: Sphincter Held Tight Edition” [archive link] (5/16/05 12:40pm), “iPod Wars Spread To Brooklyn” [archive link] (5/16/05 2:03pm), “NYT: Watch David Brooks Dance for Only $50” [archive link] (5/16/05 3:00pm), “Radar: The Longest 15 Minutes Ever” (5/16/05 4:06pm) [archive link], “Bret Easton Ellis: When Does Stalking Become Art?” [archive link] (5/17/05 10:50am), “The New Yorker Unlocks Secret to Blogging” [archive link] (5/17/05 11:54am), “Fake News Sweeps Peabody Awards; Journalism Dies Another Death” [archive link] (5/17/05 1:15pm), “Radar: Your Party Crashing Guide” [archive link] (5/17/05 4:52pm), “Media Bubble: What do AOL and Joey Have in Common?” [archive link] (5/17/05 5:39pm), “The Anderson Cooper Real Estate Contest Results: A New Roommate?” [archive link] (5/17/05 6:50pm), “Remainders: Fresh Intelligence on the NBC Peacock” [archive link] (5/17/05 7:19pm), “FNC: Bill O’Reilly is Not Part of Aqua Team” [archive link] (5/17/05 3:46pm), “What Bouncers Think When Guidos Attack” [archive link] (5/18/05 8:48am), “Clarification: Radar, Not to be Confused with Swedish Magazine of Same Name” [archive link] (5/18/05 9:30am), ‘Cheap Date’ Takes on Whole New Meaning at Midtown Hotel Bar [archive link] (5/19/05 8:36am), “Donald Trump: Lower Manhattan Needs to be Saved” [archive link] (5/19/05 10:22am), “Owen King: In Praise of Nepotism Redux” [archive link] (5/19/05 11:30am), “PIEGATE: GAWKER MEDIA LAUNCHES OWN INVESTIGATION…” [archive link] (5/19/05 12:39pm), “Sylvester Stallone: Fake Heavyweight Champion Turns Real Magazine Editor?” [archive link] (5/19/05 2:07pm), “Radar: 15 Minutes of Fame?” [archive link] (5/19/05 2:14pm), “Emailing Scary Norwegians From Brooklyn” [archive link] (5/19/05 3:20pm), “Media Bubble: As Words Die, Popularity of eBay Rises” [archive link] (5/19/05 4:40pm), “Remainders: The Nothing About ‘Radar’ Edition (Seriously)” [archive link] (5/19/05 6:20pm), “Drudge: Friday Morning, All is Well” [archive link] (5/20/05 8:18am), “NYT: Putting Us in Our Poverty-Stricken Place” [archive link] (5/20/05 9:20am), “Bill Hemmer: Producers Are There For a Reason” [archive link] (5/20/05 11:25am), “Death by Literature? Or Another Reason to Read Magazines?” [archive link] (5/20/05 12:20pm), “Bill O’Reilly Asks More Tough Questions” [archive link] (5/20/05 12:56pm), “Marquee Bouncers Incite Violence, Bruises At Radar After-Party” [archive link] (5/20/05 1:35pm), “Media Bubble: Unabated, The Mark Burnett Invasion Continues” [archive link] (5/20/05 4:55pm), “Remainders: All Blogs, All the Time, All Wrong” [archive link] (5/20/05 5:40pm), “Team Party Crash: Hamptons Magazine Party” [archive link] (5/26/05 10:52am), “Team Party Crash: The Beauty Bar Glam Pageant” [archive link] (6/06/05 4:40pm).

He also occasionally did correspondent work for Jessica Coen, such as “A Night Out With Page Six’s Chris Wilson” [archive link].

25 Exhibit A of this phenomenon is usually her essay, “Emily Gould – Exposed – Blog-Post Confidential – Gawker”. Essays by others are “5 Things About That Times Magazine Piece On Masturbatory Blogging” by Moe Tkacik, Daily Intel’s “Emily Gould’s ‘Times Magazine’ Story: Give Me an ‘I’!”, and “Emily Gould: New Gloss On An Old Story” by Rachel Sklar.

26 Examples of the past reporter work of Goldberg, often excellent, include “The Don is Done”, a profile of the post-Gotti mafia for the New York Times; “Sammy the Bull Explains How The Mob Got Made” a brief portrait of Gotti’s lieutenant for the Times; for New York magazine: “The Mafia’s Morality Crisis”; “All the Wrong Moves”, about Israeli owned moving companies; “The Decline and Fall of the Upper West Side”; “The Overachievers”, a profile of New York’s Korean community.

27 The Hamra made the international news after it was hit as part of a massive bombing attack in 2010. See “Baghdad Blasts Shatter Sense of Security in Capital” by Anthony Shadid and John Leland. Shadid, another excellent foreign correspondent, would die in 2012.

28 Hastings was not part of the initial invasion force, and the story of someone swimming in the Hamra Hotel pool is likely taken from somewhere else, a story which he mentions in parenthesis in his memoir I Lost My Love in Baghdad about the heady days following the invasion:

I’d arrived two years, five months, and twenty-five days after the war started, and Baghdad was under siege. Gone were the days of journalists traveling freely throughout the country. The stories I’d hear of the wild parties at the Hamra Hotel (“You know her, from Egypt, she swam in her underwear!”), the morning drives to Ramadi and Fallujah, casually searching for stories on the streets of Sadr City, moving without two carloads of armed guards—all of that had disappeared.

29 “Introducing: Gawker Weekend” (archive.today link) by Choire Sicha:

Beginning this weekend, and ending whenever we feel like it, please enjoy Gawker Weekend. On Saturdays and Sundays, Gawker Weekend editors Jonathan Liu and Leon Neyfakh will delve deep into the weekend lifestyle and culture media so beloved, or presumably beloved, by the sorts of people who actually get weekends to shop, relax, and, you know, just be themselves in pictorials with nice furniture. Come with us—if you’re not too busy antiquing!—to the land where newspapers believe that books are extremely decorative and the hustle and bustle of the financial district pales in comparison to the joys of extreme boating, film-going, fun apartment-hunting and the enjoyment of the other advertiser-friendly weekend lifestyle arts.

That Liu and Neyfakh both went to Harvard together is a piece of information that can be found in “Blogging: The I-Banking of Harvard’s Journalists” by Annie Lowrey (archive.today link):

Chen is the most obviously successful of a dozen or so Harvard students who have used their blogs as stepping stones to larger writing opportunities and careers. Harvard Law alum Jeremy Blachman wrote the farcical Anonymous Lawyer blog and the eponymous book. Jonathan C. Liu ’07 and former FM [Fifteen Minutes, the Harvard Crimson magazine] editor-at-large Leon Neyfakh ’07 now write the weekend edition of Gawker. Former FM Chair Elizabeth W. Green ’06 blogs and reports for U.S. News & World Report.

30 The proper pronunciation can be heard in an interview with Sicha, “Longform Podcast #19: Choire Sicha”.

31 “Choire Sicha on ‘Very Recent History,’ a book that is ‘100 percent true'” by Laura June:

I saw a tweet of yours the other day of your two cats in the backseat of your car. It appeared that the cats were in charge. How many cats do you have? Do you ever let them drive? Which of your cats would theoretically make the best driver? Where do you think they would go?

I only have two cats. (“Only.”) They are Miami street rescues. One of them is a fucking ENORMOUS cool black-and-white frat boy. The other is this tiny neurotic gray lady. THEY ARE IN LOVE.

The car thing comes from our last cat, Cat The Cat, RIP. When he was about 18 years old we moved down to Miami for a little while and he spent his last year there. I was back in New York a lot for work, and when I was away, my husband used to drive him around at night. He was this scrawny old beast, but he’d stand up on his hind legs with his front feet on the dashboard and stare out the window, or stand on my husband’s lap while he drove. Cats love cars!

So… yeah. We drive cats around a lot. Looks around awkwardly

32 From “Emily Gould – Exposed – Blog-Post Confidential” by Gould:

In the fall of 2006, I got a call from the managing editor of Gawker Media, a network of highly trafficked blogs, asking me to come by the office in SoHo to talk about a job. Since its birth four years earlier, the company’s flagship blog, Gawker, had purported to be in the business of reporting “Manhattan media gossip,” which it did, sometimes — catty little details about writers and editors and executives, mostly. But it was also a clearinghouse for any random tidbit of information about being young and ambitious in New York. Though Gawker was a must-read for many of the people working at the magazines and newspapers whose editorial decisions the site mocked and dissected, it held an irresistible appeal for desk-bound drones in all fields — tens of thousands of whom visited the site each day.

I had been one of those visitors for as long as I’d had a desk job. Sometimes Gawker felt like a source of essential, exclusive information, tailored to the needs of people just like me. Other times, reading Gawker left me feeling hollow and moody, as if I’d just absentmindedly polished off an entire bag of sickly sweet candy. But when the call came, I brushed this thought aside. For a young blogger in New York in 2006, becoming an editor at Gawker was an achievement so lofty that I had never even imagined it could happen to me. The interview and audition process felt a little surreal, like a dream. But when I got the job, I had the strange and sudden feeling that it had been somehow inevitable. Maybe my whole life — all the trivia I’d collected, the knack for funny meanness I’d been honing since middle school — had been leading up to this moment.

33 Prior to “(Not an) April Fools Book Proposal: ‘I Lost My Love in Baghdad'”, Liu had published at the Observer in 2006, “A Disappointing Pharrell Nurses His Contradictions” (08/07/06), “When Sexy Met Indie: Junior Boys Grow Up Fast” (09/18/06), “The Old Campus Quarrel, Fought to a Standstill Again” (10/09/06), “Fearsome Extremists Massing in Their Pews” (01/22/07), “Neon Bible: Topical Fairy Tales” (03/12/07). He would go on to publish numerous book reviews at the Observer: “Better on the Box: Colbert Book Bombs”, “Maladjusted Men (And Gals!) In Mannerist Short Fiction”, “Bush-Cheney as True Novel”, “Semi-Persuasive Pentagon Paranoia”, “Is America Fiddling at Its Own Funeral?”, “John Edgar Wideman’s Fanon Is Pure Electroclash”, “A Nation of Uncommitted, Distracted Dilettantes”, “Babble On, Revisited”, “Black and White, North and South”, as well as journalism such as “Dinner With the Unknowers: The NYC Skeptics Break Bread”, “Times Art Critic Michael Kimmelman to Take Over as Paper’s Architecture Critic”, “Play It Again, Sam…But Don’t Forget to Pay the 9.1-Cent Mechanical Reproduction Royalty”, etc.

These review links were taken from his blog, jonathanliu.webs.com: reviews (books) (archive.today link), though the links featured there are frequently broken. Later non-literary work was for Vice, “The Rise of Wikipedian Statecraft: How Azawad, Spurned by the U.N., Earned Its Recognition Online”, “The Rise of Wikipedian Statecraft, Part 2”, “The Rise of Wikipedian Statecraft, Part 3”, “Dear Mainstream Media: On the Internet, It’s Clear You’re a Sloppy Arrogant Cur Who Hates Your Readers”, and “The Problem with Christopher Nolan? He’s Fundamentally Uninterested in Cities”. At Capital New York, he would write “Lady Gaga flunks out of the College of American Pop Vestals” and “Taylor Swift’s immodest proposal: One million units of blond suprematism”.

Liu omits any mention of his writing credits on Gawker, except in one place, on his reviews made at The Barnes & Noble reviews listed on his site: “The Birth of Classical Europe” (archive.today link), “Our Tragic Universe”, “A Moment in the Sun”, “Witz”, and “The Sacred Book of the Werewolf”, all of which mention a fuller list of his credits: “Jonathan Liu is a reviewer and journalist who has written for The New York Observer, Gawker.com, and The Harvard Book Review.”

Jonathan Liu credit

His past blog was The Original Endasherpage 2, page 3, page 4, page 5, page 6, page 7, page 8, page 9.

Leon Neyfakh filed many stories at the Observer (link to archive under his name), many on the tech, art, and literary worlds, such as “Salon 2.0: Baby Hackers Gorge on Twizzlers and Red Bull, Coding Till the Sun Comes Up”, “Good Nerd, Bad Nerd” about Mark Zuckerberg, “In Facebook’s Crosshairs”, “Don’t Blow It! New York Tech’s Top Investors Have Bubble Trouble on the Brain”, “David Karp Explains How Companies Can Win Points With Tumblr Users By Boosting Their Self Esteem”, “Foursquare’s Dennis Crowley Talks to Mary Kate Olsen at a Tech Party: A Dramatization”, “OK, Cupid! Baby Angel Alexis Ohanian Comes to New York”, “The Facebook Effect on New York”, “Getting Followed by Kanye On Twitter Will Make You Sad”, “Alternet Uncovers Right-Wing Group Conspiring to Manipulate Digg’s Front Page”, “The Pitchfork Frankenstein Effect: Indie Powerhouse Now Spawns Bands in its Own Image”, “The End of the Empire” (closing of the Empire Diner), “Leo Castelli: This Charming Man”, “The Curious Case of the Missing Naipaul”, “Screech’s Saved by the Bell Tell-All Dropped by Gotham Books, Resold”, “Is Alain de Botton Sorry About Angry Comment Left On Critic’s Blog?”, “Dueling Foster Wallace Bios: Two Hit Market, One Sells”, “John Updike Loved New York” (an epitaph), “Washington Post Kills ‘Book World’ Section”, “Why Do Young Male Writers Love Icky, Tough Guy Deadbeats?”, “In Harper’s, Colson Whitehead Accuses James Wood of Being (Gasp!) an Aesthete and a Traditionalist”, “Judith Regan: Michael Wolff ‘Absurd’; ‘Simply Wants to Spin Facts in Favor of Defaming Me’”, “Michael Wolff Wonders: Why’s Judith Regan After the Spotlight Again?”, “Publishing Bigshots Told to Open Canned Tuna, Eat at Desk”, “Why Obama Can’t Win Author Curses ‘Stupid, Silly Title’”, “Hugh Hewitt’s How Sarah Palin Won the Election…and Saved America Does Not As Yet Have a Publisher”, “Philip Roth Confirms: Indignation’s Narrator Not Dead, At Least Not Until After the Book Ends”, “Roth: Indignation Narrator Not All the Way Dead! Maybe Just On Morphine”, “David Foster Wallace Is Gone—Did He Leave Some ‘Larger Thing’?”, “Postcards From the Red Zone” (a discussion with foreign correspondent Dexter Filkins about his book, The Forever War), “Lady in Maine Insists on Being Stubborn; Refuses to Return ‘Obscene’ Sex Book to Local Library”, “Cindy Adams Is Really Mad About This New Bill Clinton Book”, “Same Photo of Bonobos Doing It Appears on the Cover of Two New Books; Daphne Merkin Blurbs Both”, “James Frey: ‘There Isn’t a Great Deal of Difference Between Fact and Fiction’”, “Jonathan Franzen: Michiko Kakutani Is ‘The Stupidest Person in New York City'”, “Mike Huckabee Gets Book Deal For ‘Optimistic Vision For America’s Future'”, “Rumsfeld Book Deal Will ‘Add to People’s Information About These Times'”, “Edgy Novelist Goes Mainstream”, “Photogenic Calamity Physics Author Goes Random”, “O. J. Simpson’s Former Agent to Publish Book: How I Helped O. J. Get Away With Murder”, “L. A. Times Editor O’Shea Forced Out For Resisting Budget Cuts”, “Canseco Finds New Publisher For Steroids Book, Hires O.J.’S Ghostwriter”, “As Ennui Strikes ‘Creative Class,’ Self-Help Beckons”, “Publisher Shelves Parenting Memoir By Britney Spears’ Mom”, “N+1 on the 5th Anniversary of Gawker”, “The Id (and Imp) of American Literature” (Norman Mailer epitaph), “Norman Mailer in Critical Care at Mount Sinai, Recovering From Surgery (UPDATE)”, “New York’s Liberal Intellectuals Are Back at Each Other’s Throats—Buruma and Berman Slug It Out Over Political Islam”, “Kurt Vonnegut’s Final Interview(s)”, “Ivy League Chick Lit: Extracurricular Exposé” etc.

All these were posted after the Lost My Love in Baghdad posts at Gawker; “Extracurricular Exposé” has a post-date of 07/17/06 12:00am. “A Dean’s Exhortation: Stop Coddling, Harvard!” was posted in the year before, post date: 06/19/06 12:00am, as was “Postcolonial Makeover For Harvard-Bound Girl” (04/03/06 12:00am), “Upbeat, Warm and Sunny, A Band Bids Angst Adieu” (11/06/06 12:00am), “A Mogul in a Muddle: The Un-Retired Jay-Z” (11/27/06 12:00am).

Of special note is a profile of book editor David Rosenthal, “David Rosenthal Puts on His Penguin Suit”, noteworthy because Rosenthal was Hastings’ editor for The Operators, and “After Years of Pursuit, Wylie Signs Updike”, about the Updike estate hiring literary agent Andrew Wylie, as well as “Andrew Wylie Puts Roberto Bolaño On the Market”, “Andrew Wylie Still Hungry For the Dead, Pursuing Graham Greene Estate”, “Wylie in Academe: Students Meet Reality On Topic of Agent”, “Week of the Jackal: Andrew Wylie Devours 3 Giants, One Living”, “Wylie Agency Adds Nabokov Estate To Its Client List”, “Helen DeWitt Trashes Andrew Wylie on Portfolio.com”, “Ooh—Fuzzy! A Kinder, Gentler Jackal (So Far) Settles In at Wylie Agency” also about Wylie, who was Hastings’ literary agent and the man that asked that the Hastings manuscript be taken down.

34 The old “Media Mob” section at the Observer was discontinued; the original page from the week before the item on I Lost My Love in Baghdard was published, can be found at archive.org, with a saved version from April 10, featuring items going all the way back to March 30th (archive.org wayback machine link), though the Lost My Love item is already deleted. Items specifically filed by Michael Calderone bear his name. A screencap of their March 29 archived page with Scocca credited as section editor:

Media Mob

Media Mob close-up

The introuctory text for the item can be found in the Gawker “Book Proposals Kill”:

New Iraq Book Will Chronicle War, Challenging Relationship

New Iraq Book Will Chronicle War, Challenging Relationship

This proposal for a new Iraq memoir was just passed on to The Observer. Written by Newsweek Baghdad correspondent Michael Hastings, it’s called I Lost My Love in Baghdad and chronicles his time there as well as his tumultuous relationship with his fiance Andi Parhamovich, who was killed in Iraq in January while working for the National Democratic Institute. We will refrain from commenting further about the book’s eye-catching title, or what’s inside.

We hear that the book sold for a hefty sum, and to a big name publisher. Guesses?

Posted by The Media Mob on March 30, 2007, 5:12 PM

35 From “Two Gawker Editors Decide Not to Be Douche Bags”, posted in New York‘s “Intel” column:

Holy poop you guys, did you get that IM from the intern down the hall? Something totally crazy is going on at Gawker!! Writer Emily Gould and managing editor Choire Sicha, are QUITTING. Sicha is that hot gay who helped shape the site as its second solo editor from 2003 to 2005. He left to work at the Observer and then came back early this year. Gould has been working on the site since November of last year. Neither have jobs lined up, we hear. SO BRAVE.

Sicha’s trajectory from Gawker to the Observer and back to Gawker again is also described less succintly in Carla Blumenkranz’s essential history, “Gawker: 2002–2007”.

36 From “Who Killed Michael Hastings?” by Benjamin Wallace:

Three weeks after her death, Hastings’s agent Andrew Wylie had a 131-page book proposal in hand, and five weeks later, he sold it to Scribner for an advance reportedly above $500,000. The speed of the deal, and the inclusion of intimate e-mails and texts between Hastings and Parhamovich, riled some in the publishing world. (Gawker dissected the proposal mercilessly, and after the Observer published the document, it received a lawyer letter complaining that it included information that Parhamovich’s family didn’t yet know—such as the fact that Hastings was even writing a book about their daughter.)

Hastings, back in Baghdad after crashing the book, seemed to take the criticism in stride. “I remember getting an e-mail from Mike that was like, ‘Fuck them, I’m on Haifa Street,’” Darman says.

37 From “Let Me Tell You About the Most Heartfelt $200 I Ever Made” by Choire Sicha: “Mark’s Church on the Bowery, once known as the site of the first performance by Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye and then suddenly an HBO backdrop…Carrie Bradshaw was the Bernie Goetz of the Bloomberg era, shooting at the walls of heartache, bang-bang,” and I’m not sure if the shift from Patti “Because the Night” Smith to Patti “The Warrior” Smyth is interpolation or mistake.

38 From “The Brit dishing the dirt on America” by Jay Rayner:

Last year Denton made his first appearance in the Sunday Times Rich List, at number 502. He was valued at £140m. As one of our mutual friends put it: ‘Even if they’ve overstated his wealth by a factor of 10, Nick is still a hell of a lot richer than you or me.’

Exchange rate of pound to dollar for March 2008 when that article is published, with one dollar equal to 0.499758 pounds, is taken from X-rates, (link for March 2008).

39 Denton’s Oxford background is discussed in “The new élite who run our equal society” by Simon Kuper, with the helpful subhead, “Behind the mask you’ll find the new ruling caste is just like the old”. Liu’s Harvard background is discussed in footnote #27.

40 This segment runs from 28:10 to 29:00 in the “Majority Report” podcast, “2/29 Dave Weigel, Ruin of GOP & Michael Hastings, DHS monitors OWS”.

41 This segment runs from 46:21 to 46:35 in the “Majority Report” podcast, “11/13 Michael Hastings, The Real David Petraeus Scandals & the Surveillance State”.

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The Secrets of Sibel Edmonds

Sibel Edmonds


“I am the President” by Christopher Judges, via “Terry Richardson’s Prom Night and Punk Youth: Vintage Photos Unearthed” by Jessica Coen


Occasionally, one runs into a character which exerts a force that distorts everything around them, the narrative in which they’re in breaks, or the reader wishes it to break, so they might take a station appropriate to their influence. This post was supposed to continue on the theme of Bruce Fein, further annotations to a podcast transcript (“Bruce Fein Interviewed by Ian Masters: A Transcript, With Interruptions”), but we are now waylaid by a character who commands our full attention. How I’ll get back to the story of Fein, I have no idea, and for the moment it’s not important.

There does, however, need to be some introductory space before we get to our new main character. In 2008, Ohio congresswoman Jean Schmidt would face off against David Krikorian in the Republican primary. During the race, Krikorian would distribute a flier claiming that Schmidt had been bribed with blood money for her opposition to a congressional resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide – Krikorian is of Armenian descent. Schmidt won the primary, won her seat, filed a complaint against Krikorian with the Ohio Elections Commission (OEC), and then a $6.8 million lawsuit. She would win a ruling in her favor from the commission, and after four years of legal wrangling, would finally drop her defamation lawsuit1.

The fight before the OEC brought two old adversaries back against each other. Amongst Krikorian’s counsel was Mark Geragos, and among Schmidt’s was Bruce Fein. In his book Mistrial, Geragos had described Fein as “one of the most repulsive human beings I have ever had the mispleasure of meeting,” and Fein’s denials of the Armenian genocide in a courtroom in 2001 as the moment when he nearly lost faith in the justice system. Given Fein’s supposed antipathy of the Iraq war and the war state, Schmidt stood out as a client. In 2006, as the violent fissures of civil war broke out in Iraq, Schmidt cheerfully continued to believe. “There is enormous potential there,” she said. “the kind of potential that we saw in 1776.”2 On November 18, 2005, when John Murtha voted to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, the following ruckus broke out in the House (“Cowards cut and run, Marines never do”, on youtube):

Mr. Speaker, at this time, I now yield one minute to our newest member, the gentlewoman from Ohio.

