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Seymour (Sy) Myron Hersh (born April 8, 1937) is a United Statesmarker Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist and author based in Washington, D.C.marker He is a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine on military and security matters.

His work first gained worldwide recognition in 1969 for exposing the My Lai Massacremarker and its cover-up during the Vietnam War, for which he received the 1970 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting. His 2004 reports on the US military's mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prisonmarker gained much attention.

Hersh received the 2004 George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting given annually by Long Island Universitymarker to honor contributions to journalistic integrity and investigative reporting. This was his fifth George Polk Award, the first one being a Special Award given to him in 1969.

In 2006 he reported on the US military's plans for Iranmarker, which allegedly called for the use of nuclear weapons against that country. In 2008 he reported on US covert action plans against Iran.

Early years

Hersh was born in Chicagomarker to Yiddish-speaking Lithuanian Jewish parents who emigrated to the US from Lithuaniamarker and Polandmarker and ran a dry-cleaning shop in the far west side neighborhood of Chicago, called Austin. After graduating from the University of Chicagomarker, Hersh 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 Dakotamarker. In 1963 he went on to become a Chicago and Washingtonmarker correspondent for the Associated Press. During the 1968 presidential election, he served as press secretary for the campaign of Senator Eugene McCarthy. Later that year, Hersh was hired as a reporter for the Washington Bureau of The New York Times, where he served from 1972 to 1975 and again in 1979. Hersh was also active in investigating the Central Intelligence Agency's Project Jennifermarker.

His 1983 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. In 1985, Hersh contributed to the PBS television documentary Buying the Bomb.

Selected stories

My Lai Massacre

On November 12, 1969, Hersh broke the story of the My Lai Massacremarker, in which hundreds of unarmed Vietnamese civilians were murdered by US soldiers in March 1968. The report prompted widespread condemnation around the world and reduced public support for the Vietnam War in the United States. The explosive news of the massacre fueled the outrage of the US peace movement, which demanded the withdrawal of US troops from Vietnammarker. Hersh wrote about the massacre and its cover-up in My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and Its Aftermath and Cover-up: The Army's Secret Investigation of the Massacre at My Lai 4.

Project Jennifer

In early 1974 Hersh had planned to publish a story on Project Jennifermarker, the code name for a CIA project to recover a sunken Soviet navy submarine from the floor of the Pacific Oceanmarker. Bill Kovach, The New York Times Washington, DCmarker bureau chief at the time, said in 2005 that the government offered a convincing argument to delay publication in early 1974—exposure at that time, while the project was ongoing, "would have caused an international incident." The NYT eventually published its account in 1975, after a story appeared in the Los Angeles Times, and included a five-paragraph explanation of the many twists and turns in the path to publication. It is unclear what, if any, action was taken by the Soviet Unionmarker after learning of the story.

KAL 007

In his 1986 book The Target is Destroyed (Random House), Hersh alleged that the Soviet shooting down of Korean Air Flight 007marker in September 1983 was due to a combination of Soviet incompetence and United States intelligence operations intended to confuse Soviet responses.

Later releases of government information confirmed that there was a PSYOPS campaign against the Soviet Union that had been in place from the first few months of the Reagan administration. This campaign included the largest US Pacific Fleet exercise ever held, in April to May 1983. The report states that the Soviets, "probably didn't know (KAL 007) was a civilian aircraft" and uses Hersh's book as a reference for the PSYOPS campaign.

Mordechai Vanunu and Robert Maxwell

In his 1991 book The Samson Option: Israel's Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy, Hersh wrote that Nicholas Davies, the foreign editor of The Daily Mirror, had tipped off the Israeli embassy in London about whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu. Vanunu had given information about Israel's nuclear weapons program first to the The Sunday Times and later to the Sunday Mirror. At the time, the Sunday Mirror and its sibling newspaper, the Daily Mirror were owned by media magnate Robert Maxwell who was alleged to have had contacts with Israel's intelligence services. According to Hersh, Davies had also worked for the Mossad. Vanunu was later lured by Mossad from London to Rome, kidnapped, returned to Israelmarker, and sentenced to 18 years in jail. Davies and Maxwell published an anti-Vanunu story that was claimed to be part of a disinformation campaign on behalf of the Israeli government.

