Edited time: June 25, 2013 16:49
KTLA News in Los Angeles received an email on Friday that was forwarded to them by a friend of the 33-year-old reporter.
Hastings, who wrote for Rolling Stone and the website BuzzFeed, perished after an auto wreck in L.A. early Tuesday last week.
According to an email Hastings sent Monday afternoon to a handful of friends, he believed his colleagues could be visited by Federal Bureau of Investigation officers due to an article he was working on.
“Hey [redacted}, the Feds are interviewing my ‘close friends and associates,’” Hastings wrote, before recommending to his colleagues that they seek legal advice if approached by investigators.
“Also: I’m onto a big story, and need to go off the rada[r] for a bit,” he added. “All the best, and hope to see you all soon.”
The Los Angeles Times originally reported that Hastings was working on an article about Florida socialite Jill Kelley at the time of his death, but Hastings' widow, Elise Jordan, said that wasn't the case.
"To correct the record, since I've seen it erroneously reported a few times: @mmhastings was not working on a story about Jill Kelley," Jordan tweeted on Tuesday.
Kelley made headlines last year after she became entangled in a high-profile scandal involving then-CIA Director David Petraeus and Gen. George Allen, who then commanded US troops in Afghanistan. A federal probe of suspicious emails sent to Kelley later unearthed an extramarital affair between Gen. Petraeus and his biographer, Paula Broadwell, which led to the CIA director’s resignation.
Before taking the helm as CIA director, Petraeus commanded US troops in Afghanistan — the same role that later went to Gen. Allen. Petraeus had inherited that role from Gen. Stanley McChrystal. On his part, McChystal resigned from that position after a 2010 Hastings-penned article from Afghanistan raised questions about the commander’s remarks about the Obama administration. He was forced to apologize for comments he made in the article that led to his resignation, and Hastings was presented with a Polk journalism award for his report.
Staff Sgt. Joseph Biggs, who met Hastings when the journalist was embedded in Afghanistan in 2008, said he received the email less than a day before the auto accident and told KTLA it sounded “very panicked.”
“It alarmed me very much,” Biggs said. “I just said it doesn’t seem like him. I don’t know, I just had this gut feeling and it just really bothered me,” he said.
“He was a good friend of mine,” Biggs wrote in a tweet sent after Hastings’ death.
According to the soldier, Biggs was blind-copied on the email sent mid-day Monday, which was addressed to a handful of Hastings’ colleagues. He died around 15 hours after the email was sent.
One week after his death, speculations continue to surround Hastings’ death. The other recipients of the email obtained by Higgs have yet to address the correspondence, but the soldier said it’s unlikely because others are worried of what will happen next.
“The reason I released the email is because those people were too scared. I'm not,” Higgs tweeted over the weekend.
“I won't let a man die in vein [sic] because I'm too scared of what will happen to me. If I sent that email to Mike he wouldn't rest,” Higgs wrote, “He would fight.”
On the eve of Hastings’ funeral this Monday in Vermont, Higgs said the deceased journalist’s wife thanked him for releasing the email.
“She's vowing to take down whoever did this. She's a fighter,” he wrote.
The Los Angeles Police Department says they do not suspect foul play in Hastings’ death, and the FBI said he was not the target of an investigation.
Appearing on Fox News on Monday, Ali Gharib, a journalist and friend of Hastings, said “I don’t think he was a reckless a person.”
“That doesn’t mean he might not have been driving excessively fast,” added Gharib, who said it wouldn’t be “a wild situation” to imagine Hastings driving quickly through Los Angeles late last week.
Speaking to Yahoo News last week, eyewitness Michael Carter wrote that he was nearby at the time of impact and “saw a giant fireball at the base of one of the palms that line the medians” on the road Hastings’ Mercedes was traveling down. “It was surreal. Even from as far away as I was, I could see how violent an impact it had been.”
Correction: This article was updated to include Ms. Jordan's remark.
Hours before dying in a fiery car crash, award-winning journalist Michael Hastings sent an email to his colleagues, warning that federal authorities were interviewing his friends and that he needed to go "off the rada[r]" for a bit.
The email was sent around 1 p.m. on Monday, June 17. At 4:20 a.m. the following morning, Hastings died when his Mercedes, traveling at high speeds, smashed into a tree and caught on fire. He was 33.
Hastings sent the email to staff at BuzzFeed, where he was employed, but also blind-copied a friend, Staff Sgt. Joseph Biggs, on the message. Biggs, who Hastings met in 2008 when he was embedded in his unit in Afghanistan, forwarded the email to KTLA, who posted it online on Saturday.
Here's the email, with the recipients' names redacted.
Subject: FBI Investigation, re: NSA Hey (redacted names) -- the Feds are interviewing my "close friends and associates." Perhaps if the authorities arrive "BuzzFeed GQ," er HQ, may be wise to immediately request legal counsel before any conversations or interviews about our news-gathering practices or related journalism issues.Rumors that the FBI was investigating Hastings began the day after his death, with a couple of mysterious WikiLeaks tweets.
Also: I'm onto a big story, and need to go off the rada[r] for a bit.
All the best, and hope to see you all soon.
In a rare move, the FBI issued a statement denying that Hastings was under investigation. The Los Angeles Police Department also said it had found no evidence of any foul play in his death.
Hastings, an accomplished war correspondent and sharp political reporter, was best known for writing a critical Rolling Stone profile of General Stanley McChrystal that led to his resignation.
It's unclear what "big story" Hastings was working on prior to his death, but it might have to do with yet another military bigwig, this time retired general David Petraeus.
The LA Times reported that Hastings was researching a story about a privacy lawsuit brought by Jill Kelley, the Florida socialite who took center stage in the Petraeus cheating scandal, against the Department of Defense and the FBI. According to a person close to Kelley, the paper said, Hastings had plans to meet a representative of hers to discuss the case next week.