Thank you. Yesterday, I stood at Arlington National Cemetery attending the funeral of a young marine in my district. He believed in what we were doing [sic] is the right thing and had the courage to lay his life on the line to do it. A few minutes ago I received a call from Colonel Danny Bubp, Ohio Representative from the 88th District in the House of Representatives. He asked me to send Congress a message: stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message: that cowards cut and run, Marines never do. (Angry shouting starts) Danny…and the rest…of America… (Angry shouting gets louder) AND THE WORLD… (Angry shouting continues at high volume, gavel starts pounding down) WANT THE ASSURANCE…(“Will the…” drowned out by shouting) FROM THIS BODY…(Angry shouting gets even louder, and stays at high pitch, “The house will…”, pounding gavel) WILL SEE THIS THROUGH. (gavel pounding)

The house will be in order…(angry shouting) The house will be in order…(angry shouting, lower than before, but intense and sustained) The house will be in order! (someone on the floor: “Mr. Speaker!”) THE HOUSE WILL BE IN ORDER. THE HOUSE WILL BE IN ORDER. THE GENTLELADY WILL SUSPEND…(someone shouting on the floor)…AND THE CLERK WILL REPORT HER WORDS. (quieter now) All members will suspend. The gentleman from Arkansas has demanded that the gentlelady’s words be taken down, theclerkwillreportthegentleladyswords.

Fein worked without legal charge for Schmidt, his fees paid for by the Turkish American Legal Defense Fund. This would result in a complaint being filed by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) that Schmidt had received legal services valued at over a half a million dollars from a lobby group as a gift. Schmidt would end up being named one of the most corrupt members of Congress in a CREW report, the House Ethics Committee would rule the gift as impermissible and order Schmidt to re-pay it. Fein would be forbidden from further participating in the case3.

It was in August 2009, before the Ohio Election Commission, that our lead makes her appearance. Sibel Edmonds had been called in to testify to the links between the Turkish government and lobby groups such as the Turkish Coalition of America, to make the case that what was said in the Krikorian fliers, that the Turkish government itself had paid for Schmidt’s stance on the Armenian Genocide resolution, had some basis in fact. The reason Edmonds might be able to give relevant testimony in this area was because of her work as an FBI translator from September 2001 to March 2002. From “Deposition of: Sibel Deniz Edmonds”, page 17:

And how did it come to be that you were working for the FBI?

Okay. I will try to summarize the story so it’s not — it won’t take too long. When I was studying for my Bachelor’s degree, criminal justice/psychology, I had applied for internship position with the FBI, and this would be around ’97, 1997, 1998, and they never responded to me and except that they were interested in my linguistic abilities because I spoke Turkish and Farsi. And then I didn’t hear back from them, and I was contacted around September 11, 2001, and they said they had obtained top secret clearance for me, and they needed my services for translation in Turkish and Farsi, and they wanted me to start immediately, and because I couldn’t work full time, I took the contractor’s position with the FBI for translation of those languages, and to a certain degree Azerbaijani.

All right, and so can you describe what your job was with the FBI aside from translating those languages?

I assisted Special Agents, both my — the primary supervisory Special Agents in Washington, D.C. field office, but also Special Agents in charge of various counterintelligence and counterterrorism investigations around the country, and those were different FBI field offices.

Now, when you refer to counterintelligence operations, can you just tell us what that means?

Counterintelligence operations in the FBI had to do with collecting information, monitoring — and monitoring particular target foreign entities in the United States.

Edmonds would go on to testify that part of her translation work was of surveillance over a covert Turkish lobby, involved in intelligence operations in the United States, page 30 of the deposition:

Okay. So when you talk about the covert Turkish lobby, what are you referring to there?

Activities that would involve trying to obtain very sensitive, classified, highly classified U.S. intelligence information, weapons technology information, classified congressional records, recruiting — recruiting key U.S. individuals with access to highly sensitive information, blackmailing, bribery. These are some of the ones that just perhaps — and there are many others that I’m unable to think of.

This covert lobby was involved in numerous activities, including the secret campaign funding of various top level members of Congress, done via donations small enough that they didn’t need to be itemized in public filings. Those she accused of receiving such covert funding included Steve Solarz, congressman from New York, Bob Livingston of Louisiana, Dan Burton of Indiana, and then speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert:

Can you tell me anything about what your concerns are about Mr. Hastert?

This information has been public. The concerns, again would be several categories. The acceptance of large sums of bribery in forms of cash or laundered cash and laundering is to make it look legal for his campaigns, and also for his personal use, in order to do certain favors and call certain — call for certain actions, make certain things happen for foreign entities and foreign governments’ interests, Turkish government’s interest and Turkish business entities’ interests.

Did you have reason to believe that Mr. Hastert, for example, killed one of the Armenian genocide resolutions in exchange for money —

Leading question.

— money from these Turkish organizations?

Yes, I do.

So if I were to say that a member of Congress — if I were to just walk out on the street and say, “Gee, I think members of Congress have taken money from these Turkish organizations in exchange for denying the Armenian genocide,” would that be an unreasonable assumption on my part?

That’s pure conjecture. The individual —


— is totally irrelevant.

Are you aware of other members of Congress, other than Mr. Hastert, taking money from Turkish organizations in exchange for denying the Armenian genocide?

Yes, and not only taking money, but other activities, too, including being blackmailed for various reasons.

Stephen Solarz is on your gallery as well. I believe he’s a Representative from New York. Is that correct? I’m really guessing.

He used to be.

Was, right?

Correct. He is a registered lobbyist for the — or was registered lobbyist for the government of Turkey.

And Mr. Hastert is also a registered lobbyist for the government of Turkey now?

That’s what I have read and it was announced, yes, he is.

And why is Mr. Solarz in your gallery, if you can tell me?

Mr. Solarz and certain others in the gallery, as lobbyists they also acted as conduits to deliver or launder contribution and other briberies to certain members of Congress, but also in pressuring outside Congress, and including blackmail, in certain members of Congress.

And Mr. Solarz and others would be doing this on behalf of these Turkish organizations?

And the Turkish government, correct, both.

There was even more. Edmonds would allege that this covert lobby was in alliance with other foreign powers in setting up a network to steal nuclear and technological secrets through the state department, universities, and the RAND Corporation:

One of the things that it indicates in your biographical information is that you’ve made certain allegations. Some of them we’ve talked about a little bit, and I wanted to ask you about some of the others. One of the entries indicates nuclear secrets black market, and it says, “Edmonds alleges that in the course of her work for the government she found evidence that the FBI, State Department and Pentagon had been infiltrated by a Turkish and Israeli run intelligence network that paid high ranking American officials to steal nuclear weapons secrets,” and they have some footnotes for that, some cites. Is that correct that you’ve made those allegations?

That information is correct, and if ever — you can get, I would say, those government organizations and others. There’s another place missing there. They list the State Department itself, but there is one other place that’s missing.

And what is that place?

That would be RAND Corporation.

And can you tell me about the — give me some more information about the Turkish and Israeli run intelligence network that is referred to there?

This information has been public, documenting methods of intelligence gathering. Yes. Through certain U.S. officials, executively appointed officials, foreign entities, not necessarily or not only government related; so if you say Israel and Turkey, not only government but other entities because it has multi-layers.

All right.

Their operations, and some of these layers sometimes they conduct their operations independently and with the sole purpose of obtaining a profit, and therefore, the information they obtain, let’s say, the nuclear or weapons technology, weapons technology related information doesn’t necessarily only go to Turkey or Israel, but they sell it to the highest bidder. That’s how they operate. They contact their people whether it’s in ISI, in Washington, D.C. part of the military attache for Pakistani intelligence, or the certain Saudi business people in Detroit may be contacted, and they say, okay, and talk about these Turkish entities. This is we have obtained this particular DVD containing this, and this person is willing to pay 500,000. Will you offer more because if you don’t, we will give it to this person. So what I’m trying to say is they do it both for governments, foreign governments, but some of those operatives, they also — they offer it in open market, and they have — they have individuals on their payroll on almost every major nuclear facility in the United States. RAND Corporation and various — in Midwest, various Air Force labs that develop certain weapons technology, which I am not very familiar with the technology itself.

When you refer to the or when the article refers to the paid, high ranking American officials, can you identify who they are?

That person has been identified by others.


And he has been identified as Mr. Marc Grossman, who used to work for the State Department.

Right, and Mr. Grossman, I think, was also in your gallery, correct?


And I read somewhere that Mr. Grossman had some relationships with a Turkish organization, Turkish diplomats here in the United States.

Yes. He had very, very close relationship with not only Turkish diplomatic communities and entities, but business and also some of these criminal layer operatives that I told you about. Currently, that he’s nor working; he actually is working for a Turkish company called Ihals Holding.

Okay. Now, was Mr. Grossman the ambassador to Turkey at some

Okay, and then what was his position at the State Department, if you recall?

He had several different positions. I believe in 1999 or 2000, was European Affairs. That dealt a lot with NATO, and afterwards during early bush administration’s stage, he was the second or the third highest person in the State Department. I’m not sure about the title.

Okay, and during that time — I’m sorry — during that time when he was the second or third highest ranking person in State, I’ve read somewhere that you’ve alleged that he actually warned the Turkish Embassy about a CIA front company that had been set up to stop proliferation of nuclear weapons.

That would be summer 2001. Whatever title he held at that point, he, Mr. Grossman, informed a certain Turkish diplomatic entity who was also an independent operative of a company called Brewster Jennings because Brewster Jennings was frequenting the American Turkish Council as a consulting or analyst firm, and there were certain nuclear related operatives who wanted to hire Brewster Jennings and have it pose as a front company. So there were talks between those Turkish operatives and Brewster Jennings, and Mr. Grossman wanted those people to be warned that Brewster Jennings was a government front, front for government, and it was a front. It was not a company for the front for government, U.S. government, and for those Turkish individuals to be told to stay away from Brewster Jennings. But the person who received that information, the Turkish diplomatic but also operative, actually contacted the Pakistani military attache and discussed with the person who was there about this fact and also told them, warned them to stay away from Brewster Jennings.

From page 206 of the deposition:

To your knowledge, do you have any information about the Turkish government sponsoring chairs at universities, like Princeton, University of Utah, and other places?

Georgetown University, and not only that. Some of these academic experts also are recruited agents who actually steal U.S. military and intelligence related information because they have security clearances and they have obtained position in high level institutions, and one good example would be RAND Corporation, and Professor Sabri Sayari in Georgetown University who has stole [sic] tens of millions of dollars worth of secrets by actually recruiting people there that has been identified to him by his superiors, handlers, and he does it currently in — was doing it in 2002 with RAND Corporation, one of the individuals. That’s an example of academic expert that they recruit.

And how do they recruit them? With money and other things?

Money and in some cases combination of money and sexual related favors and information.

Furthermore, various members of Congress were also being bribed for access to nuclear technology, page 65 of the deposition:

One of the other entries on your Wikipedia entry indicates that you had accused Mr. Hastert and other, quote, high ranking members of U.S. government of — let me make sure I’m reading this correctly. The entry says, “Edmonds also accuses Dennis Hastert of taking bribes.” I think we’ve talked about that; is that correct?


And then it says, “And high ranking members of the U.S. government of selling nuclear secrets to Turkey and Pakistan.” Did you allege that high ranking members in the U.S. government had sold nuclear secrets to Turkey and Pakistan?

They were involved in operations that were obtaining illegally U.S. weapons and nuclear related technology and sell it to foreign governments and also foreign independent operatives.

Burton, Hastert, Livingston, Solarz, were part of this secret network, but there were other politicians involved as well. Not all of them willingly, she pointed out in the most startling detail of the testimony. There was the possibility that Hastert was being blackmailed with compromising material, and there was a congresswoman who was definitely being blackmailed by the covert lobby, through compromising information of an affair this congresswoman had with one of the lobby’s own agents. From page 68 of the deposition:

Tom Lantos is one of them.

All right.

I believe he passed away, and Tom Lantos’ office would be not only with the bribe, but also in disclosing highest level protected U.S. intelligence and weapons technology information both to Israel and to Turkey. His office was also involved with that. It was not only bribery, but it was other very serious criminal conduct. Roy Blunt is there. There have been individuals with a question mark there. The reason there’s a question mark is I lacked — I was terminated by April 2002, but this particular Congresswoman — the Turkish — these Turkish organizations and operatives, if they can’t do it by money, they do by blackmail. So they collect information on sexual lives and other information like that, and with this particular Congresswoman, it being 2000 until I left, they — this individual, this Congresswoman’s married with children, grown children, but she is bisexual. So they have sent Turkish female agents, and that Turkish female agents work for Turkish government, and have sexual relationship with this Congresswoman in her townhouse actually in this area, and the entire episodes of their sexual conduct was being filmed because the entire house, this Congressional woman’s house was bugged. So they have all that documented to be used for certain things that they wanted to request when I left. So I don’t know whether she — that Congresswoman complied and gave. That’s why I couldn’t use her name because I don’t — I meant her face because I don’t know if she did anything illegal afterwards. But she was — there are things; information was being collected for blackmail purposes, and her lesbian relationship, and they, the Turkish entities, wanted both congressional related favoritism from her, but also her husband was in a high position in the area in the state she was elected from, and these Turkish entities ran certain illegal operations, and they wanted her husband’s help. But I don’t know if she provided them with those. I left. I was terminated.

And can you tell me how you know all that, everything you just told me?

I can’t discuss the intelligence gathering method by the FBI, but in general terms, when foreign targets among themselves discuss how they were going to achieve certain goals, objectives, and if those communications are collected and recorded, not only do you have that communications, but in some cases they involved field office surveillance team to see that actually they completed. For example, if they say — somebody says at five o’clock they’re going to bug his house, the surveillance team would go out and see that he had (unintelligible). So there were various ways that things were collected.

All right. So just to make sure I understand this, the Turkish entities were at least preparing to blackmail this Congresswoman.


And is this Congresswoman still a sitting member of Congress?


And why, if you know, would they want to blackmail this Congresswoman?

I don’t know what reasons they had, why they just didn’t do money. They needed — I was trained as a language specialist by my agent for — to find personal information, and one of the things that we was taught in the FBI — everyone was taught in the counterintelligence — that the target U.S. persons, whether they are in Congress or executive branch or whatever, first go by foreign entities to what they refer to as hooking period, and it was very common; it’s a very common way of trying to find vulnerability, and that is sexual, financial, any other kinds of greeds, and it was — it was done a lot, was being done a lot, and in some cases certain people from Pentagon would send a list of individuals with access to sensitive data, whether weapons technology or nuclear technology, and this information would include all their sexual preference, how much they owed on their homes, if they have gambling issues, and the State Department, high level State Department person would provide it to these foreign operatives, and those foreign operatives then would go and hook those Pentagon people, whether they were at RAND or some other Air Force base. And then the hooking period would take some times. Sometimes it takes months, sometimes one year. They would ask for small favor, but eventually after they reviewed the targets that the U.S. person — some small favor, then they would go blackmail and that person would give them everything, nuclear related information, weapons related information. It always worked for them. So it was not always money.

If you know, what was it that these Turkish entities wanted from this Congresswoman?

I know for sure that Armenian genocide was one, but also where she came from, that city or the district where she came from is where certain Turkish operatives, lobby groups run illegal businesses for fund raising for themselves to generate money, and for laundering that money they needed her influence in that district where she is from and also her husband because he husband was also involved, had some high level position, not an elected person, with where she came from, and they had another Representative who was making it possible, but supposedly she at that point was kind of — was an obstacle. That’s all I know.

In your experience, I mean, was this hooking technique used with other members of Congress by Turkish entities?

Well, when I worked for the FBI, I work on operations that were not only current, but specific period of 1996 till 2000, 2001, December, 2003 January. So there were a lot of things that certain field office had provided me to go over, and some of that I didn’t complete, but one example would be with regard to Mr. Hastert. For example, he used the townhouse that was not his residence for certain not very morally accepted activities. Now, whether that was being used as blackmail I don’t know, but the fact that foreign entities knew about this, in fact, they sometimes participated in some of those not maybe morally well activities in that particular townhouse that was supposed to be an office, not a house, residence at certain hours, certain days, evenings of the week. So I can’t say if that was used as blackmail or not, but certain activities they would share. They were known.

None of this was speculation, all of it was certain, and said under oath, page 99:

I assume that – -well, let me just ask you, and I’m not trying to put you on the spot. If you can’t answer, just tell me. Would you be prepared to tell me who the Congresswoman is that we’ve been talking about?

I would have, and it wouldn’t be because of classification I don’t believe. I — if in case this congressional person did not bend under the pressure in case. I just don’t want somebody, innocent person’s reputation destroyed because I don’t know if this person complied with whatever she happened to be blackmailed later. I think I —

All right. That’s fair enough. I take it then from what you’ve told me that the people you’ve identified, the people that you’ve talked about today you’re certain about.


And what you’ve told me today about those people is not based on speculation.


A month later, Edmonds would be interviewed by Philip Giraldi in a cover story for The American Conservative, “Who’s Afraid of Sibel Edmonds?”, where she would identify the congresswoman at the center of the blackmail as Jan Schakowsky of Illinois:

GIRALDI: This corruption wasn’t confined to the State Department and the Pentagon-it infected Congress as well. You’ve named people like former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, now a registered agent of the Turkish government. In your deposition, you describe the process of breaking foreign-originated contributions into small units, $200 or less, so that the source didn’t have to be reported. Was this the primary means of influencing congressmen, or did foreign agents exploit vulnerabilities to get what they wanted using something like blackmail?

EDMONDS: In early 1997, because of the information that the FBI was getting on the Turkish diplomatic community, the Justice Department had already started to investigate several Republican congressmen. The number-one congressman involved with the Turkish community, both in terms of providing information and doing favors, was Bob Livingston. Number-two after him was Dan Burton, and then he became number-one until Hastert became the speaker of the House. Bill Clinton’s attorney general, Janet Reno, was briefed on the investigations, and since they were Republicans, she authorized that they be continued.

Well, as the FBI developed more information, Tom Lantos was added to this list, and then they got a lot on Douglas Feith and Richard Perle and Marc Grossman. At this point, the Justice Department said they wanted the FBI to only focus on Congress, leaving the executive branch people out of it. But the FBI agents involved wanted to continue pursuing Perle and Feith because the Israeli Embassy was also connected. Then the Monica Lewinsky scandal erupted, and everything was placed on the back burner.

But some of the agents continued to investigate the congressional connection. In 1999, they wiretapped the congressmen directly. (Prior to that point they were getting all their information secondhand through FISA, as their primary targets were foreigners.) The questionably legal wiretap gave the perfect excuse to the Justice Department. As soon as they found out, they refused permission to monitor the congressmen and Grossman as primary targets. But the inquiry was kept alive in Chicago because the FBI office there was pursuing its own investigation. The epicenter of a lot of the foreign espionage activity was Chicago.

GIRALDI: So the investigation stopped in Washington, but continued in Chicago?

EDMONDS: Yes, and in 2000, another representative was added to the list, Jan Schakowsky, the Democratic congresswoman from Illinois. Turkish agents started gathering information on her, and they found out that she was bisexual. So a Turkish agent struck up a relationship with her. When Jan Schakowsky’s mother died, the Turkish woman went to the funeral, hoping to exploit her vulnerability. They later were intimate in Schakowsky’s townhouse, which had been set up with recording devices and hidden cameras. They needed Schakowsky and her husband Robert Creamer to perform certain illegal operational facilitations for them in Illinois. They already had Hastert, the mayor, and several other Illinois state senators involved. I don’t know if Congresswoman Schakowsky ever was actually blackmailed or did anything for the Turkish woman.

I only came across this story recently, but I was not alone at my astonishment at the charges that Edmonds made here and elsewhere, though they did not travel far beyond the press fringes. “The old lesbian honeypot! Wow!” wrote Gawker‘s “Pareene” (Alex Pareene) in “Did This Congresswoman Have Lesbian Affair With a Turkish Spy?” [archive link]. “Anyway we can barely follow this insane story,” Pareene wrote, expressing the feelings of the multitude, “so who knows if you should be freaked out about the Turkish spy ring selling nuclear secrets or if their bribery and blackmail has thus far succeeded only in preventing Congress from officially recognizing this mass murder they perpetrated in 1915.” “Turkey’s influence over lawmakers surfaces in Ohio hearing” by Luke Rosiak at The Sunlight Foundation would also give coverage, while “U.S. Nuke Secrets for Sale? And What Was the Deal With that B-52 Stratofortress Again?” by Brian Doherty, in the libertarian magazine Reason, would link to a story in the Sunday Times on Edmonds’ accounts of the theft of nuclear secrets. Last year, Ron Unz, the publisher of The American Conservative would cite the Sibel Edmonds case as one of three major stories that a functioning, healthy press should be investigating, but which appeared to occasion no interest. From “Our American Pravda”:

For most Americans, reality is whatever our media organs tell us, and since these have largely ignored the facts and adverse consequences of our wars in recent years, the American people have similarly forgotten. Recent polls show that only half the public today believes that the Iraq War was a mistake.

Author James Bovard has described our society as an “attention deficit democracy,” and the speed with which important events are forgotten once the media loses interest might surprise George Orwell.

Edmonds had been hired by the FBI to translate wiretapped conversations of a suspected foreign spy ring under surveillance, and she had been disturbed to discover that many of these hundreds of phone calls explicitly discussed the sale of nuclear-weapons secrets to foreign intelligence organizations, including those linked to international terrorism, as well as the placement of agents at key American military research facilities. Most remarkably, some of the individuals involved in these operations were high-ranking government officials; the staffs of several influential members of Congress were also implicated. On one occasion, a senior State Department figure was reportedly recorded making arrangements to pick up a bag containing a large cash bribe from one of his contacts. Very specific details of names, dates, dollar amounts, purchasers, and military secrets were provided.

The investigation had been going on for years with no apparent action, and Edmonds was alarmed to discover that a fellow translator quietly maintained a close relationship with one of the key FBI targets. When she raised these issues, she was personally threatened, and after appealing to her supervisors, eventually fired.

Since that time, she has passed a polygraph test on her claims, testified under oath in a libel lawsuit, expanded her detailed charges in a 2009 TAC cover story also by Giraldi, and most recently published a book recounting her case. Judiciary Committee Senators Chuck Grassley and Patrick Leahy have publicly backed some of her charges, a Department of Justice inspector general’s report has found her allegations “credible” and “serious,” while various FBI officials have vouched for her reliability and privately confirmed many of her claims. But none of her detailed charges has ever appeared in any of America’s newspapers. According to Edmonds, one of the conspirators routinely made payments to various members of the media, and bragged to his fellow plotters that “We just fax to our people at the New York Times. They print it under their names.”

At times, Congressional Democratic staff members became interested in the scandal, and promised an investigation. But once they learned that senior members of their own party were also implicated, their interest faded.

These three stories-the anthrax evidence, the McCain/POW revelations, and the Sibel Edmonds charges-are the sort of major exposés that would surely be dominating the headlines of any country with a properly-functioning media. But almost no American has ever heard of them. Before the Internet broke the chokehold of our centralized flow of information, I would have remained just as ignorant myself, despite all the major newspapers and magazines I regularly read.

Am I absolutely sure that any or all of these stories are true? Certainly not, though I think they probably are, given their overwhelming weight of supporting evidence. But absent any willingness of our government or major media to properly investigate them, I cannot say more.