Hersh repeated the allegations during a press conference held in London to publicize his book. No British newspaper would publish the allegations because of Maxwell's famed litigiousness. However, two British MPs raised the matter in the House of Commonsmarker, 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," although perhaps coincidentally, he sacked Nick Davies shortly thereafter.

Attack on pharmaceutical factory in Sudan

On August 20, 1998, Hersh strongly criticized the destruction of the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factorymarker, the largest pharmaceutical factory in Sudanmarker—providing about half the medicines produced in Sudan—by United States cruise missiles during Bill Clinton's presidency.


Hersh has written a series of articles for The New Yorker magazine detailing military and security matters surrounding the US-led invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraqmarker. In a 2004 article, he alleged that Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld circumvented the normal intelligence analysis function of the CIA in their quest to make the case for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Another article, Lunch with the Chairman, led Richard Perle, a subject of the article, to call Hersh the "closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist."

A March 7, 2007 article entitled, "The Redirection" described the recent shift in the George W. Bush administration's Iraq policy, the goal of which is to "contain" Iran. Hersh points out that, "a by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda."

In May 2004, Hersh published a series of articles which described the treatment of detainees by US military police at Abu Ghraib prisonmarker near Baghdadmarker, Iraqmarker. The articles included allegations that private military contractors contributed to prisoner mistreatment and that intelligence agencies such as the CIA ordered torture in order to break prisoners for interrogations. They also alleged that torture is a usual practice in other US-run prisons as well, e.g., in Bagram Theater Internment Facility and Guantanamo. In subsequent articles, Hersh claimed that the abuses were part of a secret interrogation program, known as "Copper Green". According to Hersh's sources, the program was expanded to Iraq with the direct approval of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, both in an attempt to deal with the growing insurgency there and as part of "Rumsfeld's long-standing desire to wrest control of America's clandestine and paramilitary operations from the C.I.A." Much of his material for these articles was based on the Army's own internal investigations.

Scott Ritter points out in his October 19, 2005 interview with Seymour Hersh that the US policy to remove Iraqi president Saddam Hussein from power started with US president George H. W. Bush in August 1990. Ritter concludes from public remarks by President Bush and Secretary of State James Baker that the Iraq sanctions would only be lifted when Hussein was removed from power. The justification for sanctions was disarmament. The CIA offered the opinion that containing Hussein for six months would result in the collapse of his regime. This policy resulted in the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

HERSH: One of the things about your book that's amazing is that it's not only about the Bush Administration, and if there are any villains in this book, they include Sandy Berger, who was Clinton's national security advisor, and Madeleine Albright.

Another thing that's breathtaking about this book is the amount of new stories and new information.
Scott describes in detail and with named sources, basically, a two or three-year run of the American government undercutting the inspection process.
In your view, during those years, '91 to'98, particularly the last three years, was the United States interested in disarming Iraq?

RITTER: Well, the fact of the matter is the United States was never interested in disarming Iraq.
The whole Security Council resolution that created the UN weapons inspections and called upon Iraq to disarm was focused on one thing and one thing only, and that is a vehicle for the maintenance of economic sanctions that were imposed in August 1990 linked to the liberation of Kuwait.
We liberated Kuwait, I participated in that conflict.
And one would think, therefore, the sanctions should be lifted.

The United States needed to find a vehicle to continue to contain Saddam because the CIA said all we have to do is wait six months and Saddam is going to collapse on his own volition.
That vehicle is sanctions.
They needed a justification; the justification was disarmament.
They drafted a Chapter 7 resolution of the United Nations Security Council calling for the disarmament of Iraq and saying in Paragraph 14 that if Iraq complies, sanctions will be lifted.
Within months of this resolution being passed--and the United States drafted and voted in favor of this resolution--within months, the President, George Herbert Walker Bush, and his Secretary of State, James Baker, are saying publicly, not privately, publicly that even if Iraq complies with its obligation to disarm, economic sanctions will be maintained until which time Saddam Hussein is removed from power.

