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Notes from Quebec by Ethan Cox

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rabble's Quebec correspondent, Ethan Cox is a 29 year-old journo, pundit and incorrigible rabble rouser from Montreal. A former union organizer and student union executive, Ethan has also worked on a number of successful municipal and federal election campaigns, and was a member of Quebec central office staff for the NDP in the 2011 election. More recently he served as Quebec Director and Senior Communications Advisor on Brian Topp's NDP leadership campaign. He now spends his time writing for rabble, freelancing for outlets like the National Post, appearing regularly on CJAD radio in Montreal and working on a book about austerity. You can follow him on twitter @EthanCoxMtl

Was journalist Michael Hastings murdered?

| July 28, 2013
Photo: Gawker

UPDATE: Props to self-described "Freedom of Information Act terrorists" Jason Leopold and Ryan Shapiro who are suing the FBI to force disclosure of any and all records they have on Hastings. As Leopold puts it: "Perhaps the FBI doesn’t have any records on Hastings. Regardless, I think Hastings would appreciate that Shapiro and I are trying to find out whether that is truly the case."

Leopold is a fearless shit-disturber of a journalist with an impressive track record, much like Hastings himself. I'm glad to see he's taking an interest. Over to you MSM, time to grow a pair...

I think sometimes some journalists forget what their job is. If you're choosing not to investigate something because you're worried you might look silly, or be made fun of, you're doing it wrong.

I have no idea what happened to Michael Hastings, and it's certainly both possible and reasonable that his accident was solely due to his own error or a mechanical fault. In fact, that's probably the most likely explanation.

However, there are a number of confounding facts that cast doubt upon that explanation, and demand further investigation. The fact that most journalists are afraid to even raise these very legitimate questions, for fear of being branded some sort of "conspiracy-nut" is a sad and terrifying testament to the state of journalism.

Let's recap.

A journalist, with a history of taking down major figures and royally pissing off the powers that be, sends an email to his editors warning them that federal agents have been interviewing his associates and that he has to go off-radar to finish a big story.

What was the big story? For some reason the subject line of the email, which read "FBI investigation, re: NSA" has been persistently ignored. It certainly seems to suggest that his "big story" was related to the National Security Agency.

Shortly thereafter he dies in a fiery car crash. This crash is swiftly ruled an accident, however there are no skid marks to indicate braking, an eyewitness says he saw flames and sparks before the car left the road and video appears to show his car exploding into a fireball before it goes out of control and hits a tree.

Meanwhile former U.S. National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism Richard Clarke goes public with the assertion that what we know about Hastings' crash is "consistent with a car cyber attack."

"There is reason to believe that intelligence agencies for major powers," including the U.S., can remotely seize control of a car.

"What has been revealed as a result of some research at universities is that it's relatively easy to hack your way into the control system of a car, and to do such things as cause acceleration when the driver doesn't want acceleration, to throw on the brakes when the driver doesn't want the brakes on, to launch an air bag," Clarke told The Huffington Post. "You can do some really highly destructive things now, through hacking a car, and it's not that hard."

"So if there were a cyber attack on the car -- and I'm not saying there was, I think whoever did it would probably get away with it."

In fact, Hastings' model of car is sold with the advertised feature that it can be remotely disabled.

Could Hastings have been over-tired, drunk, stressed or otherwise incapacitated? Sure.

But this video appears to confirm the testimony of the eyewitness, and other witnesses who reported hearing the car explode BEFORE going off the road. Could that have been caused by a spectacular mechanical failure? Sure. But it would be a wildly rare fault, given that exploding into a fireball isn't something that happens to cars often, if at all. In fact, cars are designed not to explode, even in cases of catastrophic collision, and contrary to what Hollywood would have us believe, the incidence of cars exploding in accidents is negligible.

It also bears mentioning that most of Hastings' colleagues, friends and family have made clear, albeit some more explicitly than others, that they don't believe the official explanation for his death and suspect foul play.

I could go on, but you get the point. Hastings death might have been an accident, but it also might have been murder. There is ample enough evidence to assert that he died in suspicious circumstances.

Clarke, who worked for the State Department under Reagan, ran counterterrorism activities for Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and was also a special advisor to Dubya on issues of cyberterrorism, isn't afraid to ask these questions.

"I'm not a conspiracy guy. In fact, I've spent most of my life knocking down conspiracy theories," said Clarke, again to the Huffington Post. "But my rule has always been you don't knock down a conspiracy theory until you can prove it [wrong]. And in the case of Michael Hastings, what evidence is available publicly is consistent with a car cyber attack. And the problem with that is you can't prove it. I think you'd probably need the very best of the U.S. government intelligence or law enforcement officials to discover it."

So if the circumstances of his death are suspicious, don't we owe it to Michael to ask those questions? Is anyone really suggesting that murdering a journalist is totally outside the realm of possibility? That no cover-up would ever go so far as to murder someone? 

If you believe he couldn't have been murdered, that it isn't possible, then may I humbly suggest you need to revise your estimation of who precisely is living in fantasy land.

I never met Michael, but I wish I had. By all accounts he was a shooting star. But more than that, he was one of us. If a cop dies, his colleagues don't rest until his death is satisfactorily explained, and any guilty parties apprehended. If a journalist dies, evidently, most journalists keep their mouths shut and don't ask questions for fear of being branded a conspiracy-nut. Fan-fucking-tastic.

I don't know if Michael Hastings was murdered. But I want to know, and I never will unless the media get their heads out of their collective asses and start asking these questions. Accusations of conspiracy-mongering be damned. Chase the story, find the truth. It's what we do, or at least it's supposed to be...




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