However, this material does conclusively establish something else, which has even greater significance. These dramatic, well-documented accounts have been ignored by our national media, rather than widely publicized. Whether this silence has been deliberate or is merely due to incompetence remains unclear, but the silence itself is proven fact.

The Edmonds story first broke in a big way on a 60 Minutes piece, “Lost in Translation” (link goes to video, program transcript is here), which featured a small fragment of her allegations. On that program, Iowa Senator Charles Grassley would famously vouch for her. “She’s credible,” he said. “And the reason I feel she’s very credible is because people within the FBI have corroborated a lot of her story.” Vanity Fair would cover the Edmonds case in 2005 with “An Inconvenient Patriot” by David Rose, giving space to her allegations about Hastert, and portraying her, again, as an honest, credible witness. In 2006, she would win the “PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award” for her attempts to describe what took place in the FBI’s languages division despite gag orders. On a podcast hosted by Scott Horton, Edmonds would appear alongside James Bamford, the man thought to have written the definitive accounts of the NSA (such as Body of Secrets and The Puzzle Palace), and the title of the transcript carried this writer’s approval of her work: “James Bamford: ‘I support Sibel Edmonds. You should too.'” “Any final closing comments from either of you?” asked Horton. “I just want to supply my support to Sibel’s effort here,” replied Bamford. “I think she’s been doing a fantastic job of trying to get this out there, and all the listeners out there, I hope they join in with their support.” Daniel Ellsberg, a hero to millions for his work in publishing the Pentagon Papers, would offer his support as well, with “Covering Up the Coverage – The American Media’s Complicit Failure to Investigate and Report on the Sibel Edmonds Case”. Ellsberg chastised the press for ignoring the bombshell allegations of Sibel Edmonds, a “courageous and highly credible source”4. “Either Sibel Edmonds is one of the great actresses of our time,” said Joe Lauria, who wrote a Sunday Times piece (“For sale: West’s deadly nuclear secrets”, behind a paywall) on the theft of nuclear secrets with Edmonds as principal source, “or she has her finger on a story of immense proportions that is perhaps so immense that it is scaring the hell out of a lot of people. Either Sibel Edmonds is one of the great actresses of our time, or she has her finger on a story of immense proportions that is perhaps so immense that it is scaring the hell out of a lot of people.”5

What did I feel when I came across this story? I think I am possessed most of all by the storyteller’s ruthlessness, wanting a great, captivating narrative and indifferent to all else. I had come across, without hyperbole, what might potentially be the most important story of the new century. I do not doubt that what I felt was something like the happy captive state of writers like Philip Giraldi and Joe Lauria, where you ignore the small details that break the dream. I felt the kind of enthusiasm where I really might have surpassed any past foolishness by promoting this obscure story like a three alarm blaze. Then, the unsettling details gather in a concentrated point, and something like glass shatters. You are outside the dream, cold and unspelled, your quest now entirely different, to demonstrate how certain flaws in the reflecting light, so numerous as to be no coincidence or accident, make obvious that this is an illusion. If Ms. Edmonds is reading this, this is where she should feel a certain cold sense of dread of what comes next. I’m no Mace Windu, but I think I can call this party over.


What I will first do is to compare multiple accounts of the time Sibel Edmonds spent as a translator at the FBI, from September 2001 to February 2002. What we will be focusing on are deviations from these accounts, not on small details but very large ones. I believe Edmonds to be more than a little careless about libel and deception, but I am not, so I am cautious about stating in definite terms what these deviations amount to. My principal sources will be the following: “Deposition of: Sibel Deniz Edmonds”, the declassified Office of the Inspector General’s Report, A Review of the FBI’s Actions in Connection With Allegations Raised By Contract Linguist Sibel Edmonds (this is the non-pdf version), Edmonds’ own memoir Classified Woman, Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives have Penetrated Washington by Paul Sperry, a fearmongering book about the supposed Muslim takeover of the U.S. government for which Edmonds served as a source and in which she is frequently quoted, and David Rose’s “An Inconvenient Patriot” from Vanity Fair. Arguably, all of these tell Edmonds’ story from her perspective or in ways favorable to her. A Review of the FBI’s Actions is often cited as vindicating Edmonds, the memoir is her own, her allegations in the Sperry book are taken almost without qualifier or skepticism, and on a podcast with Brad Friedman (“Guest Hosting ‘Mike Malloy Show’ Scheduled Guests: Sibel Edmonds, David Swanson”), she spoke approvingly of the Vanity Fair piece as thoroughly researched, well-sourced journalism (from 26:00-27:40 on the audio):

When Vanity Fair reported this, and it was an exhaustive exposé, frankly, I can’t remember how many thousands of words it was, but, it went into great detail. After the Vanity Fair story, did the other media, AP, New York Times, Washington Post, did they pick the story up in anyway to advance what he had to say? Just amongst the many remarkable things he had to say.

Not one. Not one.

And they were alleging that the Speaker of the House, at the time that he was Speaker of the House, and they were alleging that he was accepting tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of dollars, from these Turkish foreign agents. Correct?

And Brad, this was not based on my testimony, this article was written with really strict conditions on the author, on the investigative journalist, usually they require two to three sources. In this particular case, for this particular case, because the speaker of the House was involved, because of the case being high profile, they required more than four, five, sources. So, that’s what this reporter got. And you know how they usually do fact-checking, after the article is submitted, by the reporter, well in this case they did triple fact checking, they did it three times, going back to every single source. And so, they really did their homework. And again, this is not an alternative media outlet. We are looking at Vanity Fair. They have two million circulation number. And yet, not a single, not one newspaper, or network channel, or cable channel, nobody reported on it. There was this deafening silence.

What follows will focus very much on the details of Edmonds’ story, rather than make any attempt to re-tell her narrative. Those wanting that kind of succinct, well told arc which hews close to how Edmonds presents herself and wishes to be seen – someone who stumbles upon a network of criminality through her translation work and is unjustly punished for it – then I recommend Rose’s “Inconvenient Patriot”, which will also be helpful as a roadmap for the various events discussed here.

There is first the description of how she joins the FBI translation division. Joining this organization will have an extraordinary impact on her, and it was done in the days after September 11, the kind of national tragedy where people’s memories become hypervivid of the exact moments of what took place. These were the first deviations I noticed, and in some ways they’re small, but when I came across them I felt an unsettling, the first cracks in a collapsing structure. A Review of the FBI’s Actions gives a thorough and detailed description of what took place:

Edmonds applied to the FBI on March 10, 1997, for a linguist position. After she took the requisite language tests, by letter dated May 6, 1998, the FBI offered Edmonds a position as a CL [Contract Linguist]. The offer was contingent upon Edmonds receiving a Top Secret security clearance.

Pursuant to instructions in the offer letter, Edmonds completed, on June 4, 1998, an SF-86 Questionnaire for National Security Positions – the standard form used by the federal government to collect information for background investigations of persons applying for positions that require a security clearance. As part of the background investigation, Edmonds was polygraphed on December 4, 1998. The FBI also conducted a Personnel Security Interview (PSI) of Edmonds on December 16, 1998. Her security file does not reflect any activity on her background investigation during 1999. It appears that through a series of oversights and lack of follow through, the FBI did not take action on her background investigation, and therefore Edmonds did not begin work as a CL during this time period.

In February 2000, the FBI asked Edmonds to submit another SF-86. In April 2001, LSS [Languages Services Section] wrote a memorandum requesting that the PSI be updated, and asking that the necessary work be done to complete the background investigation. The FBI conducted supplemental PSIs of Edmonds on May 1, 2001, and July 19, 2001. On September 13, 2001, four years after she first submitted her application, the FBI granted Edmonds a “Top Secret” clearance. No job interview was conducted other than the PSIs.

Edmonds began working for the FBI on September 20, 2001, first as a Contract Monitor (CM), and shortly thereafter as a CL.

So, we have an application in 1997, questionnaire and interview in 1998, oversight in 1999 which led to delayed processing, the FBI asking Edmonds to re-submit in 2000, followed by interviews with Edmonds on May 1, 2001 and July 19, 2001. On September 13, 2001, perhaps in connection with what happened two days earlier, Edmonds gets a top secret clearance. Edmonds did not simply call up the FBI after September 11, and offer help, but had been pursuing work there and had been in touch with the bureau that year for two Personal Security Interviews.

I do not think there is anything wrong, suspect, or shameful in these events, yet Edmonds always omits the details that she was in touch with the FBI that year before September 11, actively pursuing this work.

In Rose’s “Inconvenient Patriot”, she contacts the FBI after September 11 because she is haunted by the fundamentalist takeover of Iran, which she saw up close as a child:

In 1978, when Sibel was eight and the Islamists’ violent prelude to the Iranian revolution was just beginning, a bomb went off in a movie theater next to her elementary school. “I can remember sitting in a car, seeing the rescuers pulling charred bodies and stumps out of the fire. Then, on September 11, to see this thing happening here, across the ocean-it brought it all back. They put out a call for translators, and I thought, Maybe I can help stop this from happening again.”

There is a slightly different take in this interview with David Swanson, “An Interview with Sibel Edmonds”; she applies to the FBI, they lose her files, and then she calls them up after September 11 to offer her help:

Swanson: What made you inclined to take a job with the FBI as a translator?

Edmonds: There needs to be a brief explanation – three years before I took that job, I was doing my studies in forensic science and criminal justice, and I had applied for an internship position with the FBI, not a full time or permanent job position, and at that point they were interested in my language skills, but they basically messed it up. I sent them the application, I took the polygraph test for that internship position for their language department, and somehow in 1999 they lost all that information – not only mine, but from 150 other applicants they had for language specialist positions. These documents, these files were lost within the FBI – or at least that’s the explanation they gave to these applicants.

And then the 911 terrorist event took place and I’d turn on the TV and kept hearing the Director of the FBI pleading for language specialists – especially for the languages that I speak – because they were desperate for language specialists. And at that point it was a duty to go and say “Look – I have these skills, you need these skills for the nation, and I’m offering it to you.” So I took this position as a contract language specialist for those languages and my top secret clearance was issued and I started working five days after 911.

In Classified Woman, Edmonds applies to the FBI in 1997, there is supposed to be follow-up in 1999 but there is none, and she is then contacted by the FBI after September 11. However, she says that she had no contact with the FBI since 2000, when A Review of the FBI’s Actions has her interviewed twice in 2001, and she says that she did not initially apply to be a translator while A Review has her applying for exactly that position. A Review has her completing her proficiency exams in 1998 (“After she took the requisite language tests, by letter dated May 6, 1998”), while Classified has her taking them in 1997, “After reviewing my application, someone at the bureau evidently found my linguistic abilities of interest and asked me to take proficiency tests in those languages and in English…I went ahead and took the intense and excruciating proficiency tests in the summer of 1997.”. From Classified:

I recalled an incident in Iran I had witnessed a few years later, when I was eight years old. I was in a minivan with six other girls, on my way home from school. We’d heard an explosion. Traffic stopped and we saw thick smoke rising in a column only a few yards away. Our driver got out and started talking with other drivers. I rolled down the window to hear one man explain, “… either a big fire or a bomb explosion in a building, probably the movie theater on the circle. I heard there were many people trapped inside …” As we passed the building, I leaned out the window and looked. The rescue teams, together with civilian volunteers, were removing charred bodies and stumps, dropping them on the sidewalk in front of the building. The driver, recovering as though from a trance, turned around and yelled, “Get down on the floor! You shouldn’t be looking at this!”

The 9/11 attack had brought back viscerally all that horror and trauma. Another casualty of that day was my newly shattered sense of security and optimism about a country I believed would never experience such horrors.

As depressing as things felt, we knew that together we would make it in the end. Our marriage, our true partnership for the past ten years, had made it through other difficult times and crises, the last being my father’s sudden death a year earlier; it would also make it through this one, I was sure.

After finishing our comfort soup and ordering our customary Vietnamese coffee, Matthew used his cell to check voice mail at home, jotting down the messages on a napkin. He slid it toward me and pointed to one. Someone from FBI Headquarters had left his number, urging me to call him back as soon as possible.

I wondered what this was about. The only connection I had with the FBI had to do with my application for a temporary part-time intern position I had sent them four years earlier, in 1997. I was interested in their department that dealt with crimes against children, having worked as a trained and certified advocate for the Alexandria Juvenile Court, where I investigated and represented child abuse cases for over two years. I had sent them my application for an internship (summer or a part-time position) relevant to the degree I was pursuing in criminal justice.

After reviewing my application, someone at the bureau evidently found my linguistic abilities of interest and asked me to take proficiency tests in those languages and in English. At first I was put off by the prospect of working as a translator but on second thought decided it could be a stepping-stone to where I wanted to be until I completed my degrees. I went ahead and took the intense and excruciating proficiency tests in the summer of 1997. Afterwards they said that all language specialists, whether full-time or contract, were required to obtain top-secret clearance (TSC), since they would be dealing with sensitive and classified intelligence and documents. The process of background checks and issuance of TSC could take anywhere from nine to fifteen months, I was told. They would then notify me and offer me options, such as contract or full-time employment.

Nine months passed; then another nine, and another. In 2000, I called FBI Headquarters to inquire about the status of the position I had applied for nearly four years earlier. Toward the end of that year I finally received a call from a woman from FBI Headquarters who told me with much sincerity and apologies that in 1999 the bureau had lost my entire information package and test results, together with those of over 150 other applicants. That package contained my bank account information, tax records, Social Security and private medical and family-related information. “What?!” I asked, incredulous. “… Do you realize what people can do with that information?”

She apologized again and said the bureau would conduct expedited background investigations and have the position ready for me in a year. “If you change your mind and decide to go ahead with it,” she told me, “the position will be ready and available for you.” That was the last I’d heard from the FBI-until then.

I grabbed the napkin and stepped outside to make the call. The HQ man came on and thanked me profusely for returning his call. He then went on to explain how badly the bureau was in need of translators in Middle Eastern and certain Asian languages: Farsi, Turkish, Arabic, Pashtun, Urdu, Uzbek, and so on. The bureau had tens of thousands of leads and evidence waiting to be translated into English before the agents could take any further action. They had thousands of pieces of raw intelligence pouring in daily, but they all were in foreign languages and could not be processed or assessed until translated. “Ms. Edmonds,” he concluded his pitch, “we need your skills badly. Your TS clearance came in last week and we would like you to start working for us immediately.”

According to “Lost in Translation” on 60 Minutes, from the very day she begins work, she is repeatedly told to slow down so that the translation department can get more money:

Edmonds says that to her amazement, from the day she started the job, she was told repeatedly by one of her supervisors that there was no urgency,- that she should take longer to translate documents so that the department would appear overworked and understaffed. That way, it would receive a larger budget for the next year.

“We were told by our supervisors that this was the great opportunity for asking for increased budget and asking for more translators,” says Edmonds. “And in order to do that, don’t do the work and let the documents pile up so we can show it and say that we need more translators and expand the department.”

Edmonds’ immediate supervisor was Mike Feghali, and in their first meeting in Classified Woman, she contrasts her sleek stylishness with his runt-like squalor:

That morning I had taken extra time to prepare. I was going to work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and my attire had to reflect that-an assumption proven wrong within the first few days. I had chosen a black light wool pantsuit with a long-sleeved parliament blue shirt, black pumps, and a black suede briefcase; classic.

A few minutes later, I noticed a short man bustling toward me. He was bald and overweight by at least fifty pounds and clad in a shiny-gray polyester suit. His dark olive complexion glistened with oil and perspiration. He greeted me with a big forced smile and introduced himself as Mike Feghali. After checking the status of my entry card and ID badge (another two days for both), we took the elevator to the fourth floor, which housed the FBI’s largest and most important Language unit.

In Classified, it is Feghali who brings up the idea of slowing down work so they can get additional funds, but he does not do so on the day that Edmonds starts, or within days of her starting, but in early October:

One day in early October, I received such a call from a New Jersey field agent. I could hear his desperation. He suggested that to save time I should have the results faxed to him over an FBI-secured fax line immediately after I was finished. (Ordinarily, completed assignments from field offices had to be sent to HQ in hard copy; the administrators then would send it via secure mail to the requesting field agents. That slowed everything. Our Language unit could not or would not send anything electronically.)

I worked quickly until I finished the agent’s documents. Since I was not familiar with the secure fax, I went to Feghali’s office and asked him for instructions. He asked me to sit down. Feghali had something to tell me.

“I see you are working very hard and fast. That’s very good but you need to slow down a bit and take breaks during your work. You don’t want to burn out or collapse in exhaustion. We wouldn’t want that for you either; you have already become a very popular translator. Look what I have for you.”

He handed me a two-page document. It was from the special agent from Baltimore who had supervised my interrogation translation. The commendation letter praised my work, professional conduct, and insightful feedback I’d given them.

“He says he will request you in particular for anything else they may have in the future that deals with Farsi or Turkish. You see, you don’t have to kill yourself, work too hard, to be liked and admired.”

I assured him that I knew my limitations and wouldn’t exhaust myself.

Grinning and nodding to show that he understood, Feghali nevertheless went on to emphasize that it is not helpful to work fast; that doing so may in fact “end up hurting the department.”

I was baffled. I had no idea what he was getting at. Had someone complained?

“What do you mean?”

“Look,” he began (never a good sign), “for years and years the bureau, all these agents, treated us, the translators, as second-class citizens…. Now, thanks to the 9/11 terrorist attack, all that has changed; the terrorists and what they did put us translators on the map.” Feghali continued, “That’s why I say sometimes good things come out of bad things. Some may consider what happened on 9/11 terrible, but we, the translators, see it as a cause to celebrate. Look at these date cookies my wife baked yesterday: see, we are still celebrating the attack; this is our customary celebration cookie. Have some.” He extended the cookie bowl toward me.

I was sick to my stomach. I shook my head and refused. Perhaps I misunderstood; could he have possibly meant that the attack finally opened people’s eyes to the threats we all face? Could that have been it?

Yet Feghali continued in this same disgusting vein. “This is the time for us, for our department to flourish…. This November the FBI is going to present its budget request for our department, and to make the case, they have to show this huge backlog of untranslated material: the bigger the backlog, the more money and more translators for this department. Do you get the picture?”

“But we already have a huge backlog; hundreds of thousands of hours and pages, if you count all the languages.”

“I know, I know,” he said dismissively, “but still … for instance, you worked so hard and too fast to translate this agent’s document, and want to go the extra mile … You say this guy is desperate; well, sometimes desperation is a good thing. Better to have this guy complain to and pressure his bosses and HQ for not getting his translated documents than to make him satisfied and happy … and have him forget about it later. All I’m asking you is to be a better friend to your colleagues: accompany them to lunches and coffee breaks, take regular breaks, and do not work this fast, that’s all.”

This was hateful. I had to get out of his office, right away. I started out when he called me back. Now he held the cookie bowl only inches from my face. “Have a cookie. Don’t refuse my wife’s famous cookies.” I grabbed one and left.

As soon as I found my way clear of his office, I dumped the cookie in the nearest trashcan. Not on my life would I ever eat anything baked to celebrate 9/11. My first order of business was to fax this document to the agent in New Jersey. (I did, with Amin’s help [Amin was a fellow translator, in Farsi].) What happened in Feghali’s office was sickening. I well knew this was the second time I had defied him; I prayed it would be the last.

This lengthy excerpt provides, I think, a good sense of Edmonds’ sensibility in this book and why people should perhaps be a little cautious in trusting her accounts. In contrast with what we expect from office life, even the office life of a semi-secret agency, made up of banalities and drudgery, occasionally relieved by moments of intellectual excitement, challenge, and humor – the life of Sibel Edmonds is charged with the heroic and dramatic. She dumps a cookie made by the boss’s wife into the garbage and it’s not an instance of petty rebellion, but one moment in an epic struggle: Not on my life would I ever eat anything baked to celebrate 9/11. This concept of date cookies being eaten to celebrate 9/11, a ritual that she does not take part in and which utterly sickens her, recurs in a different variation in a very disturbing scene in the book Infiltration, a moment that would no doubt have stayed in the mind of anyone who witnessed it, but which is absent in every other account by Edmonds of her time in the language bureau. Infiltration, as said, is a reactionary book about a possible Muslim takeover of the U.S. government from the inside, and I think it can properly be classed in the genre of Paranoid Islamophobia. That this extraordinary scene occurs here, and nowhere else, made me wonder for the first time whether Edmonds manages to intuit what each listener wants to hear, and gives them that version. Paul Sperry wanted to hear about Muslims celebrating the destruction of the two towers, and she gave him exactly that. The celebration takes place on the very day she starts at the office (this section from Infiltration is currently available on Google Books, page 166):


When Edmonds showed up for her first day of work at the Washington field office, a week after the 9/11 attacks, she expected to find a somber atmosphere. Instead, she was offered cookies filled with dates form part bowls set out in the large open room where other Middle Eastern linguists with top-secret security clearance translate terror-related communications. (The highly secure language unit room is walled off from agents, who do not have badge access and must be escorted into the room.)

She knew the dessert is customarily served in the Middle East at weddings, births, and other celebrations and asked what the happy occasion was.

To her shock, she was told the Arabic linguists were celebrating the terrorist attacks on America, as if they were some joyous event. Right in front of a supervisor from the Middle East, one Arabic translator named Osama cheered, “It’s about time they got a taste of what they’ve been giving to the Middle East!”

Edmonds says her co-workers were not shy about making such hostile comments. “These statements were neither rare nor made in a whisper,” she says. “They were open and loud.”

She found out later that it was her supervisor Feghali’s wife – an Arabic linguist on loan from the National Security Agency – who brought the date filled cookies.

Edmonds was taken aback by the blatant display of anti-Americanism that day. But she soon found that it was more the rule than the exception. The language squad was rife with linguists with questionable loyalties, she says, all with top-security clearance.

“There were those who openly divided the fronts as ‘Us’ – the Middle Easterners who shared certain views – and ‘Them’ – the Americans who were the outsiders [bristling] with arrogance that was now ‘leading to their own destruction,'” she says.

Though all translators working for the FBI must be U.S. citizens, “citizenship doesn’t take care of it,” she says referring to loyalty.

“Wherever there’s a conversation about America or Americans, it’s always still ‘They’ or ‘Them,’ and not ‘Us,'” says Edmonds, who is not a practicing Muslim. “Whenever 9/11 is brought up, you know, it happened to Them.” She estimates that the roughly forty Arabic linguists there account for “easily more than 75 percent of the loyalty problems,” and yet they are the most indispensible to investigations of al-Qaida suspects.

A warning in advance of an encore al-Qaida attack more than likely will come in the form of a message or document in Arabic that will have to be translated. That message may go to an Arab or Muslim sympathizer within the language department, and it may never be translated in full, if at all, Edmonds warns.

“The translation of our intelligence is being entrusted to individuals with loyalties to our enemies,” she says. “Important [terrorist] chatter is being intentionally blocked.”

Another translator who worked in the Washington field office before his recent promotion to headquarters agrees with Edmonds up to a point. Middle Eastern translators on the Arabic desk “did express their displeasure with U.S. policy in the Middle East,” he says, ” but they never said they wanted to see the U.S. attacked so far as I heard.” He doubts their objection to U.S. foreign policy affects their loyalty.”

An incidental note about Infiltration: this book, and nowhere else, states that Edmonds has recently earned her Ph.D.6

This is not a case of Edmonds being selectively or manipulatively quoted by the writer of Infiltration. She made these claims in multiple places, according to the Office of the Inspector General’s report, though she somehow did not make those claims with the OIG, again according to the report: “According to some media accounts, Edmonds made additional allegations relating to the September 11 terrorist attacks and the allegedly inappropriate reaction by other FBI linguists to those attacks. However, Edmonds never raised those allegations to the OIG, and we did not investigate them in our review.”

