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Seymour Hersh Has A Nord Stream Conspiracy Theory. It Is Hot Garbage
Occam's razor, applied
Based on a source with no credentials to know insider information, journalist Seymour Hersh has published a new conspiracy theory in which the United States and Norway undertook an incredible, complex, multilateral operation in complete secrecy in order to destroy the Nord Stream pipelines and blame Russia, because reasons.
Hersh, once a legend of investigative writing, published this hot garbage fire as his very first Substack post because no reputable journalistic outlet would ever touch it. Not that those exist anymore, but the point stands. Aside from perhaps the Weekly World News in its heyday, no editor would run this story without asking about the identity of the source and determining that the writer has thoroughly vetted their assertions.
That’s what responsible journalists would do, anyway. Hersh has not been a responsible journalist for a very long time. No matter what happens — the death of Osama bin Laden, or Syrian chemical weapon strikes on rebel neighborhoods — Hersh always arrives with unsourced allegations and half-baked facts, still trying to win his personal war against the United States of America that went to war in Vietnam.
Upon encountering a story that sounds too good to be true, always start your analysis at the end of the chain of events and go backwards. Using this method, the overcomplications in Hersh’s story become evident right away.
He asserts that a few hours before the series of four explosions that took place on 26 September 2022, a Norwegian Navy P8 flew over the Baltic Sea and dropped a sonar buoy, which set off timers on explosives that had already been planted by US Navy divers during June.
Hersh needs a whole, long paragraph to explain this supposed detail of the sonar trigger on the bombs. Emphasis mine:
The C4 attached to the pipelines would be triggered by a sonar buoy dropped by a plane on short notice, but the procedure involved the most advanced signal processing technology. Once in place, the delayed timing devices attached to any of the four pipelines could be accidentally triggered by the complex mix of ocean background noises throughout the heavily trafficked Baltic Sea—from near and distant ships, underwater drilling, seismic events, waves and even sea creatures. To avoid this, the sonar buoy, once in place, would emit a sequence of unique low frequency tonal sounds—much like those emitted by a flute or a piano—that would be recognized by the timing device and, after a pre-set hours of delay, trigger the explosives. (“You want a signal that is robust enough so that no other signal could accidentally send a pulse that detonated the explosives,” I was told by Dr. Theodore Postol, professor emeritus of science, technology and national security policy at MIT. Postol, who has served as the science adviser to the Pentagon’s Chief of Naval Operations, said the issue facing the group in Norway because of Biden’s delay was one of chance: “The longer the explosives are in the water the greater risk there would be of a random signal that would launch the bombs.”)
I am going out on a limb here to suggest that Theodore Postol, the only source Hersh names in this story, is also the sole source for this entire fabrication. He is a fellow Cold War enemy of the Pentagon and American policy with a long record of making spurious personal accusations of malfeasance against his enemies.
All the blind quotes and insider information on events in secret meetings that Hersh reports are from Postol. I am calling it now.
Postol has described a complex triggering mechanism, but nowhere in Hersh’s story does he say exactly when or where this system was tested. That’s rather important with any novel triggering device. For example, the radar triggers for the atomic bomb had to be tested first to be sure that they worked.
Thus, the entire supposed scheme relies on an unreliable magic box device, one that only Theodore Postol can describe in any detail, since it does not exist outside of his own imagination.
Hersh specifies that the US Navy divers involved in his imaginary deep diving mission were selected in Panama City, Florida, because that is where the applicable US Navy training unit is based.
Anyone who has ever served on US Navy ships lately will know that many of them carry diving teams. Furthermore, divers are stationed all around the world, for example at the Panama Canal. Missions that require veteran divers with established security profiles will devolve to the sailors in the fleet and deployed at work, not the training school.
As with the convenient overflight of a Norwegian plane some hours before the explosions, this is an unnecessary detail added for verisimilitude, fluffing out an otherwise fact-deficient story.
Put in plain terms, Seymour Hersh is bullshitting.
The plan, Hersh says, was hatched at the White House by an unnamed group of people at the National Security Council.
“According to the source with direct knowledge of the process” — meaning Postol, who is making things up, and almost certainly not someone with current White House clearance — “[Jake] Sullivan intended for the group to come up with a plan for the destruction of the two Nord Stream pipelines” before Russia resumed invading Ukraine a year ago.
