Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh says that Joe Biden ordered the destruction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. If true, it would represent an explosive intervention in the Russia-Ukraine War, potentially upsetting the coalition that Washington has assembled to support Kyiv.
Does the claim stack up?
Seymour Hersh: The Man Making the Claim
Seymour Hersh is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has long sought to expose the abuses of the national security state of the U.S. executive branch.
Early in his career, he unveiled the massacre at the South Vietnamese village of My Lai, and later helped report on abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison facility in Iraq.
But Seymour Hersh’s history as a reporter is hardly unchequered.
Hersh’s biography of John F. Kennedy has been harshly criticized for errors of fact and interpretation.
Hersh also narrowly avoided a scandal when papers in his possession relating to the extramarital affairs of John F. Kennedy were assessed to be forgeries shortly before they were to become the core of an ABC documentary on the late President.
In 2015, Hersh published an account of the death of Osama bin Laden that contradicted nearly every official and unofficial account of the raid, proposing that, in fact, the terrorist leader was simply turned over to the United States by the Pakistani government.
Like the latest exposè, Hersh’s account of the Bin Laden raid relied heavily on a very small number of sources, a particularly serious problem because the story directly contradicted mountains of eyewitness testimony regarding the planning for, execution of, and aftermath of the raid.
Hersh’s reporting on the Syrian Civil War has similarly run into a firestorm of criticism. On the one hand, Hersh published an account of infighting between the Pentagon and the Obama administration that was, again, reliant on a single source and that ran against substantial amounts of reporting from other journalists. Hersh has also been harshly criticized for his contrarian assertions regarding the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons.
Hersh’s reporting on the Nord Stream 2 attack relies heavily on a single source within the U.S. government who provided details not only of the deliberations behind the decision but also of the attack itself.
The operation involved a complex train of events in which divers installed explosives on the underwater pipeline, which were then detonated at a much later date. It implicates not only the U.S. government but also the Norwegian government and associates the attack with long-running U.S. government criticism of the pipelines.
The story has a veneer of plausibility; the attack on the Nord Stream pipeline remains unsolved. It is not difficult to imagine the motive, means, and opportunity for the United States government to carry out the operation. It also includes many small details, although this barrage eventually starts to pose questions in the mind of the reader about how a single-source could be privy to all of the evidence in question.
Unlike previous exposès, Hersh was unable to find a publisher for the piece, instead posting on his Substack. This is not necessarily cause for dismissing the story (editors can make poor decisions). Still, it is surely relevant that no major journalistic organization was capable of confirming the essence and details of the story, or willing to put its prestige behind the account.
The account also has some critical gaps. One surprising omission from Hersh’s reporting is a discussion of the legal reasoning behind the purported attack. It is not exactly true to say that the United States government never does anything illegal, but it is most certainly true that the executive branch invariably goes to great lengths to interpret the law in such a way that its actions appear legal from an internal perspective; lawyers are always present in major decisions about the use of force on the international stage, and can almost always offer an account of how any particular operation accords with domestic law.
In this case, Hersh offers only very thin gruel regarding how Biden’s public statements about the Nord Stream pipeline “ending” provided legal cover for the attack, a justification that executive branch lawyers are unlikely to find particularly compelling.
What Should We Think?
No one should trust an account of a massive conspiracy at the highest levels of government that relies on a single source. Moreover, Seymour Hersh’s reporting for the last decade has hardly earned him unequivocal trust from the reading public. That Hersh could not find a publisher for his explosive Nord Stream 2 story suggests that he has lost the confidence of the journalistic and editorial communities, communities that worshipped Hersh for decades.
There is much that we don’t know about the damage inflicted on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. It would be unwise to rule out any eventuality at this point, given the strong incentives that every party has to deceive. All of the narratives as to who attacked the pipeline feel improbable, but at least one of them is true.
Given the importance of correct attribution, we need more than what Hersh can offer us.
A 19FortyFive Contributing Editor, Dr. Robert Farley has taught security and diplomacy courses at the Patterson School since 2005. He received his BS from the University of Oregon in 1997, and his Ph. D. from the University of Washington in 2004. Dr. Farley is the author of Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force (University Press of Kentucky, 2014), the Battleship Book (Wildside, 2016), and Patents for Power: Intellectual Property Law and the Diffusion of Military Technology (University of Chicago, 2020). He has contributed extensively to a number of journals and magazines, including the National Interest, the Diplomat: APAC, World Politics Review, and the American Prospect. Dr. Farley is also a founder and senior editor of Lawyers, Guns and Money.