Though A Review of the FBI’s Actions supposedly vindicates Edmonds in every respect, it finds no evidence for her allegations of deliberate work slowdowns:

A. Edmonds’ Initial Allegations

Edmonds alleged that shortly after she began work for the FBI, linguists were directed to slow the pace of their work so that the material to be translated would “pile up” and the FBI would have a basis to request more translators. Edmonds also said that she was reprimanded for working too quickly. Edmonds provided the OIG with the names of several linguists whom she believed had heard these instructions.

The persons supervising Edmonds denied ever telling Edmonds or any other linguist to slow down so that more linguists would be hired. Instructions to slow down, the OIG was told, only were given if a linguist’s pace was adversely affecting the quality of the linguist’s work. The OIG was told that such an instruction was never given to Edmonds because the quality of her work was good.

The OIG interviewed ten linguists who were either named by Edmonds in her allegations or were named by Edmonds as having information relevant to her allegations, including those whom Edmonds specifically stated could corroborate her allegation regarding the alleged instruction to slow down. Only three of these linguists stated that they recalled hearing about the alleged instruction to slow down. Two said they heard the allegation only from Edmonds. The third said that she had heard about the slow down instruction from others in addition to hearing about it from Edmonds, but said she could not recall who those others were. The other seven denied ever hearing about such an instruction.

We found insufficient evidence to substantiate Edmonds’ allegation that such time and attendance abuse was condoned or occurred. Moreover, given the backlog of translation work at the FBI, we do not believe the FBI would need to intentionally slow down the linguists’ work to support hiring additional translators.

Edmonds turns Feghali into a cartoon villain. He is a lazy bureaucratic slob who celebrates 9/11 because it might mean a budget increase, but someone who uses brute force, fraud, and petty litigation to move up in the workplace and who sells out the FBI’s secret informants, who might end up killed as a result. From Classified Woman:

Sarshar [Behrooz Sarshar, another interpreter] added, “Not only that, we’re stuck with the worst guy among the supervisors: Feghali. Do you know how he became supervisor here? Let me tell you …”

He then launched into the sordid history of a sordid man, a bureaucrat who clawed his way into his current position by using and stepping on people, committing fraud, abusing his authority (there were charges of sexual misconduct and other outstanding complaints against him), and threatening those who challenged him with phony discrimination lawsuits. Apparently, this last threat got the FBI’s attention and he was left alone-to continue his abuses. The managers all were wary of him.

I decided to hear Kevin [Kevin Taskesen, another interpreter] out before giving Feghali the memo. When I got to the coffeehouse, Kevin was already there, looking rattled.

“Do you know how only agents are allowed to know and maintain informants’ and assets’ identities, contact information?”

I shook my head no. During my work I had not come across anything that involved procedures concerning FBI informants’ information, and wondered what this had to do with Feghali or Dickerson [Melek Can Dickerson, a co-worker who soon becomes a major player in the story].

“Feghali has found a way to access that information,” Kevin continued. “I don’t know how. Also, according to Sarshar, Feghali has found a way to use and cash in on this information. Again, I don’t know how. I’m telling you what I’ve heard from several sources.” He went on to describe illegal transactions involving nepotism and other illicit activities, all of them disturbing. Kevin sounded afraid. He considered Feghali evil. “I won’t inform Saccher [Dennis Saccher, Edmonds’ other supervisor]. I want to stay away from this shit.”

I looked him in the eye and told him he didn’t have a choice, that if we didn’t report this, we would be co-conspirators. “Like it or not, you’ve been exposed to this; you are a witness.” I sighed. “I’ll call Saccher tomorrow morning. This information on informants can be huge. Think about it: he could be selling that information to the targets. Do you know how much he can get for that-for ratting out FBI informants? Do you know that this can get some of these informants killed?!”

As I got up to leave, Kevin said he wanted to wait a few minutes; he didn’t want us to be seen together by Feghali. What a paranoid chicken! I thought. That was then.

Perhaps the most pivotal event to take place in Edmonds’ time at the bureau was when another interpreter, “Helen” Melek Can Dickerson, and her husband, Major Douglas Dickerson, met Edmonds and her husband Matthew at Edmonds’ house for brunch. Edmonds believes that when Helen Dickerson invited her to join the American Turkish Council and the Turkish American Associations, it was in fact an invitation to spy on behalf of the Turkish government, passing them useful information and blocking any investigations into improprieties related to Turkey. Given that the version of the meeting in Classified Woman is doubtless the one closest to Edmonds’ perspective, I give her depiction in full:

On the first Saturday in December, Matthew and I spent the entire day preparing and decorating our house for Christmas. I was doing my best to recreate our traditional holiday mood, despite the sadness and melancholy; this would be the second Christmas without my father.

That evening, while I was busy making dinner, the phone rang. Matthew answered. “It’s for you,” he called from our upstairs office, “Jan Dickerson, from the FBI.” I was surprised. A few days earlier she had asked for my number in case of a work-related emergency. I picked up.

Dickerson apologized for calling us on a Saturday evening and asked us to brunch the following day.

I thought a moment before responding. “I have to check with Matthew. We don’t have any particular plans, but there are tons of things to do around the house and I have five final exams in less than two weeks.”

“Even an hour would do,” she insisted, and mentioned being homesick before breaking the news that she was pregnant. I congratulated her, after which she suggested, “How about this? We can come to your house and take care of the introductions there.” At first I was taken aback but recalled my manners. “Sure … in fact, I’ll prepare some Turkish delicacies and tea; instead of going to brunch, we’ll have something here.” She sounded delighted, and said they would come by our house at eleven the following morning. The Dickersons showed up right on time and Matthew went downstairs to greet them. By the time I came down, the first round of introductions had been made. Douglas Dickerson appeared to be in his late thirties or early forties. He was tall and wiry, with salt and pepper hair neatly cropped, and a pair of steely gray eyes framed by silver-rimmed glasses. He shook my hand and asked me to call him Doug, and his wife gave me an unexpected hug. We moved to the kitchen and I went to pour hot tea while they were being seated.

We sipped our drinks and made small talk for about fifteen minutes. “Doug” briefly talked about his background and current position with the U.S. Air Force and Defense Intelligence Agency, under the procurement logistics division at the Pentagon, which dealt with Turkey and Turkic-speaking Central Asian countries: Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. And, he casually added, he was part of a team at the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans overseeing Central Asian policies and operations. I was surprised. His wife had told me he worked for the State Department, and that’s what I’d said to my husband. Without missing a beat, Matthew went ahead and asked, “I thought you were with the State Department?” Dickerson chuckled and said it didn’t make any difference which agency, since his activities involved the Pentagon, State Department, DIA, NATO and others. Well, it made sense.

I started serving the pie and cake while Matthew, always to the point, answered their questions about what kind of work he did. As we ate, the Dickersons talked about their life in Turkey and Germany, and their plan to retire in a few years and move to Turkey permanently, where they owned several properties. I thought Doug looked too young to retire anytime soon but attributed that to his joining the military at a very young age.

Doug asked whether we knew a lot of Turkish people, since so many of them lived in the Washington, DC, area. We didn’t. I told him that except for two brothers I had met in college and their family, we didn’t know any other Turkish people, and added that we visited Turkey at least once a year and that my family visited us here annually. He nodded and exchanged a look with his wife, who nodded back.

He followed that up with another question. “How about Turkish organizations here in the States? There are many of them, some very influential and powerful.”

Matthew shook his head and said no.

“Oh come on, how could you not?” he chided. “Some of these organizations are movers and shakers, both in the U.S. and Turkey. You mean you don’t know the American Turkish Council, ATC? Or the Assembly of Turkish American Associations, ATAA?”

I readjusted myself in my chair uncomfortably; I didn’t want to discuss those organizations. Of course I knew who they were and what they did-too well. They constituted a big chunk of what I worked on and monitored for Saccher’s department.

Matthew, oblivious to my evident discomfort and sudden silence, began by answering, “I know what ATC is, but they’re involved with companies and people who do business with Turkey or Turkish businesses that export to or work with the U.S.” Then he turned to me. “Honey, isn’t that right? In fact, when we had our business, we checked them out as a possible advertising venue for our IT services.”

I specifically avoided answering and asked if anyone wanted more tea. My transparent attempt to change the subject was ignored. Doug pressed harder. “Matthew, ATC is one of the most powerful organizations in the States. They have several hotshot lobbying firms working for them: the Livingston Group, run by the former Speaker of the House, Bob Livingston; the Cohen Group, headed by the former secretary of defense, and others. They deal with the highest-level people in the Pentagon, State Department and the White House. They’re able to secure hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. government contracts for Turkish companies every year, many of them for stuff in Central Asia; they rule Congress. Turkish companies, through ATC and ATAA, get most of the contract grants reserved for Central Asian countries and do tons of work for us; Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and the rest of them, those countries are our future bases and energy sources. Where have you been?”

Now it was Matthew’s turn to feel baffled and confused. “Okay, right, but as I said, they deal with those companies that are involved in those particular business areas. They don’t invite individuals, people like Sibel or me, to join. It’s a membership-based organization for Turkish and American businesses.” Doug smiled and said, almost as though he were spelling out each word, “Of course they will accept you, Matthew. In fact, they would love to have you join them. They will take care of setting up a business for you.” He extended his left arm forward and pointed his finger at me while he kept his eyes on Matthew. “All you have to do is tell them where Sibel works: what she does and who she listens to. You’ll get in “-he snapped his fingers-“just like that. They’ll make sure you’re set; you can retire in a few years and settle in Turkey. They’ll take care of everything. I can assure you. How do you think I’m retiring, my friend? I’m already set, ready to live the good life over there.”

I felt as if I’d been hit by a truck. Initially I was unable to move my body, even my head. I couldn’t swallow. I couldn’t sort out what was swirling so horribly inside me. When I finally managed to move, I turned around to look at Jan Dickerson. Was it possible that her husband, Doug, had no idea what she and I were doing at the bureau? Could that be? Or was this some sort of test, to see how the enemy camp might recruit me? Were these people sent by the bureau?

Jan locked eyes with me and smiled-no, it was a smirk: a lopsided, crooked grin. I realized then; they were trying to recruit me! They were here in my house, trying to purchase us. I thought, My God, this can’t be happening. How can this be? Matthew continued to listen to Doug’s pitch without a clue as to what was taking place.

Doug now pointed to his wife. “My wife worked for them, you know. Jan worked for ATAA and ATC. Before we came to the States, while in Germany, she worked for their sister organization in Germany. There are several Turkish-German organizations like that over there. I am very active with them and their Pentagon arm.”

I was seized by a panic attack. My heart was pounding; my hands were sweating and my mouth had gone dry. This was surreal. It couldn’t be real; maybe I was hallucinating. In fact, this was impossible. Melek Can Dickerson had been hired by the FBI and granted Top Secret Clearance after a thorough background check. No way in hell the bureau would hire her and give her clearance knowing that she worked for those organizations: they were our targets, housing high-level operatives and criminals.

Doug looked me in the eye. “Sibel, I’ll introduce you to our two best friends, our Turkish friends. One of them lives in McLean, Virginia. In fact, later today we’ll visit them. We visit their house at least once a week. Do you know the Mediterranean Bakery on Van Dorn? Jan shops for them there. We get them bread and Middle Eastern baked goods from there.” He paused and named the individual. “He is one of the key operators for the ATC, Colonel ______.” Doug named one of the FBI’s top counterintelligence targets; in fact, one of our top, primary targets.

He continued. “When Jan worked at ATAA and ATC, she was liaisoned to his office since we knew him from way back when, in Turkey and later in Germany. You guys would like him; we’ll introduce you to him. Also…” He went on to name others, detailing where they lived and what they did-two out of three being the FBI’s primary counterintelligence investigation targets. The names he dropped kept on, from Douglas Feith to Marc Grossman, from a division in the Pentagon to a special unit in the State Department.

I sprang to my feet and grabbed Matthew’s teacup, my hands badly shaking. Jan extended her cup to me. “More tea for me also. Aren’t you glad we finally got together?” I looked at her in disbelief and grabbed the teacup. I brought the refilled cups back to the table, and before sitting down said, “I have two term papers waiting for me. Sorry to cut this short.” Doug looked down at his watch. “Oh, I can’t believe we’ve been here for almost two hours.” Then to his wife, “Honey, we need to go also.” Jan dropped two sugar cubes into her cup and said, “I know; on the way we have to stop at the Mediterranean Bakery.”

I started clearing the table. Matthew shot me a quizzical look, sensing something was wrong-he just had no idea how wrong. A few minutes later, Matthew walked them to the door. I mumbled a cool good-bye and stayed in the kitchen, not bothering to see them out.

Matthew rushed into the kitchen as soon as he shut the door. “What the heck was that all about?”

I continued to empty plates, without looking up. “I know he gave you his number, but I don’t want you to ever call him, OK? If he calls, just hang up-OK? Let me know, but do not talk with either of them. They are dangerous; extremely dangerous.”

What is astonishing here is the way a malevolence is assumed of these organizations, as if they are well-known terrorist groups, rather than ethnic or national associations: “Of course I knew who they were and what they did-too well. They constituted a big chunk of what I worked on and monitored for Saccher’s department.” She later tells us explicitly why she thinks these organizations are so fearsome, though it’s a claim she never gives any proof for in the book, and which I’ve never seen any evidence of anywhere:

Melek Can Dickerson had worked for ATC, ATAA, and before that, with these organizations’ counterpart in Germany. Individuals and entities within these organizations, including certain Americans, were directly involved in global criminal activities: nuclear black market, narcotics, and military and industrial espionage. These organizations and their players are not driven by any ideology or nationalistic objectives. To them this is business, and the highest bidder, regardless of nationality or ideology, gets the goods.

This paranoid vision, never given any actual evidence or specifics, continues on at another moment in Classified Woman:

When it comes to criminal and shady global networks, most of us tend to envision either the Mafia, with its own rules and culture of omertà, knife-wielding, semiautomatic-toting Colombian or Mexican drug cartels, or ordinary street-level gangsters with guns. Contrary to these stereotypes, Turkish criminal networks consist mainly of respectable-looking businessmen (some of whom are among the top international CEOs), high-ranking military officers, diplomats, politicians and scholars. Their U.S. counterparts are equally respected and recognized: high-level bureaucrats within the State Department and Pentagon, elected officials, or combination of the two, who now have set up their own companies, NGOs and lobbying groups. When asked, people here in the States generally don’t name Turkey as threatening our national security in the fight against terrorism, nuclear proliferation, or international drug trafficking.

Curiously, despite highly publicized reports and acknowledgments of Turkey’s role in narcotics, the nuclear black market, terrorism and money laundering, Turkey continues to receive billions in aid and assistance annually from the United States. With its highly placed co-conspirators and connections within the Pentagon, the State Department and NATO, Turkey need never fear sanctions or meaningful scrutiny. The criminal Turkish networks continue their global activities right under the nose of their protector, the United States-and neither the 9/11 catastrophe nor their direct and indirect ties to this attack diminish their participation in the shady worlds of narcotics, money laundering and illegal arms transfers.

The “respectable” Turkish companies have bases in Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and other former Soviet states. Many of these front companies and nonprofit organizations, disguised as construction and tourism entities and Islamic charter schools and mosques, receive millions in grants from the U.S. government to establish and operate criminal networks throughout the region. Among their networking partners are the mujahedeen and the Albanian Mafia. Clearly, having in their pocket high-level congressional representatives on the appropriate committees goes a long way to guarantee the flow of these grants. While the U.S. government painted Islamic charity organizations as the main financial source for Al Qaeda, they were hard at work covering up the terrorists’ true financial source: narcotics and illegal arms sales. Why?

Western Europe, followed by the United States, is the principal target of this massive trafficking operation. Yet most of these governments, including that of the United States, prefer to maintain a disturbing and perplexing silence on Turkey’s role and dealings in processing and distributing illegal drugs. Why is that the case?

There is also a strange difference between how this meeting comes about in Classified Woman and “Inconvenient Patriot”, the article which Edmonds tells us was thoroughly fact checked and sourced. I quote again how this meeting happens in Classified Woman; perhaps one of the most important meetings in Edmonds’ life, one where we might expect all the surrounding details to remain seared into her memory:

On the first Saturday in December, Matthew and I spent the entire day preparing and decorating our house for Christmas. I was doing my best to recreate our traditional holiday mood, despite the sadness and melancholy; this would be the second Christmas without my father.

That evening, while I was busy making dinner, the phone rang. Matthew answered. “It’s for you,” he called from our upstairs office, “Jan Dickerson, from the FBI.” I was surprised. A few days earlier she had asked for my number in case of a work-related emergency. I picked up.

Dickerson apologized for calling us on a Saturday evening and asked us to brunch the following day.

I thought a moment before responding. “I have to check with Matthew. We don’t have any particular plans, but there are tons of things to do around the house and I have five final exams in less than two weeks.”

“Even an hour would do,” she insisted, and mentioned being homesick before breaking the news that she was pregnant. I congratulated her, after which she suggested, “How about this? We can come to your house and take care of the introductions there.” At first I was taken aback but recalled my manners. “Sure … in fact, I’ll prepare some Turkish delicacies and tea; instead of going to brunch, we’ll have something here.” She sounded delighted, and said they would come by our house at eleven the following morning.

The call for the meeting takes place on a Saturday evening. She distinctly remembers decorating the house for Christmas. She is cooking dinner when the call comes. It’s understandable that all these distinct details would stay with her so many years later, given the importance of the call. Classified Woman was published in 2012; what follows is how the meeting comes about in Rose’s “Inconvenient Patriot” published in 2005:

In Washington, D.C., and its suburbs, December 2, 2001, was fine but cool, the start of the slide into winter after a spell of unseasonable warmth. At 10 o’clock that morning, Sibel and Matthew Edmonds were still in their pajamas, sipping coffee in the kitchen of their waterfront town house in Alexandria, Virginia, and looking forward to a well-deserved lazy Sunday.

Since mid-September, nine days after the 9/11 attacks, Sibel had been exploiting her fluency in Turkish, Farsi, and Azerbaijani as a translator at the F.B.I. It was arduous, demanding work, and Edmonds-who had two bachelor’s degrees, was about to begin studying for a master’s, and had plans for a doctorate-could have been considered overqualified. But as a naturalized Turkish-American, she saw the job as her patriotic duty.

The Edmondses’ thoughts were turning to brunch when Matthew answered the telephone. The caller was a woman he barely knew-Melek Can Dickerson, who worked with Sibel at the F.B.I. “I’m in the area with my husband and I’d love you to meet him,” Dickerson said. “Is it O.K. if we come by?” Taken by surprise, Sibel and Matthew hurried to shower and dress. Their guests arrived 30 minutes later. Matthew, a big man with a fuzz of gray beard, who at 60 was nearly twice the age of his petite, vivacious wife, showed them into the kitchen. They sat at a round, faux-marble table while Sibel brewed tea.

Now, the phone call takes place on Sunday morning, the same morning as the brunch. Sibel and her husband are in their kitchen, in their pajamas, sipping coffee. Now the Dickersons arrive only a half hour later after the call. Again, the vividly recalled details suggest something that has never left Sibel’s memory – yet how could this be if the phone call in which Dickinson invites herself over takes place at such two distinctly different times? Again, this is Edmonds speaking to Friedman about the Rose article: “And you know how they usually do fact-checking, after the article is submitted, by the reporter, well in this case they did triple fact checking, they did it three times, going back to every single source. And so, they really did their homework.”

After this meeting, the next crisis point involves a meeting with Dennis Saccher, the F.B.I.’s special agent in charge of Turkish counter-intelligence, where it’s discovered that Melek Can Dickerson has been labeling conversations affecting counter-intelligence targets, such as the Colonel mentioned at the brunch meeting, as “not pertinent”. There are three depictions of this meeting and what leads up to it – Rose’s “Inconvenient Patriot”, Infiltration (page 162 in Google Books), Classified Woman – and they all adhere closely in the crucial details. Before this meeting, Dickerson had arranged that each Turkish translator – Dickerson, Edmonds, Kevin Taskesen – would translate material from a specific set of sources. The Colonel mentioned at brunch and other counterintelligence targets Dickerson reserved for herself, according to “Inconvenient Patriot”:

To monitor every call on every line at a large institution such as the Turkish Embassy in Washington would not be feasible. Inevitably, the F.B.I. listens more carefully to the phones used by its targets, such as the Dickersons’ purported friend. In the past, the assignment of lines to each translator had always been random: Edmonds might have found herself listening to a potentially significant conversation by a counter-intelligence target one minute and an innocuous discussion about some diplomatic party the next. Now, however, according to Edmonds, Dickerson suggested changing this system, so that each Turkish speaker would be permanently responsible for certain lines. She produced a list of names and numbers, together with her proposals for dividing them up. As Edmonds would later tell her F.B.I. bosses and congressional investigators, Dickerson had assigned the American-Turkish Council and three other “high-value” diplomatic targets, including her friend, to herself.

This is the description of the meeting with Saccher, again from Rose:

On the morning of January 14, Sibel says, Saccher asked Edmonds into his cramped cubicle on the fifth floor. On his desk were printouts from the F.B.I. language-department database. They showed that on numerous occasions Dickerson had marked calls involving her friend and other counter-intelligence targets as “not pertinent,” or had submitted only brief summaries stating that they contained nothing of interest. Some of these calls had a duration of more than 15 minutes. Saccher asked Edmonds why she was no longer working on these targets’ conversations. She explained the new division of labor, and went on to tell him about the Dickersons’ visit the previous month. Saccher was appalled, Edmonds says, telling her, “It sounds like espionage to me.”

There is one key difference between “Inconvenient Patriot” and Classified Woman. In “Patriot”, the meeting takes place on January 14. Classified requires us to deduce the meeting’s date. We are told that the day of the meeting on which Dickerson divides up the conversations between the three translators is January 3 – the bold is my own:

On the third day of January I was hard at work when Dickerson stopped by my desk holding a legal-size sheet of paper.

“I’ve been thinking,” she began. “We-the three of us, you and I and Kevin-have been randomly reviewing and translating the incoming intelligence related to these targets.” She placed the paper in front of me. “This is not the most efficient way. Instead of doing it this way, we should divide these targets into three groups, and have each group of targets assigned to one of us. This way we will each have a group of targets we regularly monitor and translate.”

Two pages later, it’s evening of the same day, January 3:

That evening, Kevin called. He had waited until 6:30, he said, but Feghali was still in his office with Dickerson when he left. “I even wiggled the doorknob; he had the door locked. I could hear them whispering inside…. What time will you be in tomorrow?” I told him I would be there by ten. The situation was getting out of control; I decided to contact Saccher if this continued.

In the next passage, it’s now the next morning, January 4:

The next morning I arrived at ten o’clock sharp. I always started off the day by going through my e-mails and phone messages. Almost immediately, Kevin appeared at my desk, with dark circles under his eyes. He looked as though he hadn’t slept at all.

As we talked, I glanced at my screen and scanned e-mails. There was one from Feghali, sent the previous evening at 6:41 p.m., addressed to Kevin, Dickerson and me. “After reviewing your workload and projects under Saccher’s Counterintelligence division,” it began, “I’ve decided to divide the targets among the three of you, permanently. This will increase the efficiency of processing these lines.” Beneath this he listed the target ID numbers and the name of the translators assigned to them. I unlocked my drawer and pulled out Dickerson’s handwritten instruction: Feghali’s division scheme was identical to it. As a postscript, Feghali added, “Please do NOT discuss this with Special Agent Dennis Saccher. This decision does not concern him and I forbid you to discuss this with anyone but me. Also, from this point on you shall not meet with SA Saccher without notifying me first.”