A grain of truth may even exist here. Aware that Russia was about to attack, any responsible National Security Advisor would certainly want a number of options. However, a responsible NSA would also conclude that the proposed operation had severe risks: what if one set of charges fails to explode? What if the remains of your bomb are recovered from the sea floor? What if an unusual dolphin squeak sets the bombs off prematurely? And so on.
Remarks from the president and his officials that Nord Stream 2 “will end,” or “not move forward” in the event of invasion, prove nothing. Germany, feared to be the weakest link in European energy security, halted the Nord Stream 2 project at their end in February. There was no plausible scenario in September by which the pipeline would begin operating soon, if ever. It was already a massive sunk cost for Russia.
Hersh elides all this inconvenient reality. Instead, he has US Navy divers “operating from a Norwegian Alta class mine hunter,” probably because some sort of tracking data shows that one of these ships was somewhere around Bornholm Island at some time in June and that sounds good enough.
As I am no diving expert, I will leave aside the question of whether a 55 meter long, 375-ton vessel is large enough for such a massive diving operation, let alone equipped to support it.
Hersh claims the conspirator governments used the BALTOPS 22 exercise as cover for planting bombs on the pipelines. They did it, Hersh claims, because they wanted to cut off Russia from supplying energy to Europe ever again. Except that Europe was already doing that on their own.
It makes no sense except as anti-American propaganda, with Norway framed as a puppet of Washington, based on coincidence.
“The best divers with deep diving qualifications are a tight community, and only the very best are recruited for the operation and told to be prepared to be summoned to the CIA in Washington,” the alleged source (again, probably just Postol wearing Groucho Marx glasses) says — in the present tense. Are recruited.
Someone is narrating, not reporting.
Hersh uncovered My Lai by talking to soldiers and he is still coasting on those credentials. Now he cannot even quote a single US Navy diver, or Norwegian sailor, to confirm that any of this is even remotely true.
Not only are these two nations cooperating in the conspiracy, Hersh says, but altogether, four different governments are supposed to be keeping this secret from the world. Amazing! It’s almost as if he has to explain away the complicated political geography of the Baltic Sea with magic beans:
The Norwegians joined the Americans in insisting that some senior officials in Denmark and Sweden had to be briefed in general terms about possible diving activity in the area. In that way, someone higher up could intervene and keep a report out of the chain of command, thus insulating the pipeline operation.
None of that makes any sense. It is gobbledygook. Multiple agencies belonging to four very different national governments all colluded to secretly blow up a pipeline, and not one single official has said a word or blown the whistle at all? Really? That seems unlikely. Social Democrats in Denmark and the right wing Swedish government may sense a common enemy in Russia, but they share little else.
At the very least, if Hersh is telling the truth, someone in this overlarge conspiracy should be eager to talk to such a famous journalist.
A hat on a hat, improbability on top of improbability. This is all conspiracy theory, just Kremlin propaganda-pandering all the way down, not a bit of journalism present.
Contra Hersh, here is my theory of what happened:
Russians put bombs into pipeline pigs, set timers on the bombs, and then sent them down the pipeline to explode.
In one sentence, I have just told a far more plausible, infinitely less complicated story, one in which the operational details are orders of magnitude easier to keep secret. Hersh has pieced together a garbage fire of a conspiracy theory out of substance-free allegations and disparate, unrelated data points.
Deepening his late-life discredit as a serial fabricator, Hersh says that the Biden team was motivated to a needless act. I say that Vladimir Putin was motivated to a vindictive act.
Whereas Joe Biden has an entire staff to stop him from making bad decisions, Putin has demonstrably shrunk his information pool, so his decisions have become more personal, just like his authority.
Moreover, my theory of the case resembles the actual physical evidence of destruction. Underwater video of the Nord Stream explosion sites looks exactly like the aftermath of internal explosions: shards of pipeline were blown outwards into the water, similar to the way a pipe bomb explodes. An external detonation would have different characteristics.
We can hope that actual journalists — the ones who have not given up on reality to serve their fossilized obsessions with the 1970s CIA — will hold Seymour Hersh accountable by asking him to explain this, and other glaring discrepancies in his fantasy account of sinister shenanigans.
Did the US Navy divers also return in secret to rearrange the evidence and dig the craters to frame Russia? If so, when? How? Inquiring minds want to know.
This fake news story is unfinished. There are so many questions that Mr. Hersh needs to answer. He should have to answer them.
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