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20 Jun, 2013 18:16

RIP Michael Hastings: Journalist who exposed American military killed in car crash

RIP Michael Hastings: Journalist who exposed American military killed in car crash

A hard-hitting journalist, war reporter and author Michael Hastings, whose revelatory article brought down a four-star general, the US military chief in Afghanistan, has died in a car accident in Los Angeles at the age of 33.

There are few details about the accident that killed the journalist in the early hours of Tuesday. Police have determined that speed was main factor. However, neither Los Angeles officers nor the county coroner's office could confirm his death as the body still has not been officially ID’d.

Coroner's Lieutenant Fred Corral said it was impossible immediately identify the driver as his body was burned beyond recognition. It would also take weeks to get results from toxicology tests.

Despite the lack of official information, the family and Hastings’ latest employer, BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith have confirmed the journalist was killed in a tragedy at the corner of Melrose and Highland Avenues in LA.

"We are shocked and devastated by the news that Michael Hastings is gone,"
BuzzFeed editor-in-chief said in a statement. "Michael was a great, fearless journalist with an incredible instinct for the story, and a gift for finding ways to make his readers care about anything he covered, from wars to politicians."

Smith said he learned of the death from a family member. 

Remembering Michael Hastings http://t.co/vVQJpF3NHRpic.twitter.com/qIl4DRrQjv

— BuzzFeed (@BuzzFeed) June 19, 2013

Michael Hastings was best known for his sensational, award-winning piece 'The Runaway General' published in Rolling Stone in 2010. It portrayed a commander of the US-led force in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal and “general's staff” as “handpicked collection of killers, spies, geniuses, patriots, political operators and outright maniacs”, revealed openly disrespectful attitude to President Obama, administration officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, and their war policies.

As a result, less than 48 hours after Hastings’s article was made public, McChrystal was summoned to the White House and sacked from his position. Obama replaced McChrystal in Afghanistan with David Petraeus, who later also become a central figure in another Hastings revelatory article. Titled ‘The Sins Of General David Petraeus’ it gave details of Petraeus' strategy for the war and touched closely his private life. Petraeus resigned in disgrace in November 2012 after admitting an affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell, 20 years his junior.

 ‘The Runaway General’, for which Hastings won a George Polk Award, sparked debate in the media over war journalism. Hastings’ article also led to some restrictions narrowing access to information, making reporting for many journalists more complicated.

The war theme and McChrystal’s command then also became a base for his bigger work – a book “The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan''.

Experienced war reporter, Hastings revealed shocking details of military activities overseas.

"Michael Hastings' death cuts short a life dedicated to speaking truth to power. He believed that journalists must be more than bystanders; he was a truthteller, a charming provocateur and a relentless seeker of decency in a nasty world,'' said David Rosenthal, president of The Blue Rider Press, which published "The Operators'' in 2012. 

The war in Iraq personally affected Michael.  In 2006 Hastings reported from the warzone, his fiancée Andrea Parhamovich, followed him to Baghdad and was killed in an ambush in January 2007.

Hastings wrote about the experience in a 2008 memoir, 'I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story.' 

In his latest work Hastings’ concentrated on covering hot-button topics including National Security Agency and the CIA.

His final piece for Buzzfeed titled ‘Why Democrats Love To Spy On Americans’ dates back June 7.

Hastings’ death has prompted conspiracy theorists to suggest the car crash was more than an accident as the journalist’s last works covered burning issues.  

Shortly after his death Wikileaks twitted that Hastings reported to the organization’s lawyer that he was under FBI investigation.  

Michael Hastings contacted WikiLeaks lawyer Jennifer Robinson just a few hours before he died, saying that the FBI was investigating him.

— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) June 19, 2013

Hastings had written freelance stories for GQ, the Los Angeles Times, Daily Beast and the Washington Post.