The same day, still January 4:

When I got to my desk, my phone light was blinking: voice mail. As if connected telepathically, Saccher had left a message, asking me to meet him about something urgent the following morning at nine sharp. Now that was Karma! I thought about Feghali’s warning, You are not allowed to meet with your case agent, Saccher, without notifying me first. I shrugged and mumbled to myself, “Screw you, Feghali; you and the Dickersons are about to be exposed.”

The page after, the next day, January 5:

The following morning, only one day after Feghali’s e-mail and before signing in, I stopped by to meet Saccher at his cubicle. He’d left a message that he wanted to see me on some urgent matter. I had no idea what it was about.

This is the same meeting mentioned in Rose, where Saccher and Edmonds discover that Helen Dickerson is shielding certain clients by classifying their conversations as “Not Pertinent”, and Saccher calls it espionage:

With every passing minute Saccher’s face grew darker; his pupils dilated and he was breathing hard. When I finished, he jumped to his feet. “Come on; let’s go upstairs to the security department. Let’s go and check if Feghali ever reported this shit. I also want to check Dickerson’s personnel file. Let’s go …”

We hastened to the eighth floor, which houses the FBI-WFO Personnel Security Division. Saccher had me wait in reception while he went inside.

About ten minutes later he came back extremely agitated, nearly yelling. “There is not a single damn thing in her entire file, Sibel! No report, no memo, no notice-nada! Feghali never reported this. Do you know what this is, Sibel? This is espionage. It smells like it, it sounds like it, and now it sure looks like espionage. This should have been reported to me right away. Oh Sibel, how could you be that stupid? You should have come to me a month ago!”

So, this meeting corresponds in almost all the details as that of “Inconvenient Patriot”, except that it somehow takes place ten days earlier, on January 5 instead of January 14. There’s also something unusual about this date – January 5, 2002 is a Saturday (taken from What Day of the Week for January 5, 2002).

After this meeting with Saccher in “Patriot”, Saccher arranges for Edmonds and the other Turkish translator, Kevin Taskasen, to go back over Dickerson’s work and meet on February 1:

Saccher asked Edmonds and a colleague, Kevin Taskasen, to go back into the F.B.I.’s digital wiretap archive and listen to some of the calls that Dickerson had marked “not pertinent,” and to re-translate as many as they could. Saccher suggested that they all meet with Feghali in a conference room on Friday, February 1. First, however, Edmonds and Taskasen should go to Saccher’s office for a short pre-meeting-to review their findings and to discuss how to handle Feghali.

In Classified Woman, it’s arranged that they meet on the Monday following this January 5, after which Edmonds works on translations for four days until the meeting on Friday. The Monday meeting, then, is on January 7, and the Friday meeting should be very far from February 1, on January 11.

I took the elevator back down to the fourth floor and noticed I was shaking. I went straight to Kevin’s station and told him to meet me in the coatroom in three minutes. When he got there, I quickly explained what happened. He was to meet me in Saccher’s office the following Monday at eight without raising any suspicions. Feghali and Dickerson specifically were not to know. Poor Kevin looked devastated.

The following Monday I got to Saccher’s unit a few minutes before eight. Kevin arrived moments later and the meeting began. Saccher had met with his boss and the unit chief for counterintelligence. He then explained briefly their decision to collect more evidence before transferring the Dickerson case to the FBI Counterespionage division. He had confirmed, via his sources and informants, that Dickerson indeed had worked for and with certain target entities; and that she and her husband appeared to be part of a larger operation, a global network. The players included U.S. officials-both elected and appointed-and certain Pakistani, Saudi and Israeli elements.

Dickerson’s success in penetrating our unit meant that all of the targets already had been tipped off and would no longer be of value. More important, though, was that Saccher’s unit had lost any chance of pursuing the U.S. officials under parallel criminal and espionage investigations. Nearly everything Dickerson had blocked dated back to 2000 and early 2001-before she had gotten inside.

Edmonds then tells us what she discovered over the course of four working days, between Monday and the Friday morning meeting. As stated already, this meeting should fall on the eleventh of January, given where we are on the calendar, yet somehow this meeting is also on February 1:

During my next four working days, I spent time going over Dickerson’s blocked communications. Among hundreds of pieces, in every ten or fifteen checked, I would come across a mother lode of hot intel that no translator, no matter how incompetent, would or could ever miss.

We were looking at people involved in sophisticated networks and operations geared to penetrate our nuclear and military technologies and intelligence-that were then sold to the highest bidder in the global black market. This could be a government entity, another network, a front organization, or individuals connected with a known terrorist group. This was not about any one ideology or nationalism; this was about power and money.

We were also dealing with a list of dirty joint CIA and Turkish operatives in Central Asia, Caucasus and the Balkans. As the FBI pursues foreign terrorists who target our nation, other agencies carry out equally bad or worse attacks overseas. Stunningly, some of these black operations employ the same groups accused of carrying out attacks against us.

Within a week I had identified four explosive pieces of communication blocked by Dickerson and was almost finished translating them verbatim. There were hundreds more, but I knew these four were enough for Saccher’s planned “blast” interrogation.

Meanwhile, Saccher called to let us know that he had set up the meeting with Feghali for the following Friday, February 1, at 9:30 a.m. I stayed off Feghali’s radar until then. I knew how easily he could be provoked; and now Feghali couldn’t stand the sight of me.

Kevin too, despite his linguistic shortcomings, discovered three important pieces of intelligence blocked by Dickerson, one of which dealt with the Pentagon’s own network of moles. Between the two of us, we were ready for the upcoming meeting.

The discoveries here dealing with nuclear technology, terrorism, and drug dealing that are made in these four days would become part of the secrets that Edmonds would reveal in her deposition and elsewhere. There are a number of striking things about this passage. For instance, that her discoveries accord entirely with her earlier assumptions of the secret activities of the ATC and the ATAA. There is also the extraordinarily short amount of time in which the discoveries are made. Apparently, the suspects are speaking openly on their phones with codes that are easily deciphered, or no codes at all, thus allowing this vast secretive network to be picked out in less than a week. That people were supposedly using codes in these surveilled calls, and expected their calls to be surveilled, is stated explicitly by Edmonds in Infiltration. This inspires the obvious question: given that Edmonds was simply a translator, without access to the higher level deciphering of people who’d spent considerable time on these investigations, how was she able to determine what these various code words meant on her own? From Infiltration (on googe books, page 173):

Bad guys planning an attack do not come right out and say it, even in Arabic. In fact, terrorist targets know the FBI is listening in now more than ever, and they “make fun of it on the phone,” Edmonds says. They throw out terms such as “melon” or “wedding” when they mean something else to try to throw off agents. They also invoke dates and events of special Islamic significance. Unfortunately, very few agents and even analysts in the bureau understand the culture and history of Islam and the Middle East to catch the hidden meanings behind certain words and phrases. They rely almost exclusively on the interpretation of the Arabic linguist from that region, whose loyalties are often suspect.

The other striking point is the incredible non-specificity of the source of these revelations. Most people who do investigative work will be able to pick out a moment when after days, weeks, months, years of digging (most of us are lacking in the luck and skill of Sibel Edmonds) we have a fortunate point of eureka, a criss-cross connecting disparate areas or excluding a possibility, and which remains distinct in memory. Edmonds has nothing of the kind in what may well be the unveiling of the single biggest trove of secrets in U.S. history. The reader might contrast this with an earlier moment, when Edmonds discovers a conversation which might relate to the planning of September 11. One may well question Edmonds’ interpretation here, but she does refer to an actual specific conversation whose content might be interpreted, whereas the cluster of conversations that are the motherlode of secrets are never given a discernible presence. From Classified Woman:

One afternoon toward the end of October 2001, slightly over a month after I began working for the bureau, Mike Feghali stopped by my desk to hand me a box containing tapes and a thin file of paper documents. He said an agent from one of the Nevada field offices had sent them. The operation dated back to July and August 2001, and the contents initially had been translated by a language specialist in summary format.

In light of the events of September eleven, on a hunch the agent decided to send it to us for review: he believed something had been overlooked or not translated correctly, and if true, he wanted to be informed immediately and have everything translated verbatim. The agent also included in the package information obtained post-9/11, up to October 1, 2001.

“I’m sure everything was OK the first time around,” Feghali commented. “Just go over these and see if anything significant was missed.” With that he dropped the file and the accompanying tapes on my desk and walked away.

After a short lunch break, I switched gears. I put aside what I had been working on and started the new assignment. I decided to give a quick listen to the tapes and skim the package before typing, to see if anything grabbed me. Later, I would go back and start over again, if necessary, the tedious, slow translation.

For the first few minutes I was having a hard time staying focused; boredom had set in. The target was in jail, talking to someone in a remote and underdeveloped border region of Pakistan and Iran (I knew from the accent and dialect where they were from). They chatted about some real estate and bridge projects; all the requirements they had to meet and the schedule they had to maintain. The very short, less than three-sentence-long original translation basically said that the subject discussed inconsequential matters and talked about some real estate development. I thought it more or less sufficient and accurate. Feghali’s observation seemed to be right-so far.

A few minutes passed before something made me sit up at once, with the force of an electric jolt. I thought I had heard something that didn’t fit, something that was out of place. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I felt spooked.

I rewound the tape and this time listened carefully. Oh my God-there it was! The target was going to send the blueprints and building composites for the project: those buildings had to be skyscrapers, a hundred floors or higher, to fit the specifications. I looked at the date: late July, 2001. The region to which these blueprints, building composites and bridge specifications were to be sent was as primitive as could be; they barely had mud huts. How could they be discussing the construction of skyscrapers in a nomadic village with huts? They specifically mentioned skyscrapers. Also, the blueprints and building composites were to be sent via human courier, not by mail, FedEx, or fax. Why would someone go to that much trouble to send simple blueprints, building and bridge plans and composites? Why was a “trusted source” to travel around the world to deliver it?

I believed the agent’s hunch was right on target. September eleven attacks and skyscrapers; blueprints and building composites of skyscrapers hand delivered to Iran; the date preceding the attacks by approximately two months.

Now I was awake and alert. I decided to go over a little bit more before notifying Feghali and the agent who’d sent the assignment. I fast-forwarded the tape to the first recorded date after September 11, 2001, to 11 a.m. September 12, 2001. I pushed the Start button and went over it. Bingo! First, the target and recipient congratulated themselves for this precious Eid. (Eid is a religious holiday in the Muslim world.) I knew all the dates for Eid that year: there were no religious holidays in September. These congratulations were given one day after the 9/11 attacks. Were they celebrating a successful operation? I jotted that down too.

Within the same communication, on September 12, the target warned that “using men would be dangerous, not wise, after this. The next round had to be women, young women between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four.” There also was a brief discussion of “channels to obtain visas in return for money,” most of them in the United Arab Emirates. Their network included people with connections and contacts in U.S. embassies there.

At this meeting on the morning of February 1, Saccher is supposed to be there, but ends up canceling at the last minute. Instead, Edmonds and Taskasen meet with Feghali and Feghali’s colleague, translation-department supervisor Stephanie Bryan. In “Patriot”, this meeting has Bryan recommend that Edmonds write up a confidential memo, which she submits to Bryan on February 11. The following day, February 12, Edmonds is called to a meeting with Bryan, Feghali and Dickerson. Near the end of this meeting on February 12, Dickerson threatens her family in Turkey:

Instead, Edmonds was ushered into the windowless office of Feghali’s colleague, translation-department supervisor Stephanie Bryan. Investigating possible espionage was not a task for which Bryan had been trained or equipped.

Bryan heard Edmonds out and told her to set down her allegations in a confidential memo. Edmonds says that Bryan approved of her writing it at home. Edmonds gave the document to Bryan on Monday, February 11. Early the following afternoon, the supervisor summoned Edmonds. Waiting in a nearby office were two other people, Feghali and Melek Can Dickerson. In front of them were Edmonds’s translations of the wiretaps and her memo.

“Stephanie said that she’d taken my memo to the supervisory special agent, Tom Frields,” Edmonds says. “He apparently wouldn’t even look at it until Mike Feghali and Dickerson had seen it and been given a chance to comment. Stephanie said that, working for the government, there were certain things you didn’t do, and criticizing your colleagues’ work was one of them. She told me, ‘Do you realize what this means? If you were right, the people who did the background checks would have to be investigated. The whole translation department could be shaken up!’ Meanwhile, I was going to be investigated for a possible security breach-for putting classified information onto my home computer. I was told to go to the security department at three p.m.”

Before Edmonds left, Dickerson had time to sidle over to her desk. According to Edmonds, she made what sounded like a threat: “Why are you doing this, Sibel? Why don’t you just drop it? You know there could be serious consequences. Why put your family in Turkey in danger over this?”

In Classified Woman, Bryan and Feghali are at this February morning meeting – but so is Dickerson:

As we entered the conference room, the first thing I saw was Melek Can Dickerson seated at the table. At one end sat Bryan, and at the other end, Feghali. Kevin and I sat together facing Dickerson, with our notepads before us.

Stephanie spoke first. “I understand there are some personal problems between the Turkish translators, Sibel, Kevin, and Jan. This is normal. Whenever you have people, you’ll have conflicts, misunderstandings and problems. These issues can be resolved through open communication; through dialogue. That’s why we’re gathered here today …”

I could tell she had no idea what this meeting was about. After all, she’d been asked to participate only minutes earlier. I remained silent. With Dickerson present I was not about to say a word.

In “Patriot”, we are given one explanation why Saccher is not at the meeting he himself called:

Later, Edmonds says, she called Saccher on the internal phone. “Why the hell did you cancel?” she asked. Bewildered, he told her that immediately after she and Taskasen had left his office Feghali phoned him, saying that the conference room was already in use, and that the meeting would have to be postponed.

Edmonds says Saccher also told her that he had been ordered not to touch the case by his own superiors, who called it a “can of worms.” Despite his role as special agent in charge of Turkish counter-intelligence, he had even been forbidden to obtain copies of her translations. Saccher had two small children and a settled life in Washington. If he dared to complain, Edmonds says, he risked being assigned “to some fucked-up office in the land of tornadoes.”

In Classified Woman, we are given another. The following takes place right after Edmonds returns from the meeting:

As soon as I got to my desk, I dialed Saccher’s extension. He answered on the second ring.

“What in the world happened to you?” I asked.

“What do you mean? Feghali called me as soon as you and Kevin left and said that he had to cancel the meeting and reschedule it for the following week. He had something important on a counterterrorism case involving one of his translators.”

This was unbelievable. I told Saccher what Feghali told us: that he, Saccher, had canceled the meeting for a supposedly unexpected field operation.

Before I could even finish recounting, Saccher cut me off. “This is friggin’ nuts!” He was yelling. “That bastard … that sonuvabitch! I’m going to see him in jail. Meet me at the fire exit-the secondary stairway, on the sixth floor landing.”

“What? Why there?”

“We need to talk,” he said. “I’ll see you there in three minutes sharp.” He hung up. Why there? I thought, baffled. I started toward the unit exit; then took the stairs two at a time, and when I got there, Saccher was waiting.

He asked me to go over the entire episode, including Dickerson’s reactions and body language during the meeting, and tell him word for word what Stephanie had instructed me to do.

“I don’t know Stephanie Bryan well,” Saccher went on to explain. “I don’t know if she’s trustworthy or competent. This is not her area. She’s only an administrator; she doesn’t know a damn thing about this area, about counterespionage investigations. She can ruin the entire case. Don’t submit the translations to her,” he added. “Drag your feet; bring it to our unit by the end of the day.”

I was exhausted, confused, and getting exasperated. “Dennis, I cannot take this anymore. As of today, she is my admin supervisor. She specifically instructed me not to submit the translation to you. She ordered me to prepare a long memo containing everything that occurred and everything I reported to Feghali in writing and verbally.”

“Okay, let’s go.” Saccher, angry now, grabbed my arm and pulled me with him inside. “We’re taking this to my boss. I’ll ask him to issue a direct order to Stephanie and whoever else in there. I’m going to tell him about this nonsense she’s pulling.”

Outside the office, Saccher motioned me to wait. “Let me go first. I’ll go talk to him; then I’ll bring you in, OK?”

I rolled my eyes, but did as I was told. I could hear shouting, a heated exchange; fifteen minutes later, I was face to face with the head of Counterintelligence for the FBI, a man in his early thirties who introduced himself as “John.”

This boss then tells Edmonds directly that she should stay out of this case, and tells her directly that it’s a can of worms.

“Dennis told me what went on there, downstairs. Ms. Edmonds, I have no tolerance for twisted game playing by your administrative supervisors. For years, that department, the translation division, has caused us trouble and headache.”

“Sibel is caught in the middle of this shit,” Saccher broke in. “Come on, John, it’s Feghali and Bryan you should be saying this to-”

His boss didn’t let him finish. “It’s not only that, Dennis, you know that … Ms. Edmonds, the bureau is already under pressure regarding the Turkish operations. The targets, as you are now aware, are connected to people in high places: State Department, Pentagon, White House, Congress … The activities have too many beneficiaries in this country-the CIA, weapons companies, military, lobbying firms, Congress, you name it. Now,” he continued, “on top of this pressure, we appear to have a ‘real spy’ problem, the Dickersons.

I don’t think HQ executives want to know about this; they don’t want this to explode. They have made it very clear. Saccher and I tried, but we’re being prevented from pursuing this espionage case. They didn’t say it in so many words, but I know the lingo. They want this to go away …”

I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t even understand the meaning-the implications-of everything he was telling me.

“This is ridiculous!” Saccher was almost yelling now. “HQ’s attitude about this, the bullshit happening downstairs, Bryan asking her to keep translations out of our reach-”

“Drop it, Dennis,” John said sharply. “I have a bad feeling on this one, man; my gut feeling says this is going to be bad for all. On top of everything, I don’t want you to get dragged in the middle of the war zone in the translation department, you hear me?” He looked straight at me. “Ms. Edmonds, this is going to be a can of worms-a major disaster. I don’t want my good men, my agents, my unit caught in the middle of this shit storm.”

“Then what do you want me to do?” I meekly mumbled. “I’m being bombarded with instructions; which way do you want me to turn?”

“This is going to be a can of worms,” he repeated. “We’ll let HQ and the security division handle most of it. I’m willing to bring in Dickerson and put her under a ‘blast interrogation.’ That’s it. OK?”

I nodded, confused. Saccher looked like a bomb about to explode, jaw twitching, his face deep purple red. He shot John an angry look before escorting me out.

This is still February 1st in Classified Woman. The next chapter opens in the following week, on Thursday, with Edmonds dropping off the memo for Bryan. It’s the Thursday following the Friday February 1st meeting, so this takes place on February 7th, rather than Monday, February 11th in “Patriot” – “Edmonds gave the document to Bryan on Monday, February 11.” After submitting the memo, Bryan calls her in for a meeting:

The following week, on a bitter cold Thursday, I grabbed a yellow envelope that contained a small disc and two printed copies of the three-page memo and headed out. At work, I stopped by Bryan’s office to hand it over. She was on the phone; she nodded, took the package and waved. What a relief. They now had the facts, including incidents of intentional blocking of highly important intelligence and Dickerson’s role.

I turned on my computer and got to work. I had a lot to do: in addition to several counterterrorism investigations there was my ongoing Turkish counterintelligence project from Chicago and, of course, my ongoing Turkish Counterintelligence translation tasks involving DC. I put on my headset and began.

My desk phone rang about two hours later. It was Bryan, asking me to come to her office right away.

I turned off my computer, placed my folders inside the drawer and headed to her office. She pointed to a chair. Scattered across her desk was my three-page memo. Next to it was the pile I had turned over to her the previous week, containing selected translations of the top-secret intelligence blocked by Dickerson.

Bryan cleared her throat. “I read the memo. Thorough job, very disturbing; it’s worse than I expected. Great job. Thank you.”

I got straight to the point. “So, are you taking it to Frields today-right away? Have you sent the copies of the five translated documents to Saccher and his boss? They’ve been waiting.”

She cleared her throat again. “Sibel, you have never worked for the federal government before this job, is that right?”

I was at loss. “No, why?”

“Because things work differently in government. While private companies are concerned with efficiency, security and productivity, the government couldn’t care less. Of course, the jobs here come with other pluses: less work, more benefits, retirement …”

Bryan discourages her from pursuing any complaint. This is followed by an afternoon meeting with Bryan. She sees Feghali and Melek Can Dickerson in another office looking at her memo and various translations. Bryan says she will launch an investigation against Edmonds for producing the memo on her home computer:

After a long lunch, it was almost three by the time I got back to my desk. Fifteen minutes later, the phone rang. I picked up, hoping it was Saccher, but no such luck. It was Bryan. I was to report directly to her office. Now what?

On the way over I had to pass by Feghali’s office. His door was wide open. I stopped. There were Feghali, Dickerson, and Feghali’s daughter-a special agent in the white-collar crime division and an attorney-seated around the table. On top of it was the yellow manila envelope next to the stack of translated intelligence intentionally blocked by Dickerson. What the hell was going on? Saccher and his boss were supposed to set up a surprise interrogation of Dickerson in order to send the case to the counterespionage division. So now the suspect, Dickerson-the person under investigation-is given access to the entire case, the memo and translations?

Feghali saw me and nudged Dickerson. She turned and gave me a lopsided smile. I made tracks to Bryan’s office and pointed toward the meeting down the hall. “What the hell is that, Stephanie? What are they doing with my memo and the translated evidence?”

Bryan shrugged. “Oh, that. I took the stuff to Frields per your request. He said that since Feghali and Dickerson are involved and accused, to go ahead and give them the documents and have them review them. They have the right to review any allegations made against them, and respond. He will review the stuff, together with Dickerson’s response and also Feghali’s, all at one time. So … I gave them to Feghali and he’s reviewing them with Dickerson. His daughter is here because she’s an attorney. She will advise both Dickerson and her dad. I’m sure you understand their need for solid legal advice.”

This felt like “The Twilight Zone.” “Have you told Saccher? Have you notified him or his boss? This is their area. This is not how the counterespionage investigation is supposed to go. They specifically requested-both from you and me-that this be kept completely away from Dickerson. And what do you mean by his daughter being present as an attorney advising Dickerson and Feghali? This is not a court case, for God’s sake!”

Bryan waved her hand dismissively. “Anyway, I asked you to come here for a totally different matter. We have decided that by producing the memo, the one you gave me today, at home, on your home computer, you have violated the security rules of the FBI. The content of your memo involves top secret topics, names and issues. Your conduct needs to be investigated; it may be determined that it is a criminal act. I had to report you and your conduct involving a breach of security to the personnel security investigations office on the eighth floor. The agent investigating you is Melinda Tilton. She wants to interrogate you immediately, today.” She then jotted a few numbers on a yellow Post-It and handed it to me. “Call her immediately-right now. This is a very serious matter and cannot wait. As of this moment you are under investigation, Sibel.”

All of this takes place in “Patriot”, but rather than happening all on a Thursday, February 7th, it’s split between two days, February 11th and 12th:

Bryan heard Edmonds out and told her to set down her allegations in a confidential memo. Edmonds says that Bryan approved of her writing it at home. Edmonds gave the document to Bryan on Monday, February 11. Early the following afternoon, the supervisor summoned Edmonds. Waiting in a nearby office were two other people, Feghali and Melek Can Dickerson. In front of them were Edmonds’s translations of the wiretaps and her memo.

