Seymour Hersh

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Seymour Hersh

Seymour Myron Hersh (born April 8, 1937) is an American investigative journalist and author who contributes regularly to The New Yorker on military and security matters. His work first gained worldwide recognition in 1969 for exposing the My Lai massacre and its cover-up during the Vietnam War, for which he received the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting. His 2004 reports on the US Military's treatment of detainees in Abu Ghraib gained much attention.

Early years

Hersh was born in Chicago and graduated from the University of Chicago. He began his career in journalism as a police reporter for the City News Bureau in 1959. He later became a correspondent for United Press International in South Dakota. In 1963 he went on to become a Chicago and Washington DC correspondent for the Associated Press. Five years later, Hersh was hired as a reporter for The New York Times Washington Bureau, where he served from 1972 to 1975 and again in 1979. Hersh was also active in investigating the CIA's Project Jennifer during the 1970s for a New York Times piece.

His book The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House won him the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times book prize in biography. Hersh has written a total of eight books and contributed to the PBS television documentary, Buying the Bomb (1985).

Mordechai Vanunu and Robert Maxwell

In his 1991 book The Sampson Option, a book about about Israel's secret nuclear weapons program, Hersh revealed that in 1986 Nicholas Davies, the foreign editor of the London Daily Mirror, tipped off the Israeli Embassy in London that the Israeli whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu had given information about country's nuclear capability to the Sunday Times and later the Sunday Mirror (the Daily Mirror's sister paper) owned by the Czech-born British media magnate Robert Maxwell who was thought to have had extensive contacts with Israel intelligence services. According to Hersh, Davies was an Israeli asset who did some gunrunning for them. Besides fingering Vanunu to the Mossad, Davies and Maxwell published an anti-Vanunu story as part of a disinformation campaign on behalf of the Israeli government. [1] (

During a press conference held in London to publicize The Sampson Option, he repeated the allegations. A British MP raised the matter in the House of Commons, which meant that British newspapers were able to report what had been said without fear of being sued for libel. Maxwell called the claims "ludicrous, a total invention," but he sacked Nick Davies shortly thereafter. [2] (,9174,465666,00.html) [3] (


Hersh has written a number of investigative pieces for The New Yorker detailing military and security matters surrounding the US-led 2003 invasion of Iraq and the subsequent occupation. In a 2004 article, he examined how Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld circumvented the normal intelligence analysis function of the CIA in their quest to make a case for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. His coverage of Richard Perle in another article, Lunch with the Chairman, led Perle to say that Hersh was the "closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist." Perle publicly threatened to sue Hersh for libel in the United Kingdom where the standard of proof is much lower, but failed to file suit before the statute of limitations ran out.

In May 2004, Hersh published a series of articles describing and showing with photos the torture by US military police of prisoners in the Iraqi prison of Abu Ghraib. There are allegations that private contractors contributed to them as well and that intelligence such as the CIA ordered the torture in order to break prisoners for interrogations. There are also accusations that torture is a usual practice in other US prisons as well, e.g. in Afghanistan and Guantanamo. Hersh went on to publish an article claiming that the abuses were part of a secret interrogations program, known as "Copper Green", expanded to Iraq with the direct approval of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in an attempt to deal with the growing insurgency there.

At a Columbia University speech given by Hersh in June 2004, author Rick Perlstein reported

[Hersh] said that after he broke Abu Ghraib people are coming out of the woodwork to tell him this stuff. He said he had seen all the Abu Ghraib pictures. He said, "You haven't begun to see evil..." then trailed off. He said, "horrible things done to children and women prisoners, as the cameras run." [4] (

At an ACLU convention in July 2004, he further detailed information he had been given about sexual tortures in Abu Ghraib [5] ( He claims that there is video footage, being held by the Bush administration, of Iraqi guards raping young boys in the prison. "The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling, and the worst part is the soundtrack, of the boys shrieking. And this is your government at war."

While being interviewed by KQED host Michael Krasny on October 8, 2004 [6] (, Hersh claims to have spoken with a first lieutenant in charge of a unit stationed halfway between Baghdad and the Syrian border.

His group was bivouacking outside of town in an agricultural area, and had hired 30 or so Iraqis to guard a local granary. A few weeks passed. They got to know the men they hired, and to like them. Then orders came down from Baghdad that the village would be "cleared." Another platoon from the soldier's company came and executed the Iraqi granary guards. All of them.
"He said they just shot them one by one. And his people, and he, and the villagers of course, went nuts," Hersh said quietly. "He was hysterical, totally hysterical. He went to the company captain, who said, 'No, you don't understand, that's a kill. We got 36 insurgents. Don't you read those stories when the Americans say we had a combat maneuver and 15 insurgents were killed?'"

These public claims have not been independently verified, nor appeared in print under Hersh's byline in the pages of his current employer, The New Yorker, which fact checks its writers, and as Hersh himself has admitted may be distorted to protect sources or for other reasons. [7] (


In January 2005, Hersh revealed that the USA was conducting covert operations in Iran to identify targets for possible strikes. This was dismissed by both US government as well as the Government of Iran. However, US government has not categorically denied that US troops have been on the ground in Iran. Hersh also claimed that Pakistan and USA have struck a "Khan-for-Iran" deal in which Washington will look the other way at Pakistan's nuclear transgressions and not demand handing over of its nuclear proliferator A Q Khan, in return for Islamabad's cooperation in neutralising Iran's nuclear plans. This was also denied by officials of the governments of the US and Pakistan.


Many of his most shocking "scoops" in recent years have come at public speaking events in recent years, rather than in print, though Hersh caused a small scandal regarding his credibility when he admitted in an interview with a New York Magazine writer, “I can’t fudge what I write. But I can certainly fudge what I say.” [8] (


  • Hersh, Seymour M. (2004). Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib. HarperCollins. ISBN 0060195916.
  • Hersh, Seymour M. (1998). The Dark Side of Camelot (Reprint). Back Bay Books. ISBN 0316360678.
  • Hersh, Seymour M. (1998). Against All Enemies: Gulf War Syndrome: The War Between America's Ailing Veterans and Their Government. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0345427483.
  • Hersh, Seymour M. (1991). The Samson Option: Israel's Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy. Random House. ISBN 0394570065.
  • Hersh, Seymour M. (1986). The Target Is Destroyed: What Really Happened to Flight 007 and What America Knew About It. Random House. ISBN 0394542614.
  • Hersh, Seymour M. (1983). The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0671447602. Excerpts from The Price of Power ( hosted by Third World Traveller
  • Hersh, Seymour M. (1972). Cover-up: the Army's secret investigation of the massacre at My Lai 4. Random House. ISBN 0394474600.
  • Hersh, Seymour M. (1970). My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and Its Aftermath. Random House. ISBN 0394437373.

See also

External links


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