That is proof positive that disarmament was only useful insofar as it contained through the maintenance of sanctions and facilitated regime change.
It was never about disarmament, it was never about getting rid of weapons of mass destruction.
It started with George Herbert Walker Bush, and it was a policy continued through eight years of the Clinton presidency, and then brought us to this current disastrous course of action under the current Bush Administration.


In January 2005, Hersh alleged that the US was conducting covert operations in Iranmarker to identify targets for possible strikes. This was dismissed by both the US government and the Government of Iran . Hersh also claimed that Pakistanmarker and the United States 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 Islamabadmarker's cooperation in neutralising Iran's nuclear plans. This was also denied by officials of the governments of the US and Pakistan.

In the April 17, 2006 issue of The New Yorker, Hersh reported on the Bush administration's purported plans for an air strike on Iran. Of particular note in his article is that a US nuclear first strike (possibly using the B61-11 bunker-buster nuclear weapon) is under consideration to eliminate underground Iranian uranium enrichment facilities. In response, President Bush cited Hersh's reportage as "wild speculation."

When, in October 2007, asked on presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's hawkish views on Iran, Hersh claimed that Jewish donations were the main reason for these:

While speaking at a journalism conference recently, Hersh claimed that after the Strait of Hormuzmarker incident, members of the Bush administration met in vice president Dick Cheney's office to consider methods of initiating a war with Iran. One idea considered was staging a false flag operation involving the use of Navy SEALs dressed as Iranian PT boaters who would engage in a firefight with US ships. This idea was shot down. This claim has not been verified.


In August 2006, in an article in The New Yorker, Hersh claimed that the White Housemarker gave the green light for Israel to plan and execute an attack on the mounting threat of Hezbollah in Lebanonmarker. Supposedly, communication between the Israelimarker government and the US administration about this came as early as two months in advance of the capture of two Israeli soldiers and the killing of eight others by Hezbollah prior to the Israel/Lebanon conflict in July 2006. The US administration has denied these claims.


Kennedy research

Hersh's 1997 book about John F. Kennedy, The Dark Side of Camelot, made a number of controversial assertions about the former president, including that he had had a "first marriage" to a woman named Durie Malcolm that was never terminated, that he had been a semi-regular narcotics user, that he had a close working relationship with mob boss Sam Giancana which supposedly included vote fraud in one or two crucial states in the 1960 presidential election. For many of these claims, Hersh relied only on hearsay collected decades after the event. In a Los Angeles Times review, Edward Jay Epstein cast doubt on these and other assertions, writing, "this book turns out to be, alas, more about the deficiencies of investigative journalism than about the deficiencies of John F. Kennedy." Responding to the book, historian and former Kennedy aide Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. called Hersh "the most gullible investigative reporter I've ever encountered."

Hersh repeatedly describes Kennedy as a playboy and implies that many journalists were aware of his "womanizing" but turned a blind eye. One of his key assertions on his theme can be disproven easily. The author identifies one Florence M. Kater as a "middle-aged housewife" who supposedly knew of Kennedy's womanizing during his 1960 presidential campaign. According to Hersh, this woman, who was allegedly the landlady of JFK's senatorial aide/love interest Pamela Turnure, decided in 1959 to break the news on this topic. Inexplicably, "in late 1958" (a year before she decided on this intervention) she "ambushed Kennedy leaving the new apartment [to which Turnure allegedly moved to escape Kater's eavesdropping] at three A.M. and took a photograph of the unhappy senator attempting to shield his face with a handkerchief."