“Stephanie said that she’d taken my memo to the supervisory special agent, Tom Frields,” Edmonds says. “He apparently wouldn’t even look at it until Mike Feghali and Dickerson had seen it and been given a chance to comment. Stephanie said that, working for the government, there were certain things you didn’t do, and criticizing your colleagues’ work was one of them. She told me, ‘Do you realize what this means? If you were right, the people who did the background checks would have to be investigated. The whole translation department could be shaken up!’ Meanwhile, I was going to be investigated for a possible security breach-for putting classified information onto my home computer. I was told to go to the security department at three p.m.”

Before Edmonds left, Dickerson had time to sidle over to her desk. According to Edmonds, she made what sounded like a threat: “Why are you doing this, Sibel? Why don’t you just drop it? You know there could be serious consequences. Why put your family in Turkey in danger over this?”

This same threat also takes place in Classified Woman:

From the corner of my eye I spotted Dickerson, heading in my direction. She came straight up to me and hissed, “You asked for it. What did I tell you about the FBI not giving a damn about it, huh? This is nothing. The worst is yet to come-for your family in Turkey. You can blame yourself for what’s to come for them.” She then named both my sisters and the neighborhood in Turkey in which the middle one lived.

After receiving this threat in Classified Woman, Edmonds declares that she will from now on document all her office conversations, which makes the major discrepancy in dates here surprising:

Back at my computer, I opened a new file and word document noting the date, time and conversation; I also noted the name of the translator who witnessed the event and what she said she’d heard. I saved it; then I e-mailed both Bryan and Feghali an account of what had occurred with Dickerson. I clicked Send and off it went: I was on record. From that day on, from that moment, I made sure all my communications-everything that occurred at work-were documented and witnessed. This was a battle.

What happens next is one of the most astonishing discrepancies between “Patriot” and Classified Woman. Here is the passage describing what happens after Dickerson’s threat in “Patriot”. I bold what’s the crucial part in the text:

As soon as she had returned home from the February meeting where Dickerson allegedly cautioned her not to endanger her family in Turkey, Sibel called her mother and sister in Istanbul, even though it was the middle of the night there. Sibel is the oldest of three sisters. The youngest was studying in America and living with the Edmondses in Alexandria, but the middle sister-whose name Edmonds wishes to protect-was enjoying a successful career at an international travel company based in Istanbul. The 29-year-old was also engaged to be married. Within days of receiving Sibel’s call, she flew with her mother to Washington.

This is what takes place in Classified Woman. I bold what I think is the astonishing point:

That night, after dinner, I sat down with Matthew and told him everything-omitting only classified details related to names and specific criminal activities. I unloaded nonstop, barely taking time for breath. I’d bottled up so much that now it all came pouring out in a flood. By the time I finished I was exhausted.

Matthew listened intently without interrupting. Although he knew some of the issues, he was stunned by the extent of what had gone on and horrified at the implications. He started to pace. “I think you had better call your sister in Turkey and have her pack her stuff and come here immediately.”

“How can she? She has a job, a career! She is engaged to be married next year. What am I going to tell her? Pack and leave everything behind and come over here? What will she do here? How long will she stay? I-”

He cut me off, explaining the stark facts. My sister in Turkey had been named. “At least your other sister is here,” he pointed out, “and I’m glad you persuaded your mother not to go back…. You know what they can do to you over there; you know there are no laws and no protections over there for either you or your family.”

Infiltration gives us something closer to “Patriot”. Again, I bold the most crucial text (page 162 on Google Books):


Edmonds says Dickerson had instructed her not to translate certain FBI wiretaps involving the Turkish subject, explaining that she knew him personally and was confident that there would be nothing important to translate concerning him. When Edmonds refused, she says Dickerson managed to get ahold of translations meant for Edmonds and forged her signature and initials, rendering the communications useless to the case agent.

Edmonds says in documents filed in federal court that “extremely sensitive and material information was deliberately withheld from translations,” and that her supervisor barred her from alerting the case agent about the serious matter. Ferghali decided not to send the retranslated information to Sacher who requested it, she says. Instead, Ferghali sent him a note stating that the translation was reviewed and the original translation was accurate. He explained to Edmonds that sending the revised translation would only hurt Dickerson and cause problems for the FBI language department.

Here the story takes a bizarre turn.

When Dickerson heard about her tea companion complaining about her translations, she made a thinly veiled threat for her to stop. “Why would you put your life and your family’s life in danger?” she allegedly told Edmonds, a petite brunette. Not long afterward, plainclothes agents with Turkish intelligence showed up at her younger sister’s apartment in Istanbul with an interrogation and arrest warrant. Luckily, Edmonds had already brought her sister, employed by a major airline, and mother to Washington in anticipation of such reprisals.

When this threat is made by Dickerson, is the mother of Sibel Edmonds in Turkey or the United States? In “Patriot”, she’s in Turkey with the sister. In Classified Woman, she’s already in the U.S. With Infiltration, she appears to have flown separately or together with Edmonds’ sister because of the harm that Dickerson might bring about.

As part of their investigation into Edmonds, the FBI would seize their computer. This takes places February 13 in “Patriot”:

On February 13, the day after her interview with the bureau security office, three agents came to her home and seized the computer she shared with her husband. “I hadn’t had time to back up the data, and I told them that most of my business was on that computer,” Matthew Edmonds says.

A Review has the incident take place on February 13 as well:

On February 13, with Edmonds’ consent, the FBI seized her home computer. That same day, Edmonds also wrote to a higher-level FBI official about her allegations and requested to meet with him regarding her concerns.

However, it takes place on February 14 in Classified Woman:

The lull ended the following week, on February 14, Valentine’s Day, with a phone call around noon. It was Agent Tilton [Melinda Tilton, the agent heading up the investigation of Edmonds]; she wanted me to go up and see her.

“Sibel,” she greeted me cordially. “I did my best to persuade headquarters and Bryan. They still insist on a full-blown investigation of you.”

“Actually you do. They want us to examine your computer-your PC.”

“My home computer?” I asked, incredulous.

She nodded. “Of course, you can demand a court-issued subpoena, but I recommend highly against that. We, the security department, know there will be nothing there, but others, as you know, insist.”

“That computer is not mine alone, my husband and I share it. He has his and his clients’ data on it. After I typed the memo, I put it on a disc and erased the file from the PC, just as Bryan instructed. I gave you guys the disc and the only printed copy.”

“I know,” she said. “It will take us only a few hours to check the PC and confirm that there is nothing there, then report to headquarters. Let’s get this over with ASAP. You don’t want this ridiculous investigation hovering over your head. Forcing us to get a subpoena will only aggravate everyone more, and will drag this out longer for you.”

I had to think. “When?”

“Today. In a couple of hours.”

That her computer was examined is without question. What is significant here is the sincere insistence that it took place a day later and a very specific day, on Valentine’s Day, a vision as real as what is in the other accounts.

Edmonds would make various appeals over the next month. No description of her actually working is given in Classified Woman until her very last day, on March 22:

On Friday, March 22, I started my work at ten in the morning. I spent the day working mainly on Chicago files. Of the counterintelligence cases I’d worked on, this was by far the most intriguing and contained the most explosive elements: well-known Chicago political figures-including certain Illinois representatives in Congress-who were directly involved with targeted Turkish operatives, some of whom were among Interpol’s most wanted fugitives. I had placed most of my focus on files dating from mid-1996 to January 2002, as well as ongoing DC counterintelligence-part of which I was still going through, auditing those that had been reviewed by Dickerson. Since no one specifically asked me to stop going over those documents, I chose to press on-assuming I was still under the same order.

I went through and documented each thoroughly. On this day too I spent a couple of hours going over Dickerson’s cover-up, in the middle of which I hit a new mother lode. Five or six pieces of additional audio communications-all stamped as not pertinent by Dickerson-contained information so volatile that I had to bite the bullet and report it to Saccher’s unit. The information included specific U.S. persons, facilities and payments, all involving U.S. nuclear secrets being passed to foreign entities who then offered them to the highest bidder. In one case, the highest bidder who purchased one of these illegally obtained, highly classified information sets happened to be a non-state group with highly likely ties to a Middle Eastern terrorist organization. The players involved high-profile Pentagon and State Department figures, congressional staff, academic and think-tank-based individuals. The penetration went as deep as top nuclear labs, U.S. Air Force nuclear weapons labs and research facilities, and the RAND Corporation.

We might note again the lack of specificity here, and once again her astonishing luck, uncovering an astonishing payload in an even shorter time period than before. Then, she discovered a nuclear secret theft ring over the course of four days; now she finds a network connected to the State Department, the Pentagon, and various prestige universities in six hours of work, from ten in the morning to four in the afternoon.

A Review of the FBI’s Actions has Sibel allegedly working very little after February 22:

On March 8, Edmonds complained that work she had been asked to translate had not been loaded properly onto her computer, and that FBI Special Agents had been waiting for the translations for three weeks. The Language Supervisor [Mike Ferghali] responded that since February 22, 2002, Edmonds had only worked one day, on March 8, 2002.

Again, according to A Review, linguistic resources had been reallocated away from Edmonds. She’d received no new assignments, and no temporary assignments:

On March 15, the relationship between the Language Supervisor and Edmonds became even more tense. Edmonds asked the Language Supervisor why the Special Agent who she assisted had not been in contact with her in over a month. Edmonds also inquired about her work assignments. The Language Supervisor responded that he did not know why the Special Agent had not met with Edmonds and that, due to Edmonds’ limited work hours and the need to have certain work assignments completed, he had requested that linguistic resources be reallocated. In response, Edmonds stated that in the past few weeks, “coincidental” to her reports of wrongdoing, she had received no new assignment and no offers of temporary duty (TDY) assignments.

Having looked in detail at Edmonds’ own varied accounts of her brief period at the FBI, one might question whether she is as credible and honest a witness as others claim her to be. That her account has not received greater skepticism is due in part to the very power of secret information. In Hillaire Belloc’s “On a lost manuscript” (from On Nothing and Kindred Subjects), he invests a missing text with powers that are almost mystical, its very non-existence allowing it to claim such virtues: “Much depended upon it; it would have led you to a great and to a rapidly acquired fortune; but you must not ask for it. You must turn your mind away. It cannot be re-written, and all that can take its place is a sort of dirge for departed and irrecoverable things.” We might speak of the hidden information of Edmonds in the same manner. Because it is unknown, it must truly be something like a vast map of secret corruption, and because of misunderstandings, willful or otherwise, various writers and interviewers seem to think she is restricted from letting us know all.

There have been two restrictions that Edmonds has had to deal with since her case became public. The first has been the State Secrets privilege, which can be exercised by the executive to prevent someone from introducing into evidence, in court, any information that might have a secret classification. It was the state secrets privilege that halted her suit against the FBI for terminating her. However, it was not used when she testified at detailed length at the Ohio Election Commission hearing on Jean Schmidt’s complaint. The other constraint was an order by the Attorney General which reclassified some material that had been made public by the FBI in a Senate Judiciary hearing on Edmonds’ case. This re-classification was reversed in February 20057. There are no obstacles to Edmonds speaking in public about whatever she wants, as freely as she wants. She would admit as much in “An Interview with Sibel Edmonds”, her interview with David Swanson. I bold the most relevant part:

Swanson: So I should ask, I guess, before I start, are you under any gag order? Are there things that you can and cannot talk about?

Edmonds: Well – that’s a very interesting question, David, because when the government invoked the State Secrets Privilege, it was specifically for the court procedures, so there won’t be any court hearings, and as far as the courts are concerned, my case is gagged and classified.

Separately, they invoked the retroactive classification order on Congress and this was for the Senate Judiciary committee in May 2004 – and the way the imposed this gag order – and I have to emphasize that this gag order was illegal, because in order for them to retroactively classify congressional investigations, the Attorney General for the Justice Department had to meet three criteria and he did not. But even though the gag order was illegal, at that time in May 2004, the Senate Judiciary committee complied with it, they complied with an illegal gag order.

But I’ve never had a gag order placed on me as far as the public statements, or any other investigative procedures are concerned, but as you know they have declared everything in my case, including my languages, and what I did for the FBI, classified. Now the question is whether this classification that they’re using is even legal, or justified. As you know the executive branch has complete control over the classification.

We might see the way this classification is cited as a reason why she cannot tell her full story, and then just as easily ignored in a pair of interviews. From May 8, 2009, on a podcast hosted by Scott Horton (transcript taken from “Sibel Edmonds ” Antiwar Radio with Scott Horton”):

SH: Can you not get with your ACLU lawyers and just sit down and write a book and tell us every single incriminating thing you learned, classified or otherwise to whatever degree, and damn-the-consequences and bring-it-on? Come on, Sibel.

SE: Scott, believe me or not, I would do that whether the question of can-you-or can’t-you is answered or not. But you’ve got to find one organization, and find one mainstream media, and that includes a publishing house, who is willing to do it. Just find one for me and I tell you what, I’m going on the record right now here, I will do it.

SH: All I’ve got to do is find you a publishing house? I mean, that doesn’t seem impossible.

SE: Well, it’s not only a publishing house, because what happens is, regardless of the State Secrets Privilege, all these people who have worked for the FBI, anyone, the agents, the attorneys, the language specialists, as part of getting that job, you sign documents saying that in the future, if you ever write anything, whether there is the State Secrets Privilege or classification, you have to submit your work for pre-publication review.

I need to do that, OK, I have already gone through several law firms and said ‘Here it is, and they looked at it and said ‘Even the most innocent stuff there, you are facing 60-70% of this manuscript – which is ready! It has been ready for quite a while – which will be blacked out. Now once you get the blacked out version not a single person will publish it. What are you going to publish?’ Look at my Inspector General report – 90% of it is blacked out. Nobody is going to publish a blacked-out book! Then, you are in this position of going to court, and start fighting, line-by-line, everything that has been blacked out, saying this was not correct, this is not truly classification, and challenging it.

That’s why I’m telling you, find any organization that would be willing to represent this because they look at me and say ‘Sibel, this is impossible. Especially with your case, this is impossible. It is a fight that you won’t win.’

Now we have Sibel Edmonds in 2012, promoting Classified Woman, in an interview on RT with Abby Martin. She now can seemingly submit a book to the justice department, ignore the fact that they never give their approval, and publish it unredacted. From “US government needs to keep the fear factor alive” (0:55-2:26):

Sibel, there’s been a gag order on you for years, and you’ve decided to come out now, why?

Well, it took several years. To be exact, five years. To fight this case, or try to fight this case, in courts. And through Congress. And through executive agencies such as the Inspector General’s office. And basically, at every turn, I was further classified, in fact, the government, and this is during the Bush Administration, the Attorney General at the time, John Ashcroft, ended up invoking a gag order on Congress. They retroactively classified everything Congress had investigated in my case. So, after those six years, I was exhausted. I went away for two years, came back in 2009, thinking that we were going to have a new administration, and that we were going to see hopefully, come kind of a change, and that didn’t take place, but I started writing this book. And I abided by the justice department’s own regulations, the law, I submitted it to them, they had thirty days to redact it and give it back to me, and they didn’t. And they kept sending letters for a year to my attorneys saying I cannot publish a single word in this book, but they would not give us a redacted version. We fulfilled our obligations, I have, I have constitution on my side, so I went ahead and finally published this book, so it’s out.

Despite this, her book gives us only generalities about the vast network which has its tentacles in the Pentagon, the State Department, Congress, and various universities.

Edmonds is equally arbitrary in what she can and cannot reveal with regards to the Jan Schakowsky case. In her deposition, there are things she cannot reveal because she supposedly doesn’t want an innocent person’s reputation destroyed. The “classification I don’t believe”, I guess refers to the re-classification that had been repealed four years before this deposition:

I assume that – -well, let me just ask you, and I’m not trying to put you on the spot. If you can’t answer, just tell me. Would you be prepared to tell me who the Congresswoman is that we’ve been talking about?

I would have, and it wouldn’t be because of classification I don’t believe. I — if in case this congressional person did not bend under the pressure in case. I just don’t want somebody, innocent person’s reputation destroyed because I don’t know if this person complied with whatever she happened to be blackmailed later. I think I —

Why exactly would a classification that had been repealed in 2005 affect her in 2009? That she was utterly indifferent to an innocent person’s reputation being destroyed is obvious because only a month later she would freely name this congresswoman as Jan Schakowsky in “Who’s Afraid of Sibel Edmonds?”, her interview with Philip Giraldi:

GIRALDI: So the investigation stopped in Washington, but continued in Chicago?

EDMONDS: Yes, and in 2000, another representative was added to the list, Jan Schakowsky, the Democratic congresswoman from Illinois. Turkish agents started gathering information on her, and they found out that she was bisexual. So a Turkish agent struck up a relationship with her. When Jan Schakowsky’s mother died, the Turkish woman went to the funeral, hoping to exploit her vulnerability. They later were intimate in Schakowsky’s townhouse, which had been set up with recording devices and hidden cameras. They needed Schakowsky and her husband Robert Creamer to perform certain illegal operational facilitations for them in Illinois. They already had Hastert, the mayor, and several other Illinois state senators involved. I don’t know if Congresswoman Schakowsky ever was actually blackmailed or did anything for the Turkish woman.

Only a month earlier, in a podcast for her website Boiling Frogs, “Podcast Show #3”, Edmonds had said she could not get into the specifics of the Schakowsky case (32:55-34:20 in the podcast audio):

You’re right, and you mentioned something else, you mentioned this process of hooking, and that’s exactly what they do. Now, the hooking can be via getting first some innocent information and then making that information level go higher and higher, money, and in some cases, just sexual stuff. In what case I had, I can’t talk about the specifics, it was this particular congresswoman, and she’s still a congresswoman, that this ATC and AIPAC related individuals, got dirt on her. They found out that even though she was married and she still is, and has a grown-up kid, she is also, she is bisexual. She also has interest in other women. And they use that. They actually provided a Turkish lady to go and have an affair with her, and they tape-recorded the entire relationship. Okay? Because in their initial attempt to hook this congresswoman for a particular objective they had, it did not work, had not worked, so they went to the next level, and said, okay, this is how we hook. So, there are various ways they go and hook people.

Any comment, Phil Giraldi?

Well, no. That’s an interesting story.

Edmonds was able to get away with all this for so long because her eager listeners and supporters never considered any mistake or inconsistency to be a reason to question the whole edifice. After publicly naming Jan Schakowsky as the target of this blackmail plot, Schakowsky hit back hard, and made Edmonds look ridiculous. In “Schakowsky Responds to Edmonds Claim, Vehemently Denies Lesbian Tryst With Turkish Agent” by Brad Friedman, the Congresswoman would deny the allegations, writing that “A simple review of the facts would lead any responsible person to conclude that there is not a shred of truth to any aspect of this story.” Furthermore:

From the start, the fantasy is riddled with factual errors. It claims that an “intimate” relationship between a fictional female Turkish spy and the congresswoman began at the funeral of the congresswoman’s mother after 2000, however, Rep. Schakowsky’s mother died thirteen years earlier in 1987.

Furthermore, it is alleged that the “relationship” occurred in the congresswoman’s bugged town house even though she has never owned or lived in a town house in her life. Congresswoman Schakowsky shares a small apartment with her husband in a busy Washington, DC apartment building and owns a single-family home in Illinois.

You would think that such humiliating mistakes might cause Edmonds to reconsider her accusations, but this would be to underestimate Edmonds. That Edmonds’ allegations were horribly wrong was not the fault of Edmonds, but of Schakowsky. Edmonds’ letter of reply was quoted in full in “Edmonds Issues Formal Response to Schakowsky’s Denial of Lesbian Affair with Turkish Operative” by Brad Friedman. “It is an age-old tactic, when one cannot refute statements with facts,” wrote back Edmonds, “to attempt to discredit the witness.” This letter was titled, without irony, “In Pursuit of the Facts: Inviting Ms. Schakowsky to Join…” Edmonds’ letter suggested a child who carried a vast wealth of incriminating files in their head, which might be rendered real through sheer will – and Schakowsky’s rebuke was a rebuke of the power of imagination itself. It suggested as well a holy saint who had a choice of over a hundred ensembles picked out for her martyrdom.

A year later, when Friedman wrote “Sibel Edmonds: The Traitors Among Us” for Hustler Magazine (NSFW due to small ads on the side of the text), a plea for greater mainstream coverage of the revelations of Edmonds, you might think that he would mention Edmonds’ egregious failures in her knowledge of the most obvious facts of Schakowsky’s life, such as when her mother died or whether she ever owned a town house. This was to underestimate Brad Friedman as well. “Schakowsky’s office has vehemently denied the allegations,” Friedman wrote. “She has also refused Edmonds’s challenge to take a polygraph test and has not yet sued her for libel, as the whistleblower has challenged her to do.” If you don’t sue, and don’t take a polygraph, you could already be assumed guilty.

Edmonds was allowed to move her claims from the hazy intangible of possibility to firm certainty, through a lack of anything like a firm discipline of what was proven and unproven. A Review of the FBI’s Actions in Connection With Allegations Raised By Contract Linguist Sibel Edmonds, we are told, vindicates her completely, when it doesn’t. It finds a basis for the hiring of an unqualified translator (this is Kevin Taskesen) and a basis for one instance of abuse of travel voucher fraud. For other travel abuse allegations, charges of improper gifts, or an intentional work slowdown, it found no basis. The OIG report, it’s often implied, endorsed her most outlandish claims, when the scope of the report was very limited, as the report explicitly states: “Our review focused on the allegations made by Edmonds to the OIG, particularly Edmonds’ allegations regarding the FBI’s handling of the concerns about the co-worker, her allegations about inappropriate practices in the language program, and her allegation that the FBI retaliated against her for raising those allegations.” What the report has to say about the allegations against this co-worker, Melek Can Dickerson, is where there is a most conveniently selective reading. “With regard to some of Edmonds’ allegations,” the report says about Edmonds’ charges against Dickerson, “the OIG did not find evidence to support her allegation or the inferences that she drew from certain facts.” The report does stress that “Edmonds’ assertions regarding the co-worker, when viewed as a whole, raised substantial questions and were supported by various pieces of evidence. While there are potentially innocuous explanations for the co-worker’s conduct, other explanations were not innocuous.” The conclusion made by Edmonds and her adherents, but never made by the report itself, is that the explanations cannot be innocuous. The review would conclude that “many – although not all – of Edmonds’ allegations about the co-worker had some basis in fact.” This is the line that gives life to all of Edmonds’ later accusations, and it ignores the sentence which immediately follows it: “This evidence does not prove, and we are not suggesting, that there is sufficient evidence to conclude that espionage or any improper disclosures of FBI information occurred.”

There was the claim, heavily qualified, about Dennis Hastert based on Edmonds’ allegations of what she heard, which appeared in David Rose’s “Inconvenient Patriot”:

Some of the calls reportedly contained what sounded like references to large-scale drug shipments and other crimes. To a person who knew nothing about their context, the details were confusing, and it wasn’t always clear what might be significant. One name, however, apparently stood out-a man the Turkish callers often referred to by the nickname “Denny boy.” It was the Republican congressman from Illinois and Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert. According to some of the wiretaps, the F.B.I.’s targets had arranged for tens of thousands of dollars to be paid to Hastert’s campaign funds in small checks. Under Federal Election Commission rules, donations of less than $200 are not required to be itemized in public filings.