February 14, 2023 at 3:01 pm
Seymour Hersh has far more credibility than this author could ever dream of having.
February 14, 2023 at 3:33 pm
Simply right before the russia/Ukraine conflict. Biden stated he would indeed destroy the pipeline.
Biden wanted and needed this war to distract the American populas.
Under Obama/Biden administration they formed the coup that removed the pro Russian diplomats with the EU friendly nazi that is Ukraine current president and administration.
US has a lot of bio weapon and highly classified darpa programs running in Ukraine.
February 14, 2023 at 3:37 pm
“No one should trust an account of a massive conspiracy at the highest levels of government that relies on a single source.”
Like Russia Collusion hoax? At least this story wasn’t funded by your election opponent.
February 14, 2023 at 5:53 pm
Biden did the very dirty job with the help of the Norwegians. Now, even Nazi stoltenberg doesn’t want to continue with his equally dirty post this October 2023.
Norway is a certified fascist entity always ready to do very dirty jobs for uncle Sam.
What did Putin say about Norway in Feb 2021, one full year before Moscow’s special military operation to de-nazify the ukros.
“Norway is rapidly becoming the parade ground for NATO.”
In other words, Norway is today turning itself into the springboard for US shenanigans in northern europe after its withdrawal from Afghanistan.
US, Norway and NATO. THE DEVILS, ???? or troublemakers eternal of the world.
February 14, 2023 at 6:03 pm
Well, regardless of Hersh details, who could’a dun it?
How many suspects?
Means, Motive & Opportunity have already been established.
Was it a Norwegian pipeline that would provide benefit to Russia?
» it is surely relevant that no major journalistic organization was capable of confirming the essence and details of the story, or willing to put its prestige behind the account «
No. That says something about the hyper censorious cancel culture that has developed. MSM still refuses to come clean about the Russia-Gate fabrication, the Russia election influence operation, the Russia/Wikileaks hack! of the DNC, the Biden laptop. This is all so in thy face, journalism has no credibility or integrity: It’s a bought & paid for propaganda outfit to push official narratives.
» contrarian assertions regarding the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons «
Failure to mention the scandal about this within the OPCW and the falling apart of the team. Failing to mention this means you’re filtering the information, withholding evidence.
February 14, 2023 at 7:47 pm
If we blew up the pipeline, we wouldn’t use any complex plot involving divers from a ship on an exercise, detonated by a sonobuoy! We’d simply send in the USS Jimmy Carter, which is designed for such things.
February 14, 2023 at 8:09 pm
I was hoping for better than an ad hominem. Certainly more than just that.
There are cases to be made that Germany, Russia and Norway all had reasons to destroy the pipelines. At least some factions in each of those countries had motive. Many Nordic and Baltic countries would have had technical means and deniable access opportunities to place charges on the lines.
Perhaps Saudi Arabia wanted to demote Russia a bit in OPEC+? There’s an abundance of possible attack vectors. At least a few entertaining movie plots in there, somewhere.
The story is interesting in being largely so vague, but occasionally being highly detailed. Those details mainly are not instrumental or illuminating. If anything, the pose further questions: about type of explosive, and the concrete packing; about why a NATO exercise was chosen as cover for a deniable action; about the highly complex triggering mechanism and timing of the explosions.
However, I’m not aware that any images of the damaged pipelines, taken by Sweden, have been made public. Those are not conclusive as to whether the explosions occurred inside or outside of the pipelines. No discussion has been mad about any recovery or identification of debris from the explosions.
Hersh may have provided a service, at a minimum, by sharpening the focus on why the US would have had abundant motivation to destroy the pipelines. Perhaps that will sharpen the focus and diligence of others.
February 14, 2023 at 10:00 pm
It’s called a Maskirovka (deception) political operation. Destroy your own pipeline, then blame the US who the quisling Germans hate, and cause problems with NATO. Freezing the Germans is more important than selling the Gas, which had already been shut off for reasons (the only gas lost was that still in the pipe). And so what if the pipeline needs to be repaired later, that’s an engineering problem that can be solved then.
Besides the incompetent and demented Biden administration couldn’t keep that secret more than a millisecond.
February 15, 2023 at 7:38 am
so you totally discount the possibility that editors were “warned” to stay away?