Not only does Hersh fail to include the photograph in the book or cite any interviews with Kater, who died many years before he started the project, but the following attempt to locate the story in the media at the time is invalid: "Kater was not taken seriously by the national press corps, but she came close to attracting media attention. On May 14, 1960, just four days after Kennedy won the West Virginia primary, she approached him at a political rally at the University of Maryland carrying a placard with an enlarged snapshot of the early-morning scene outside Pamela Turnure's apartment. Kennedy ignored her, but a photograph of the encounter was published in the next afternoon's Washington Star, along with a brief story describing her as a heckler." (Hersh, The Dark Side of Camelot, p. 108). The microfilmed editions of May 14 to 16 of the newspaper known at the time as the Evening Star of Washington, DC do not contain such a photograph or brief story. Hersh could not have confused it with the Washington Post or Daily News because their microfilms do not contain any of the material in question either in their coverage of JFK's speech at the university's Cole Field Housemarker.

A month before the book's publication, newspapers, including USA Today, reported Hersh's announcement that he had removed from the galleys, at the last minute, a segment about legal documents allegedly containing JFK's signature. A paralegal named Lawrence Cusack had shared them with Hersh and encouraged the author to discuss them in the book. Shortly before Hersh's publicized announcement, federal investigators began probing Cusack's sale of the documents at auction. After The Dark Side of Camelot became a bestseller, Cusack was convicted by a federal jury in Manhattan of forging the documents and sentenced to a long prison term. The documents signed by "John F. Kennedy" included a provision, in 1960, for a trust fund to be set up for the institutionalized mother of Marilyn Monroe. In 1997 the Kennedy family denied Cusack's claim that his late father had been an attorney who had represented JFK in 1960.

Use of anonymous sources

Hersh, like most investigative journalists, makes frequent reference to anonymous sources in his reporting; some have criticized this usage, implying that some of these sources are unreliable or even made up. In a review of Hersh's book, Chain of Command,commentator Amir Taheri wrote, "As soon as he has made an assertion he cites a "source" to back it. In every case this is either an un-named former official or an unidentified secret document passed to Hersh in unknown circumstances... By my count Hersh has anonymous 'sources' inside 30 foreign governments and virtually every department of the U.S. government."

David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, maintains that he is aware of the identity of all of Hersh's unnamed sources, telling the Columbia Journalism Review that "I know every single source that is in his pieces.... Every 'retired intelligence officer,' every general with reason to know, and all those phrases that one has to use, alas, by necessity, I say, 'Who is it? What's his interest?' We talk it through."

In a response to an article in The New Yorker in which Hersh alleged that the U.S. government was planning a strike on Iranmarker, U.S.marker Defense Departmentmarker spokesman Brian Whitman said, "This reporter has a solid and well-earned reputation for making dramatic assertions based on thinly sourced, unverifiable anonymous sources."


Those who criticize Hersh's credibility especially point to allegations Hersh has made in public speeches and interviews, rather than in print. In an interview with New York magazine, Hersh made a distinction between the standards of strict factual accuracy for his print reporting and the leeway he allows himself in speeches, in which he may talk informally about stories still being worked on or blur information to protect his sources. "Sometimes I change events, dates, and places in a certain way to protect people... I can’t fudge what I write. But I can certainly fudge what I say."

Some of Hersh's speeches concerning the Iraq War have described violent incidents involving U.S. troops in Iraq. In July 2004, during the height of the Abu Ghraib scandal, he alleged that American troops sexually assaulted young boys:

In a subsequent interview with New York magazine, Hersh regretted that "I actually didn’t quite say what I wanted to say wasn’t that inaccurate, but it was misstated. The next thing I know, it was all over the blogs. And I just realized then, the power of—and so you have to try and be more careful." In his book, Chain of Command, he wrote that one of the witness statements he had read described the rape of a boy by a foreign contract interpreter at Abu Ghraib, during which a woman took pictures.