Hastert himself was never heard in the recordings, Edmonds told investigators, and it is possible that the claims of covert payments were hollow boasts. Nevertheless, an examination of Hastert’s federal filings shows that the level of un-itemized payments his campaigns received over many years was relatively high. Between April 1996 and December 2002, un-itemized personal donations to the Hastert for Congress Committee amounted to $483,000. In contrast, un-itemized contributions in the same period to the committee run on behalf of the House majority leader, Tom DeLay, Republican of Texas, were only $99,000.

Edmonds reportedly added that the recordings also contained repeated references to Hastert’s flip-flop, in the fall of 2000, over an issue which remains of intense concern to the Turkish government-the continuing campaign to have Congress designate the killings of Armenians in Turkey between 1915 and 1923 a genocide. For many years, attempts had been made to get the House to pass a genocide resolution, but they never got anywhere until August 2000, when Hastert, as Speaker, announced that he would give it his backing and see that it received a full House vote. He had a clear political reason, as analysts noted at the time: a California Republican incumbent, locked in a tight congressional race, was looking to win over his district’s large Armenian community. Thanks to Hastert, the resolution, vehemently opposed by the Turks, passed the International Relations Committee by a large majority. Then, on October 19, minutes before the full House vote, Hastert withdrew it.

At the time, he explained his decision by saying that he had received a letter from President Clinton arguing that the genocide resolution, if passed, would harm U.S. interests8. Again, the reported content of the Chicago wiretaps may well have been sheer bravado, and there is no evidence that any payment was ever made to Hastert or his campaign. Nevertheless, a senior official at the Turkish Consulate is said to have claimed in one recording that the price for Hastert to withdraw the resolution would have been at least $500,000.

Hastert’s spokesman says the congressman withdrew the genocide resolution only because of the approach from Clinton, “and to insinuate anything else just doesn’t make any sense.” He adds that Hastert has no affiliation with the A.T.C. or other groups reportedly mentioned in the wiretaps: “He does not know these organizations.” Hastert is “unaware of Turkish interests making donations,” the spokesman says, and his staff has “not seen any pattern of donors with foreign names.”

Again, this is only based on what Edmonds alleges that she heard, and at no point does she even allege hearing Hastert. Yet when Edmonds was with Friedman on the Mike Malloy show, we had suddenly moved to unqualified certainty: “several FBI agents and DOJ officials, as sources, and some congressional people, confirmed to this reporter, David Rose, that at the time, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was a recipient of various briberies, and other illegal conduct.” There is no confirmation of any such kind in Rose’s “Inconvenient Patriot”. From “Guest Hosting ‘Mike Malloy Show’ (Wednesday)”, Part One (24:20-25:34):

Yeah, and one of those folks is Dennis Hastert. The former speaker of the House, who has now gone to work for the Turkish government.

Isn’t that amazing. Because as you know, in 2005, August 2005, Vanity Fair had a seven, six seven page article on this issue, and the fact that several FBI agents and DOJ officials, as sources, and some congressional people, confirmed to this reporter, David Rose, that at the time, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was a recipient of various briberies, and other illegal conduct. Let’s put it that way. And this came out. And Dennis Hastert didn’t do anything. He didn’t go and sue Vanity Fair. In fact, they didn’t really issue a real denial, and, as you know, he resigned a year later, and now he works actually for the Turkish lobby, that the Vanity Fair article named, as the place, one of the entities giving Mr. Hastert his bribes.

On a podcast on August 13, 2009, for Edmonds’ own site, Boiling Frogs, host Peter Collins and guest Philip Giraldi would also speak of the Hastert case in terms of certainties. “And some investigations have shown, that those small contributions that added up to a fairly significant amount of money were linked to Turkish interests,” says Collins, though no such links were established in the Rose article. “The fact is, it seems clear that Hastert was receiving large sums of money, in small bits, as you correctly describe it, from groups that were linked to the Turks,” says Giraldi, though no such thing had been made clear in the Rose piece or anywhere else. From “Podcast Show #3” (27:40-29:40):

Phil, next I’d like to ask you what you know about former Republican speaker Dennis Hastert. He was a congressman from Illinois, and after Newt Gingrich resigned, and then his replacement Livingston, had a short-lived speakership, because of a sex scandal of his own in the South, then Hastert was this compromise candidate. He ended up as speaker for a pretty long time, I think, seven or eight years, and something surfaced in his last re-election campaign, which is, that he received large amounts of money, but in very small, individual contributions that fell below the federal threshold requiring full disclosure on who the donors were. And some investigations have shown, that those small contributions that added up to a fairly significant amount of money were linked to Turkish interests. What more can you tell us about Dennis Hastert, and his relationships with both the American Turkish Council, the Turkish Government, and with AIPAC and Israel?

Well certainly I’d defer to Sibel on this issue, because she’s really the expert on it. The fact is, it seems clear that Hastert was receiving large sums of money, in small bits, as you correctly describe it, from groups that were linked to the Turks. Hastert is now working for a lobbying firm in Washington, where he represents Turkish interests. So, basically this is the revolving door in Washington, where you engage in practices that are pretty shady while you’re a congressman and then you get out of Congress, and you sign up with a lobbying group, and you work for the same interest, but it’s all up front now, and you make a lot more money.

Giraldi would also seemingly try to reconcile Edmonds’ shifting claims, even when they were in sharp contrast with each other. In Rose’s “Inconvenient Patriot”, we have this passage about the American Turkish Council (ATC) and Brent Scowcroft:

Sibel also recalled hearing wiretaps indicating that Turkish Embassy targets frequently spoke to staff members at the A.T.C., one of the organizations the Dickersons allegedly wanted her and her husband to join. Sibel later told the O.I.G. she assumed that the A.T.C.’s board-which is chaired by Brent Scowcroft, President George H. W. Bush’s national-security adviser-knew nothing of the use to which it was being put. But the wiretaps suggested to her that the Washington office of the A.T.C. was being used as a front for criminal activity.

“Inconvenient Patriot” was published in 2005, and here Scowcroft is portrayed as a figure untouched by this vast scandal, an unwitting cover for the ATC. In “Who’s Afraid of Sibel Edmonds?”, the interview with Philip Giraldi, Edmonds now claims that Scowcroft was working together with Turkish interests to wage war with Iraq before September 11, and split the country apart:

GIRALDI: So they were doing favors for other reasons. Both Feith and Perle were lobbyists for Turkey and also were involved with Israel on defense contracts, including some for Northrop Grumman, which Feith represented in Israel.

EDMONDS: They had arrangements with various companies, some of them members of the American Turkish Council. They had arrangements with Kissinger’s group, with Northrop Grumman, with former secretary of state James Baker’s group, and also with former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft.

The monitoring of the Turks picked up contacts with Feith, Wolfowitz, and Perle in the summer of 2001, four months before 9/11. They were discussing with the Turkish ambassador in Washington an arrangement whereby the U.S. would invade Iraq and divide the country. The UK would take the south, the rest would go to the U.S. They were negotiating what Turkey required in exchange for allowing an attack from Turkish soil. The Turks were very supportive, but wanted a three-part division of Iraq to include their own occupation of the Kurdish region. The three Defense Department officials said that would be more than they could agree to, but they continued daily communications to the ambassador and his defense attaché in an attempt to convince them to help.

Meanwhile Scowcroft, who was also the chairman of the American Turkish Council, Baker, Richard Armitage, and Grossman began negotiating separately for a possible Turkish protectorate. Nothing was decided, and then 9/11 took place.

Scowcroft was all for invading Iraq in 2001 and even wrote a paper for the Pentagon explaining why the Turkish northern front would be essential. I know Scowcroft came off as a hero to some for saying he was against the war, but he was very much for it until his client’s conditions were not met by the Bush administration.

Giraldi is then asked about this astonishing contradiction on Peter Horton’s podcast (the following is taken from “Gigantic Scandal!: The Sibel Edmonds Story”), and he cannot seem to answer it, so he dodges the question:

Horton: Now when it comes to Brent Scowcroft, this ties in I think with Greg Palast’s reporting that James Baker and them had a plan for what he called “a coup disguised as an invasion,” but basically: get rid of Hussein and his sons and replace them with the next “Ba’athist Mustache in line” I think is the way that Palast said it, and that then the neocons got more prominence and did their Iraq plan instead after September 11th. But on the issue of Scowcroft being tied with Baker and that kind of thing, that seems very plausible to me, but I reread David Rose’s piece from Vanity Fair in September, 2005, about Sibel last night, and he mentions there in context of Scowcroft, at least as Rose puts it in the article, that Sibel said that she assumed that Scowcroft didn’t have anything to do with this stuff, as far as all this criminality and espionage and so forth – that he was the Chair, or on the board or something like that, but that all this stuff was going on at the American Turkish Council on a much lower level, something like that. I wonder, Phil, do you think that her opinion has changed about that or that these discussions that Scowcroft had about Iraq and Turkey didn’t necessarily have anything to do with the low-level criminality stuff?

Giraldi: Well I think that we are talking about two different things here. I’m reading a little bit into the story but the fact is that what Scowcroft and Baker – being former Secretary of State – and these people were doing, is that they were negotiating at a very high level: nation to nation essentially, they were representing in a sense the U.S., even though they had no legal authority to do so. The other stuff, the basic level criminality, yeah I would be awfully surprised if Scowcroft and people like that would get their hands dirty with that sort of thing, so I think that we are looking at two different levels. There are a lot of people in ATC that were involved in this process who were implementers and who were kind of spear carriers, the Marc Grossmans, the people at the Pentagon, and then there were people like Scowcroft who were kind of above the fray.

In “For sale: West’s deadly nuclear secrets” (paywall) by Chris Gourlay, Jonathan Calvert, and Joe Lauria, Edmonds gives us the name of one member of the nuclear secrets ring who was actually indicted and convicted:

Edmonds says packages containing nuclear secrets were delivered by Turkish operatives, using their cover as members of the diplomatic and military community, to contacts at the Pakistani embassy in Washington.

Edmonds also claims that a number of senior officials in the Pentagon had helped Israeli and Turkish agents.

“The people provided lists of potential moles from Pentagon-related institutions who had access to databases concerning this information,” she said.

“The handlers, who were part of the diplomatic community, would then try to recruit those people to become moles for the network. The lists contained all their ‘hooking points’, which could be financial or sexual pressure points, their exact job in the Pentagon and what stuff they had access to.”

One of the Pentagon figures under investigation was Lawrence Franklin, a former Pentagon analyst, who was jailed in 2006 for passing US defence information to lobbyists and sharing classified information with an Israeli diplomat.

“He was one of the top people providing information and packages during 2000 and 2001,” she said.

Franklin is an interesting citation of someone who was passing nuclear secrets. Franklin was a Catholic and a slightly ridiculous man who apparently wanted the U.S. to focus on regime change in Iran, rather than Iraq, and decided to try to reach the head of the National Security Council, Elliot Abrams, via AIPAC. Franklin gave his account in Foreign Policy, with “My Secret Plan to Overthrow the Mullahs” and he would be profiled after prison in Forward, “Once Labeled An AIPAC Spy, Larry Franklin Tells His Story” by Nathan Guttman. He was not working in concert with Feith, but in opposition to his policy of a war with Iraq. That Franklin was trying to shift policy away from Iraq and towards Iran is stated in two stories before Franklin’s sentencing, “Pentagon Analyst Gets 12 Years for Disclosing Data” by David Johnston and “Pentagon Analyst Admits Sharing Secret Data” by Eric Lichtblau. If Franklin were a spy, he appears to be an incredibly incompetent one, who received no lavish compensation for his troubles, instead cleaning bathrooms in Roy Rodgers and parking cars after his prison stint. When Franklin showed the secret document to the AIPAC lobbyists (they read it, spoke to others about it, but were careful enough not to actually take it), it was part of an FBI sting of these lobbyists, and the document was a synthetic one, dealing not with nuclear secrets, but “a fake classified document alleging there was clear life-threatening danger posed to Israelis secretly operating in Iraq’s Kurdish region”, according to Guttman’s “Once Labeled An AIPAC Spy”. The information which the two lobbyists, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, were charged with disclosing had nothing to do with nuclear technology. “The indictment said,” according to “Disclosing Data”, that “the two men had disclosed classified information about a number of subjects, including American policy in Iran, terrorism in central Asia, Al Qaeda and the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers apartment in Saudi Arabia, which killed 23 Americans, mainly members of the military.” There is no issue with disagreeing with Franklin or any of this reporting, but nothing in Lauria’s “West’s deadly nuclear secrets” even attempts to reconcile this image of a powerful nuclear secrets ring with the actual incompetent leaker Larry Franklin, supposedly “one of the top people providing information and packages during 2000 and 2001” according to Edmonds, who doesn’t even pass nuclear secrets.

When I write of a “network” which Sibel Edmonds uncovered, I do not think it does justice to the vastness of the entity that she unveiled, an entity which appeared to grow more and more vast with each year. In 2010, Edmonds would criticize Wikileaks in a post on her blog, “On Wikileaks Strategy: Too Many Hors D’oeuvres?” for not sharing their best material first: “Based on the well-established and well-known mainstream media attention curve, isn’t it self-defeating and damaging to begin the cables release with a jumble of highly inconsequential and insignificant documents with little or no implications? Why not use the peak media attention period for the most significant and highly explosive information with even greater implications?” One might ask the same question of Edmonds. Why did she not use her time on 60 Minutes – note that this was in 2002, before the Iraq war and before the re-classification order – to share the astonishing bombshell that in the summer of 2001 there were plans to invade Iraq? That Dennis Hastert was selling nuclear secrets? That Jan Schakowsky was the target of a blackmail attempt involving an affair with a female agent? Because, what, 60 Minutes would have no interest in a sex scandal?

What follows is a list of all the details of this octopus which Edmonds has so far revealed, alongside the source in which they were mentioned:

  • Mark Grossman, ambassador to Turkey (1994-1997), Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (1997-2001), Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs (2001-2002) did favors for the Turkish government and criminal groups while at the State Department, and was once paid off with $14,000 in cash for one of these favors. Grossman also helped maintain a network of moles in government labs and defense installations such as Los Alamos, in order to steal nuclear technology and nuclear material. Grossman also was a conduit for money and defense secrets between congress members and agents of foreign governments – Israel, Turkey, and Pakistan. Air Force Major Douglas Dickcerson (husband of Melek Can Dickerson) worked alongside Grossman in many of his ventures and had to leave Turkey due to the Susurluk scandal (an entry in wikipedia on the subject: “Susurluk scandal”), which had to do with government involvement in the heroin trade. Though she never gives the exact reason why, presumably Grossman and Dickerson had to leave Turkey due to their being active players in this controversy. (“Who’s Afraid of Sibel Edmonds?” and “For sale: West’s deadly nuclear secrets” where the unnamed official who set up a network of moles is Grossman)
  • that Marc Grossman told Turkish diplomats that Brewster Jennings was a CIA front used to entrap those trying to buy nuclear secrets, and warned them away from any dealings with the company. Brewster Jennings was in fact used by Valerie Plame as part of her non-official cover. Though Jennings had revealed the identity of Brewster Jennings in the summer of 2001, Edmonds would make this revelation only years after Valerie Plame’s cover was broken and knowledge of Brewster Jennings was public. (Brewster Jennings and Marc Grossman are brought up on page 60 of “Deposition of: Sibel Deniz Edmonds”, the exposure of Brewtser Jennings is discussed in “Leak of Agent’s Name Causes Exposure of CIA Front Firm” by Walter Pincus and Mike Allen, in pdf format as part of the inquiry into Scooter Libby)
  • that Marc Grossman led an operation where mujahideen fighters from East Turkestan were moved into Chechnya. This was done with the help of the Saudis, the Pakistanis, and the Bin Laden family. The other half of the operation involved moving drugs from Turkey into Belgium via NATO planes. Drugs were also flown into the United States from Belgium via military planes, and some drugs were transported in through Turkish diplomats carrying suitcases full of heroin. (“Who’s Afraid of Sibel Edmonds?”)
  • “We have been funding terrorist groups like Chechens. Any kind of activities that have been carried out, major ones, between 1996 and 2001, let’s say be major Chechen terrorists, were directly under our order, our funding, our arming, and our direction.” — Sibel Edmonds, on “US government needs to keep the fear factor alive” (6:25-6:43)
  • that Marc Grossman knew a journalist at the New York Times who would publish stories exactly according to what he and Turkey wanted. He would fax over a story and he would print it. An example was given of a story published in 2000 on helicopter sales to Turkey. I have found no such story. The closest that I was able to find was “U.S. Helicopter Sale to Turkey Hits Snag” by Raymond Bonner, from 1996. Bonner is an interesting choice for such a conduit, since he is not exactly a sycophantic lackey for U.S. foreign policy, having written Weakness & Deceit: U.S. Policy and El Salvador, which is highly critical of the savage government the U.S. supported in that country. (“Gigantic Scandal!: The Sibel Edmonds Story”, an interview with Joe Lauria and Philip Giraldi, conducted by Scott Horton)
  • that the State Department blocked investigations into individuals and entities connected with Israel, Pakistan, and Turkey (“Interview with Sibel Edmonds by David Swanson”)
  • that Dennis Hastert got covert campaign funding via the American Turkish Council and the Assembly of Turkish American Associations, made through small donations that would not have to be itemized in public filings. In return, Hastert agreed to withdraw a resolution which designated the killing of Armenians in turkey between 1915 and 1923 as genocide. (“An Inconvenient Patriot”)
  • Tom Lantos, the late congressman from California was part of a circle in congress which passed on defense secrets, with Lantos giving away the most. Lantos would pass the information to Israeli agents, who would in turn pass it on to Turkey, which would pass on the leftovers to Pakistan. (“Who’s Afraid of Sibel Edmonds?”)
  • Dan Burton, Bob Livingston, Steve Solarz, along with Dennis Hastert, were also part of this circle. They received illegal campaign contributions from the Turkish lobby, they received bribes in return for favors, and they laundered money. (“Deposition of: Sibel Deniz Edmonds”)
  • that Richard Perle and Douglas Feith would pass on information about employees in the Pentagon and the state department so these individuals might be manipulated or blackmailed for classified information. (“Who’s Afraid of Sibel Edmonds?”)
  • that there was a potential arrangement made in 2001 where the U.S. would invade Iraq and divide the country, with the U.K. taking the South and the U.S. getting the rest. Turkey was supportive, but wanted to be able to take over the Kurdish region. Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle had these discussions with the Turkish ambassador, while Brent Scowcroft, James Baker, Richard Armitage, and Mark Grossman negotiated the possibility of a Turkish protectorate. (“Who’s Afraid of Sibel Edmonds?”)
  • that Illinois Representative Jan Schakowsky was seduced and blackmailed by a female Turkish spy. The seduction took place at the funeral for Schakowsky’s mother. (“Who’s Afraid of Sibel Edmonds?”)
  • that professor Sabri Sayari of Georgetown University has a network of recruits who provide him classified secrets. Sayari set up a similar network at the RAND Corporation. “Professor Sabri Sayari in Georgetown University who has stole[n] tens of millions of dollars worth of secrets by actually recruiting people there” (page 206 of “Deposition of: Sibel Deniz Edmonds”)
  • that the FBI received in-depth information and advance warning of the 9/11 attacks from French intelligence, but chose to do nothing9. The FBI also received a warning from a reliable Iranian source, who in turn had source in Afghanistan and Pakistan, who passed on the information that Bin Laden was planning to attack American cities very soon, and using planes as weapons. Again, the FBI ignored this information10. (Classified Woman)
  • she would eventually explicitly state that she believed that 9/11 was allowed to happen by the federal government, for their own purposes. Q: “Do you think that the government purposefully ignored intelligence because they wanted 9/11 to happen?” Edmonds: “Absolutely. I would say certain elements within our government absolutely, intentionally, purposefully ignored and let it happen.”11
  • that her supervisor at the FBI, Mike Feghali, obtained his position through bullying and litigation, and sold the identities of FBI informants for cash (Classified Woman)

My intemperate reaction to these accusations, especially after seeing all the massive inconsistencies and discrepancies in the accounts of Sibel Edmonds of her time at the FBI, was astonishment, disgust, and a cold kind of anger. Do you realize, Ms. Edmonds, that if anyone had believed you that any one of these people had given away nuclear secrets that they might have gone to jail for about a century or so? That they would have faced a criminal prosecution that would make what you dealt with look like a lazy Sunday morning? That if anyone in the mainstream media had given credence to your charges that several lives would have been destroyed? Do you have any conscience at all?

At a more analytical remove, what we are seeing here is an undiluted paranoid vision, the paranoid sensibility animating all things. I write at a time when it is reasonable to think that Jews and Muslims will despise each other for all eternity, yet they found a happy elysium of co-operation in the imagination of Sibel Edmonds. In the book Infiltration, when Muslims aren’t enthusiastically celebrating September 11th, they’re secretly taking over the government. “Is Israel the Sole Determinant of US Presidential Elections?”, Edmonds asked on April 2011, and this piece was about how the other half of the pair was secretly taking over the country, referred to, without apology, as an usurping alien other:

It is pretty straightforward: Mr. President if you do A, we won’t let you get reelected, but if you do B, we will; yes, we have that much power and influence. The condition put on this one way negotiation has nothing to do with the topic I am discussing here. Period. In this case it is about Jonathan Pollard, the convicted Israeli spy who betrayed his nation and endangered lives. It could very well be about Iran: Mr. Obama you either attack or advocate for an attack on country X, and we’ll ensure you get reelected, or, stand against it, and lose your chance of getting reelected. Why? Because ‘we‘ have that power. Because ‘we‘ perceive country X as a threat to ‘us,’, and ‘we‘ want you to put your nation at war for ‘us.’ Now you may say, ‘hey, that’s a ludicrous empty threat! Give or take two percent of the voting population can’t carry that level of influence over a United States President!‘ And, you will be wrong; flat out wrong. It is true that the population of American adherents of Judaism was around 5 million, 1.7% of the total US population in 2007, and including those who identify themselves culturally as Jewish (but not necessarily religiously), around 2.2% as of 2008. But who ever claimed that these things are all about size, and that only size matters?!!! If you don’t have the size you go about compensating for it; don’t you? Well, that’s exactly what ‘they‘ have been doing, and doing successfully.

Good for them. Terrible for us whom I am directing this article to. This is about us, the American voters. You may say, ‘hey, I ain’t got the money, and I ain’t got the position or means necessary to influence the media. So I can neither buy politicians nor use the media marketing platform!

And my response to you is:  I am not asking you to. All I am doing here is letting you see what I see, and letting you know what is out there in front of us; that is, if you haven’t already seen and don’t already know. Then, I’ll let you decide for yourself: Do I sit back, buy the things the media is marketing and selling, and let ‘them‘ shape my vote easily? Or do I treat the media’s marketing campaign as I do Nike’s super performance ads when it comes to deciding on the candidate who will be getting my vote? Do I become enamored of the candidates with the glitziest and fanciest campaigns, or, do I direct my attention to the ones’ whose pockets have been left empty by foreign and special interests?

After all, it is your vote, and I am not going to spend more words or time trying to shape it, so please don’t let ‘them‘ either.

