Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Update: Hersh Walks Back “Cheney Death Squads” Story

I had previously reported veteran investigative reporter’s Seymour Hersh’s claim that high-ranking intelligence officers told him off the record that former VP Dick Cheney ran “assassination rings” out of his office.  The story was that Hersh expected some of these sources to speak on the record, even before Congress or the Dept. of Justice, now that administrations have changed. Now, Hersh is walking this story back, claiming that bloggers and other reporters have distorted what he said.  Thanks to commenters for pointing out this walk-back to me.

Cheney, by his own admission, is guilty of enough crimes (though he refuses to acknowledge that they were crimes) that I feel no need to add ficticious crimes to his record.  My apologies for passing on a story that could not be verified, although I did source it as a claim and not an established fact.  Hersh’s repudiation is in strong contrast to what it seemed he said earlier and I have no way to reconcile the two statements.


May 19, 2009 - Posted by | assassination


  1. When he first said these things it was in a discussion panel and he mentioned it in passing. There was no way to take what he said and distort it because you quoted whole sections of what he said verbatim.

    He said it was all going to be in his next book. Perhaps he’s just waiting to get it all down first.

    Comment by Steven Kippel | May 19, 2009

  2. Maybe, Steven. Or maybe his sources are now refusing to go on the record. It’s a strange development.

    Hersh is NOT known for making claims he can’t back up. He has deep sources in places others don’t–built up from years of practice. Hersh has broken more stories than most journalists still alive. He and Bill Moyers are almost the only ones who still believe in INVESTIGATIVE journalism as opposed to “he said vs. she said” stenography, plus commentary.

    So, I remain surprised at this walk-back development.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | May 19, 2009

  3. Mr. Hersh has certainly walked back other sensational accusations: re U.S. ambassador to Chile (big NYT retraction); Israel; JFK’s alleged first marriage; alleged Desert Storm massacres; U.S. soldiers allegedly raping women and children in Iraq, which he said he heard on tape, then said he didn’t.

    Shouldn’t he be much, much more certain about his public statements?

    Here’s part of an actual article from the Pakistani newspaper The Nation this week, based on Hersh comments:

    “Former prime minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on the orders of the special death squad formed by former US vice-president Dick Cheney, which had already killed the Lebanese Prime Minister Rafique Al Hariri and the army chief of that country.
    The squad was headed by General Stanley McChrystal, the newly-appointed commander of US army in Afghanistan. It was disclosed by reputed US journalist Seymour Hersh while talking to an Arab TV in an interview.
    Hersh said former US vice-president Cheney was the chief of the Joint Special Operation Command and he clear the way for the US by exterminating opponents through the unit and the CIA. General Stanley was the in-charge of the unit.
    Seymour also said that Rafiq Al Hariri and the Lebanese army chief were murdered for not safeguarding the US interests and refusing US setting up military bases in Lebanon. Ariel Sharon, the then prime minister of Israel, was also a key man in the plot.”

    We supposedly assassinated the beloved Benezir Bhutto!!! And Hariri! Talk about inflaming anti-Americanism in Pakistan and the Middle East. And a smear of General McChrystal too. Someone is spreading disinformation (maybe the Arab press — it would be interesting to see that transcript), and it’s very dangerous.

    Now it’s probably become fact via the internet. Next there will be books about these alleged assassinations.

    MWW, no one can fact-check this stuff, so don’t feel bad!

    Comment by K Gray | May 19, 2009

  4. There were Desert Storm massacres. One was caught on film. This was a big deal and led to several courts martial.

    I have met returning soldiers from Iraq who have talked about rapes. This should not surprise anyone. Happens with every army in every war. That’s why there are courts martial.

    I read that Pakistani article. Hersh denies every claiming that we assassinated Bhutto and some of the other claims in that article. I never heard him make such claims.

    What I cited him claiming that I was surprised he walked back, was that intelligence sources told him that Cheney ran assassination squads out of his office.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | May 20, 2009

  5. It sounds to me like some people are getting paranoid.

    Comment by Paul | May 20, 2009

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