February 15, 2023 at 7:46 am
it seems that throughout his career, his editors were always pleased to publish stuff that embarrassed politicians, but less so when he went after big business. american oil companies, for example, for whom GS2 would not be a good thing…
February 15, 2023 at 8:01 am
Hersh hit a walk-off homer in the 9th regarding My Lai. He has never had another hit in his career, but has done a good job of living off the one thing he got right ever since. If a hammer views everything as a nail, Hersh believes that everything is a government cover-up. While many things are, Hersh is not the guy to send to the plate to find out. Remember he predicted Bibi had the attack planes in the air towards Iranian nuke facilities about 10 to the 80th power times.
Nonetheless, there is at least one theory about Nordstream more crackpot than Hersh’s. That one is the U.S. government’s, which posits that Putin blew up his own pipeline. On second thought, 2 and 2 together, that one is more crack-pipe than crackpot.
February 15, 2023 at 9:31 am
The “prestige” of journalism is not what it used to be. Hersh may have a chequered past, but hardly the chequered past outlets like the New York Times or Washington Post have had over the same period. Anything seriously critical of Ukraine policy has been outsourced to Substack or outlets like the Asia Times for well over a year now.
February 15, 2023 at 10:24 am
Of the course the US did it. Means motives and opportunity. Classic.
Europe has spent a trillion dollars subsidizing energy. Who received it?
February 15, 2023 at 10:53 am
Dr. Farley, the narrative surrounding the efficacy of vaccines and masks was suppressed by every major news organization, those who voiced opinions to the contrary were censored or outright banned on all social media platforms. Now, evidence supports the contrary narrative, and we find, much to our chagrin, the alternative view, carries the weight of truth, more than the one posited by the government and their enablers in the press. Perhaps Mr. Hersh, realizing the futility of publication via traditional outlets, sought the independence of Substack to expose the insidious nature of government machinations. The simplest solution to a problem is the one more oftentimes than not the correct one. Perhaps Mr. Hersh is correct. Perhaps not. But to date, no other alternative narrative has been put out that effectively rebuts Mr. Hersh’s allegations.
February 15, 2023 at 12:19 pm
This article must have been heavily ratioed for 19fortyfive to delete ALL of the comments. Shame on you. Just turn comments off if you can’t take the heat (and watch your viewership dwindle).
“No one should trust an account of a massive conspiracy at the highest levels of government that relies on a single source.”
… just like the Russia collusion hoax, right?
February 15, 2023 at 3:19 pm
Yes. We need an official ‘anonymous’ source, or at least, a letter signed by 50 former intel experts.
February 15, 2023 at 9:18 pm
The world’s largest terrorist state is hiding behind an infirm old man who cannot climb the stairs on his own and does not remember where and under what circumstances his son died. A win-win strategy. First, an inadequate president is elected, then a terrorist attack is carried out on his behalf to destroy the infrastructure of other states. Even if the truth comes out, the old man can always be kicked in the ass.
February 16, 2023 at 1:34 am
100% we made it happen.
February 16, 2023 at 5:50 am
So Biden says he was going to blow it up and it gets blown up. This wasn’t some nickel dime/wanna-be terrorist outfit pulling this off. The only thing transparent here is your being a shill for Biden and the arms industry making billions off of Ukraine. Crushing Hersh just makes you look stupid.
February 16, 2023 at 12:39 pm
You and people like you inhabit the kingdom of lies, but the truth will set you free.
February 16, 2023 at 1:43 pm
It did not require the resources of a superpower to sabotage those Pipelines. They were only about 300 feet below the surface. And an operation that involved leaving the explosives in place for several months would be unlikely to find favor with professionals. It is possible that some environmentalist extremists simply towed a charge behind a small yacht or other small vessel. The location of the pipelines was charted, and a garbage can would have been sufficient to contain the charge.
February 17, 2023 at 2:31 am
To get to the truth you have to answer a few questions.
1. Who has most to gain? Obviously anyone who wants to keep anyone from breaking NATO unity by buying Russian gas. Obviously not Russia. Probably not Germany.
2. Who has the capability? Obviously most modern Navies with a submarine capability could do this.
3. Who could do this and not have a lot of people talk about it? I think the US is probably the only one with enough influence to get the other NATO allies to keep it quiet.
The one thing I can say for sure is that it never made sense to me that Russia would do this which leaves one of the NATO members and I cannot imagine Germany accommodation for anyone other than the US getting away with this. I also find it unbelievable that NATO does not know who it was. This is one of the most highly monitored oceans in the world.