In the world described by Sibel Edmonds, there is an all powerful, near invisible octopus, which exists behind every facade, that is god-like in its power and god-like in its connection with belief. Tom Lantos was well known for his constant work to have Congress recognize the Armenian Genocide, yet somehow he is in the pay of the Turkish government – and though this very government is supposedly bribing other members of Congress to stop the Armenian Genocide resolution, they are indifferent on this matter with Lantos. To ask why is like asking in a theocracy why the planetary orbit calculations make no sense in a geocentric universe – in a theocracy, they must be made to make sense. If our prayers do not bring about rain or stop the flooding, the issue is not that prayer has no connection with these events, but that we have not prayed in the proper fashion. If Edmonds’ description of a blackmail plot involving Jan Schakowsky gets certain details laughably wrong, the problem is not that Sibel Edmonds has no idea of what she’s talking about, but that Schakowsky refuses to admit her complicity. That Edmonds continued to have listeners and believers after these mis-steps can be likened to a cult leader whose adherents find excuses and justifications for all the miracles that fail. Ron Unz wanted an investigation into the allegations of Sibel Edmonds. Well, Mr. Unz, you now have your answer. Sibel Edmonds appears to be a sociopathic fabulist. Did you ask because it was an answer, whatever the answer might be, you wanted, or did you ask because you wanted a specific one?

Sibel Edmonds told a fascinating story where agents were constantly detecting vulnerabilities in order to hook their prey. The essential vulnerability of the mark, as any conman – or conwoman – knows, is an obvious and powerful one. The essential vulnerability is their desire to believe, and keep believing. And the best conmen – and conwomen – are those who actually believe in their own lunatic schemes.

(Header image features stills copyright CBS Corporation.)

(Originally, this post said that Edmonds worked eight hours on her last day; this was edited on July 10, 2014, to make clear that she worked six hours, from ten to four, as she states in Classified Woman. In footnote #6, a link to a Times article on the original re-classification of material related to the Edmonds case was also added on July 10, 2014. The bullet point on Marc Grossman and Raymond Bonner was added on July 10, 2014 as well. On July 11, 2014, the following changes were made: the detail on the OIG report’s limited scope was added, as was the fact that Edmonds made the allegation that Muslim translators celebrated September 11 to multiple media sources, but not to the OIG; the point was added on the significance of Edmonds remembering February 14 as the date on which her computer was examined; the mention in Infiltration of Edmonds earning her Ph.D. along with supporting footnote #7; material from “Inconvenient Patriot” was added on the vote on the Armenian Genocide resolution, along with accompanying footnote #8; the section on surveilled targets using codes, according to Edmonds from the book Infiltration, was added; various spelling fixes were made. On July 12th, the bullet point on Edmonds’ statement that 9/11 involved a government cover-up, along with the accompanying footnote, was added.)


1 These details on the Schmidt lawsuit are taken from “Jean Schmidt defamation suit in 3rd year” by Alex Isenstadt in Politico and “Schmidt Drops Lawsuit” by Kevin Osborne in Citybeat Cincinnati.

2 This quote is taken from “Ohio’s not-so-mean Jean Schmidt” by Walter Shapiro.

3 From “Jean Schmidt defamation suit in 3rd year” by Alex Isenstadt.

4 From “Covering Up the Coverage – The American Media’s Complicit Failure to Investigate and Report on the Sibel Edmonds Case” by Daniel Ellsberg:

For the last two weeks — one could say, for years — the major American media have been guilty of ignoring entirely the allegations of the courageous and highly credible source Sibel Edmonds, quoted in the London Times on January 6, 2008 in a front-page story that was front-page news in much of the rest of the world but was not reported in a single American newspaper or network. It is up to readers to demand that this culpable silent treatment end.

5 From “Gigantic Scandal!: The Sibel Edmonds Story”, a transcript of an interview with Joe Lauria and Philip Giraldi, conducted by Scott Horton:

Lauria: Well this is obviously the biggest question in this entire story: is this believable or not? And it wasn’t easy to corroborate that, it is very difficult to corroborate this, and this is probably one of the reasons the large publications – and I applaud the American Conservative for running this piece, and I think Phil did a terrific job in the editing of it is very tight, and I’ll talk a little more about that later – but I think one of the difficulties is corroborating what she is talking about. Either Sibel Edmonds is one of the great actresses of our time, or she has her finger on a story of immense proportions that is perhaps so immense that it is scaring the hell out of a lot of people. Not only the people involved, but people who might be dependent on people who are involved, or are, in all sorts of ways, tied to this activity, and lots of things that we may not even know about, that Sibel doesn’t even know about. This is one corner of perhaps a wide… who knows?… activities, similar activities that go on in our country.

6 From Infiltration, here is the mention of a recently earned Ph.D. (page 165):

Though her tale may sound like something out of a spy thriller, there’s nothing fictional about it, U.S. officials say. Grassley, a leading member of the Judiciary Committee and noted FBI watchdog calls Edmonds, who recently earned a Ph.D. and holds degrees in both criminal justice and public policy, “very credible…And the reason I feel she’s very credible is because the people in the FBI have corroborated a lot of her story” during closed-session hearings on the Hill.

From Rose’s “Inconvenient Patriot”:

Sibel enrolled at a college in Maryland, where she studied English and hotel management; later, she received bachelor’s degrees at George Washington University in criminal justice and psychology, and worked with juvenile offenders. In 1992, at age 22, she had married Matthew Edmonds, a divorced retail-technology consultant who had lived in Virginia all his life.

From the “About” page of her Boiling Frogs website:

Ms. Edmonds has a MA in Public Policy and International Commerce from George Mason University, a BA in Criminal Justice and Psychology from George Washington University, and AA degree in Science from NVCC. She is certified as a Court Appointed Special Advocate and as an instructor for the Women’s Domestic Violence Program. She is fluent in Turkish, Farsi and Azerbaijani.

7 From “Administration Blinks; Admits Retroactively Classified Information Not Harmful to National Security”, a press release from the ACLU:

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department admitted today that information it had retroactively classified could be released to the public and did not pose a threat to national security. The American Civil Liberties Union said the revelation could aid government whistleblowers in their efforts to fight unlawful dismissals.

“The Justice Department’s long-overdue admission goes to the core of the ACLU’s allegations that the government is going all out to silence whistleblowers to protect itself from political embarrassment,” said ACLU Associate Legal Director Ann Beeson, who is representing former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds in a lawsuit challenging her termination. “This is hardly an isolated case, as numerous national security whistleblowers can attest. The government is taking extreme steps to shield itself while gambling with our safety.”

A piece on the original re-classification of the material is “Material Given to Congress in 2002 Is Now Classified” by Eric Lichtblau.

8 If anything this understates this explicit overt pressure against this resolution. Elizabeth Kolbert conveys this pressure well in the opening paragraph of “Dead Reckoning”:

On September 14, 2000, Representatives George Radanovich, Republican of California, and David Bonior, Democrat of Michigan, introduced a House resolution-later to be known as H.R. 596-on the slaughter of the Armenians. The measure urged the President, in dealing with the matter, to demonstrate “appropriate understanding and sensitivity.” It further instructed him on how to phrase his annual message on the Armenian Day of Remembrance: the President should refer to the atrocities as “genocide.” The bill was sent to the International Relations Committee and immediately came under attack. State Department officials reminded the committee that it was U.S. policy to “respect the Turkish government’s assertions that, although many ethnic Armenians died during World War I, no genocide took place.” Expanding on this theme, Secretary of Defense William Cohen, in a letter to Dennis Hastert, the Speaker of the House, wrote that while he in no way wanted to “downplay the Armenian tragedy . . . passing judgment on this history through legislation could have a negative impact on Turkish-Armenian relations and on our security interests in the region.” After committee members voted, on October 3rd, to send H.R. 596 to the floor, Turkish officials warned that negotiations with an American defense contractor, Bell Textron, over four and a half billion dollars’ worth of attack helicopters were in jeopardy. On October 5th, the leaders of all five parties in the Turkish parliament issued a joint statement threatening to deny the U.S. access to an airbase in Incirlik, which it was using to patrol northern Iraq. Finally, on October 19th, just a few hours before H.R. 596 was scheduled to be debated in the House, Hastert pulled it from the agenda. He had, he said, been informed by President Clinton that passage of the resolution could “risk the lives of Americans.”

The letters from Bill Cohen and others from the state department can be found in “106-933 Affirmation Of The United States Record On The Armenian Genocide Resolution”:

Speaker, House of Representatives
Washington, DC.

DEAR MR. SPEAKER: I appreciated the opportunity to speak with you on H. Res. 398, the United States Training on and Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide Resolution. As we discussed, I am concerned with the unintended harm passage of this Resolution could have on our efforts to build peace and stability in the region.

In no way do I mean to downplay the Armenian tragedy. In recognition of that suffering, the U.S. Government has a tradition of commemorating Armenian Remembrance Day each April 24, mourning the loss of innumerable Armenian lives and challenging all Americans to recommit themselves to ensuring that such events never again happen.

However, passing judgment on this history through legislation could have a negative impact on Turkish-Armenian relations and on our security interests in the region, H. Res. 398 would complicate our efforts to protect our interests in the region and sustain our positive relationship with Turkey; a strong and strategic ally.

Again, I appreciated the opportunity to talk with you about this important issue. Please let me know if I can provide any further information to you on this manner.



The letter from Bill Clinton can be found at the Armenian National Committee of America:

Dear Mr. Speaker:

I am writing to express my deep concern about H. Res. 596, dealing with the tragic events in eastern Anatolia under Ottoman rule in the years 1915-1923.

Every year on April 24, I have commemorated Armenian Remembrance Day, mourning the deportations and massacres of innocent Armenians during that era. And every year, I have challenged all Americans to recommit themselves to ensuring that such horrors never occur again.

However, I am deeply concerned that consideration of H. Res. 596 at this time could have far-reaching negative consequences for the United States.

We have significant interests in this troubled region of the world: containing the threat posed by East and Central Asia, stabilizing the Balkans, and developing new sources of energy. Consideration of the resolution at this sensitive time will negatively affect those interests and could undermine efforts to encourage improved relations between Armenia and Turkey — the very goal the sponsors of this Resolution seek to advance.

I fully understand how strongly both Turkey and Armenia feel about this issue. Ultimately, this painful matter can only be resolved by both sides examining the past together.

I urge you in the strongest terms not to bring this Resolution to the floor at this time.



Bill Clinton

9 From Classified Woman:

About half an hour later, Sarshar, Amin, and Mariana, a French translator in her early thirties, stopped by my desk. “Mariana here also has an interesting nine eleven story, a major case,” Sarshar began. “Come on, Marie, tell Sibel.”

Mariana didn’t seem too happy to be dragged into this. She rolled her eyes. “In late June-two thousand one, that is-the French Intelligence contacted us, the FBI, with a warning of upcoming attacks. They had intercepted intelligence that showed planning for attacks in the U.S. via airplanes. They also provided us with some names: suspects.” She sighed. “The FBI took it seriously; they sent me to France with a couple of CT [counterterrorism] and CI [counterintelligence] agents … The French were sharing everything; they gave us everything they had. Trust me, this was specific information. Later, somehow, FBI HQ chose to do nothing about it. As far as I know, it went up to the White House. It made it into one of their national security advisor’s briefings, but … nothing.”

I looked at her, then to Sarshar and Amin. “So … what you are going to do about this? We need to do something!”

Mariana shrugged. “It’s none of our business. I’m sorry I even talked about this case, I shouldn’t have. Nine eleven freaked me out. I couldn’t stop thinking about this.” She turned around and mumbled, “Just leave me out of this. The bureau may have its own reasons to close this case permanently.” Then she walked away.

These two major incidents were my first experiences with the FBI’s intentional cover-up and blocking of 9/11-related information, evidence and cases. During the next four months, I would stumble on other cases that involved similar blockings and cover-ups.

One such case involved a foreign network-from a so-called allied country-in the United States that was under FBI counterintelligence surveillance. Those communications I translated involved the selling of U.S. nuclear information, obtained by extortion and bribery, to two foreign individuals from another ally country. I knew, from a previous case, that the two individuals purchasing this information and material had connections to a particular terrorist financial institution with direct ties to 9/11 and certain Saudis. As the translator in both cases, I knew something that the agents in each separate case couldn’t possibly have seen. There was a connection they didn’t know about.

Despite my attempt to notify the two FBI field offices and the agents involved in both operations, the bureau, under pressure from the Department of State, prevented this or any such notification from taking place. Furthermore, they shut down one of the two operations to protect the so-called ally country.

10 From Classified Woman:

Sarshar [Behrooz Sarshar, a Farsi translator] got up and grabbed a file from his desk drawer, then came back and sat down. “Sit tight. What you will hear and see will blow your mind.”

Sarshar then began to tell me about the Iranian informant.

The story began in the early 1990s. The bureau hired an Iranian man who had been the head of SAVAK (Iran’s main intelligence agency) as a reliable source on its criminal, counterintelligence and counterterrorism operations and investigations. The man was very good at what he did and had established a large number of sources and informants in strategically important areas within Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Notably, he managed intelligence-gathering operations in Sistan and Baluchistan, two semi-independent regions on the border with Afghanistan.

Once on the payroll, he began providing extremely useful and reliable information. The bureau was so pleased with his performance that it began using him both as an informant and as an asset. On a regular basis, almost monthly, agents from the FBI HQ and WFO would meet with him in a location outside the bureau to obtain information and intel on various ongoing operations and investigations.

The agents needed an interpreter for these regular monthly meetings, Sarshar explained, which is where he and Amin came in. “Around the end of April, two thousand one,” he told me, “I was asked to accompany two special agents from the FBI-WFO … to a meeting arranged with this informant … We met in a park and spent nearly an hour discussing the case, asking detailed questions, and of course, with me translating back and forth. Once we were finished with the session and ready to head back to the WFO, the informant urged us to stay for a few minutes and listen to something very important and alarming he had recently received from his sources.”

According to Sarshar, the informant then proceeded to tell them, “Listen, I was recently contacted by two extremely reliable and long-term sources, one in Afghanistan, the other in Pakistan’s border region with Afghanistan. In the past, these guys had provided me with inside information and intelligence that was extremely hard to come by, considering the tightly based networks and groups they were able to enter and penetrate. They notified me that an active mujahideen group led by Bin Laden had issued an order to attack certain targets in the United States, and were planning the attack as we spoke.” Here, Sarshar explained, the agents seemed very alarmed, since their main unit of operation was under the WFO Counterterrorism division. All of them took notes.

The informant continued, “According to my guys, Bin Laden’s group is planning a massive terrorist attack in the United States. The order has been issued. They are targeting major cities, big metropolitan cities; they think four or five cities: New York City, Chicago, Washington, DC, and San Francisco; possibly Los Angeles or Las Vegas. They will use airplanes to carry out the attacks. They said that some of the individuals involved in carrying this out are already in the United States. They are here in the U.S., living among us, and I believe some in U.S. government already know about all of this.”

The informant was asked about specific dates, and whether they would use airplanes, bombs or hijacking; did he know?

“No specific dates,” came the reply, “not any that they were aware of. However, they said the general time frame was characterized as ‘very soon.’ They think within the next two or three months…. As far as how they are going to use the planes to attack, your guess is as good as mine. My bet, it will be bombs: planting bombs inside these planes, maybe the cargo, then have them blown up over the populated cities.”

Sarshar took notes in Farsi and later translated them verbatim. The informant urged them to report and act on this immediately, adding that Bin Laden had backing and experts. “If I were you guys, I’d take this extremely seriously. If I had the same position I had in SAVAK, I’d put all my men on this around the clock. I can vouch for my sources, their reliability. Make sure you put this in the hands of the top guys in Counterterrorism.”

The agents discussed the best person to whom they should submit this warning and decided on Special Agent in Charge Thomas Frields, who was in charge of the WFO Counterterrorism division.

Once back at the office, Sarshar completed his translation and the agents filled out the necessary 302 forms for their formal report. (The 302 forms are used to report information gathered from assets and informants.) Two sets of 302 forms were filed: one for the ongoing criminal case and the other on the warning, as information related to counterterrorism operations. Sarshar coordinated with the agents for the final report and kept his own set of records. They submitted the warning report to SAC Frields with a note on the top reading VERY URGENT.

Nobody heard back from Frields or the Counterterrorism division. No one asked for any follow-ups or additional information. Two months went by. Around the end of June 2001, Sarshar met with the agents and the Iranian informant again. When they had completed their business, the Iranian asked about the warning he had passed along to them, now two months old, whether it had been reported to the higher-ups. He was told it had been. The informant, now animated, explained that he’d heard back from his source, who “swore the attack was on its way; any time now, a month or two, max” and asked point-blank, “Are they going to do something about it?”

The agent’s response was, “I know, I hear what you’re saying, man, but doing something about this won’t be up to us. Plus, we don’t have enough information to take any action here. We don’t know when, how, or exactly where. The only thing we have is: Bin Laden, five cities, and airplanes. That ain’t enough.”

The informant went on, “I’ve been thinking about this, trying to make more sense out of it myself. The source mumbled something about tall buildings. Maybe they will blow up the plane over some tall buildings? I don’t know…. Maybe the FBI can get more specifics from the Pakistanis, ISI. Have they tried? After all, they are your guys; and they know all about this.”

The agents, exasperated and impatient, told him they reported it and now it would be up to those in charge. When they were leaving, the informant yelled in Farsi, “Why don’t you tell the CIA? Tell the White House! Don’t let them sit on this until it is too late …”

Sarshar asked one of the agents if he thought sharing this with other agencies might be a good idea. As Sarshar described it, the agent rolled his eyes. “Not up to us, Behrooz. As far as the White House goes, the HQ guys will include it in their briefings; I’m sure they’ve already done so. Frields is obligated to submit what he got, everything he gets under Counterterrorism, to the HQ guys in charge of White House national security briefings. He always does. So, the White House and other agencies have already heard about this. Let’s drop this, man, will ya?”

He told me, “That was the last time we ever discussed this case before the nine eleven attacks took place. The only other person I told this to and showed the 302 forms and the translation report to, before September eleven, was Amin here. Then, on that Tuesday morning on September eleven, everything came back to me and hit me on the head like several tons of bricks … we were warned about this. We were told, very specifically.”

A very different version of this source and what information he gave in “As U.S. steps up investigation, Iran denies assisting Al Qaeda” by John Crewdson, specific page three:

The interview followed the standard FBI format. The agents posed their questions in English, which were then translated into Farsi. The Asset’s replies were translated back into English as the agents took notes.

According to the law enforcement official, “there was talk about terrorists and planes,” but no mention of when or where the attacks might take place.

It was the FBI agents’ impression, the official said, that the target of the attacks could be “possibly here, but more probably overseas.” The Asset also reported having heard a rumor that a plane would be hijacked to Afghanistan, the official said.

The FBI’s translator, a former Iranian police colonel named Behrooz Sarshar, does not recall any mention of a hijacking to Afghanistan. But Sarshar, then a career FBI employee assigned to the translation section of the bureau’s Washington field office, does remember the Asset saying the attacks might take place in the U.S. or Europe, and also that the terrorist-pilots were “under training.”

After checking his notes from the interview, Sarshar said that, in addition to sources in Iran, the Asset had mentioned picking up information from Afghanistan and Hamburg.

Sarshar describes the Asset as part of an informal worldwide network of former Iranian intelligence officers who have remained in close touch after abandoning their homeland for Europe, Asia and the U.S., where many found work with Western police and intelligence services.

Some members of the network still travel back and forth to Iran, Sarshar said, or maintain contact with colleagues there via telephone and e-mail while waiting for the revolutionary Iranian government to fall.

According to Sarshar, the two FBI agents who interviewed the Asset were not visibly surprised by his report. It was his impression, Sarshar said, that the agents weren’t sure whether to believe their informant, and that even the Asset wasn’t convinced his information was true.

A few weeks after the initial interview, however, the agents and Sarshar paid a second visit to the Asset, who Sarshar said repeated essentially the same story.

11 From “Government Allowed 9/11 | Interview with Sibel Edmonds” (5:17-6:46):

Do you think that the government purposefully ignored intelligence because they wanted 9/11 to happen?

Absolutely. I would say certain elements within our government absolutely, intentionally, purposefully ignored and let it happen. And they haven’t been held accountable, and what we have had, all the shenanigans from the 9/11 Commission, or the Congressional inquiries, none of them went into these topics, in these established cases. If you look at the number of high level national security whistleblowers who were censured out of congressional, so-called, investigations or the so-called 9/11 hearings, that includes people like the FBI, retired FBI agent Colleen Rawley, you’re looking at Anthony Schaeffer, you’re looking at dozens of people, who have come forward, they came forward, they went to Congress, they went to the 9/11 Commission, they went to the media, and they were simply ignored. And a lot of these reported cases have been established over the years, in bits and pieces, and that’s exactly what the establishment, and what the media intended in the first place. Not to cover it all up, purposefully and forever, to just let it get out in little bits and pieces, so you won’t get that needed outrage from the public, to demand accountability, to demand answers.

This answer from a 2012 book tour interview was a contrast to 2009, when she was on a podcast hosted by Brad Friedman, and she was far more cautious in her analysis. From “Guest Hosting ‘Mike Malloy Show’ (Wednesday)”, Part Two (1:50-5:32):

Knowing the criminals that we had in the Bush-Cheney administration, or we had, in the Bush-Cheney administration, and many Americans questioning 9-11, I gotta ask the question, does Sibel…what are her thoughts on 9-11 possibly being an inside job?

Thank you, Christina, I won’t tell your bosses that you’re listening to K-TALK instead of your own station. Thanks Christine. [CHRISTINE: Thank you.] Alright Sibel, that’s a question that comes up for me the most, 9/11 was an inside job. What do you think?

Well, as I have done, for the past seven, eight, years, I have basically stopped with what I know firsthand directly. My own knowledge, based on my own experience, based on what I obtained, which is not a lot, but: it’s extremely important. And to answer the question, was it an inside job?, it would be first of all preposterous for me to make that call. But what I can tell you, is based on what we know already, and these are the confirmed cases, you’re going to have Colleen Rowley on your show [FRIEDMAN: Yes, coming up tomorrow.], well exactly, you look at her, her case, and then you look at the Phoenix memo, the other FBI agent in Phoenix office, the Phoenix field office, and then you look at the FBI agent Wright, in Chicago, and you look at that case, and I don’t know if you read James Bamford’s latest book, what we obtained from Yemen, and I say “obtained” before September 11, because we were following two of these hijackers in- are you there? [FRIEDMAN: Yes.] Yemen, you put all this information that came from various agencies in one place, and you look at it, and you say, wow, you know it’s very easy to write things off when you have one or two slip-ups, you know, attribute certain things to bureaucratic bungling, but it goes beyond that. Now, what is that? Now, I wouldn’t be able to answer that question, but what I did answer is, we had that 9/11 Commission that was formed, and first we had Henry Kissinger appointed chairman of it [laughs], which tells you what they had in mind, what kind of commission they had in mind, which was going to be cosmetic, it was pretty obvious. And then we had the final commission, a bunch of people with conflict of interests, and we didn’t get anything, as you see, people have been gagged, a lot of things have been classified, and you would think, why would people go so far to cover up bureaucratic bungling? Again, this doesn’t mean, hey, this was an inside job, but what it tells you is there are a lot of things that we don’t know, there are a lot of things that they, the government, our government, the establishment, don’t want us to know. I mean, the recent thing that just came out, with the case against Saudi Arabia, with the 9/11 family members, well, today or yesterday, it made it to the front page of the New York Times, with Eric Lichtblau, okay, so now the government, our government, the justice department under Obama, is going again and saying “no, you can’t get this information,” because he wants to protect Saudi Arabia. Well, protect against what? So, those are the questions that have not been answered and those questions that have been answered, nothing has been done about it, and no explanation has been given to us, so we have all these issues, and there is no simple answer, but one simple answer is, yes, we are facing a lot of cover-up. And I want to know why, and I’m sure you want to know why too.

Nah, I don’t really care. [they both laugh]

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