  • Hersh, Seymour M. (1968), Chemical and Biological Warfare: America's Hidden Arsenal, New York, New Yorkmarker: Bobbs-Merrill (US) and Londonmarker: MacGibbon & Kee (UK). ISBN 0-586-03295-9.
  • Hersh, Seymour M. (1970). My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and Its Aftermath. Random House. ISBN 0-394-43737-3.
  • Hersh, Seymour M. (1972). Cover-up: the Army's secret investigation of the massacre at My Lai 4. Random House. ISBN 0-394-47460-0.
  • Hersh, Seymour M. (1983). The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-44760-2. Excerpts from The Price of Power hosted by Third World Traveler
  • Hersh, Seymour M. (1986). The Target Is Destroyed: What Really Happened to Flight 007 and What America Knew About It. Random House. ISBN 0-394-54261-4.
  • Hersh, Seymour M. (1991). The Samson Option: Israel's Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy. Random House. ISBN 0-394-57006-5.
  • Hersh, Seymour M. (1997). The Dark Side of Camelot. Little, Brown & Company. ISBN 0-316-36067-8.
  • Hersh, Seymour M. (1998). Against All Enemies: Gulf War Syndrome: The War Between America's Ailing Veterans and Their Government. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-42748-3.
  • Hersh, Seymour M. (2004). Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-019591-6.


  • "Huge CIA Operation Reported in US against Antiwar Forces, Other Dissidents During Nixon Years" by Seymour Hersh, New York Times, December 22, 1974 — Hersh's article detailing CIA covert operations which eventually led to the formation of the Church Committee.


  • Hersh, Seymour M. (foreword) (2005) in Scott Ritter: Iraq Confidential: The Untold Story of the Intelligence Conspiracy to Undermine the UN and Overthrow Saddam Hussein (Hardcover), Nation Books, ISBN 1-56025-852-7

See also


External links

  • "Current State of Investigating Reporting", talk given at BU, May 19 2009
  • "Lunch with the Chairman" — Why was Richard Perle meeting with Adnan Khashoggi?, The New Yorker, March 17, 2003 issue
  • "Selective Intelligence" — Selective Intelligence, The New Yorker, May 12, 2003 issue
  • "The Stovepipe" — How conflicts between the Bush Administration and the intelligence community marred the reporting on Iraq’s weapons. The New Yorker, October 27, 2003 issue see stovepiping
  • "Torture at Abu Ghraib" — American soldiers brutalized Iraqis. How far up does the responsibility go?, The New Yorker, May 10, 2004 issue
  • "Chain of Command" — How the Department of Defense mishandled the disaster at Abu Ghraib, The New Yorker, May 17, 2004 issue
  • "The Gray Zone" — How a secret Pentagon program came to Abu Ghraib, The New Yorker, May 24, 2004 issue
  • "The Coming Wars" — What the Pentagon can now do in secret, The New Yorker, January 24, 2005 issue and the response by the Department of Defense
  • "Watergate Days", The New Yorker, June 13, 2005 issue
  • "Get Out the Vote" — Did Washington try to manipulate Iraq's Elections?, The New Yorker, July 25, 2005 issue
  • "Up in the Air" — Where is the Iraq war headed next?, The New Yorker, December 5, 2005 issue
  • "The Iran Plans" — Would President Bush go to war to stop Tehran from getting the bomb?, The New Yorker, April 17, 2006 issue
  • "Last Stand" — The military's dissent on Iran policy., The New Yorker, July 10 & 17 2006 issue
  • "Watching Lebanon" — Washington’s interests in Israel’s war., The New Yorker, August 21, 2006 issue
  • "The Next Act" — Is a damaged Administration less likely to attack Iran, or more?, The New Yorker, November 27, 2006 issue
  • "The Redirection" — Is the Administration’s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism?, The New Yorker, March 5, 2007 issue
  • "The General's Report" — How Antonio Taguba, who investigated the Abu Ghraib scandal, became one of its casualties, The New Yorker, June 25, 2007 issue
  • "Shifting Targets" — The Administration’s plan for Iran, The New Yorker, October 8, 2007 issue
  • "A Strike in the Dark" — What did Israel bomb in Syria?, The New Yorker, February 11, 2008 issue
  • "Preparing the Battlefield" — The Bush Administration steps up its secret moves against Iran, The New Yorker, July 7, 2008 issue
  • "Syria Calling" — The Obama Administration’s chance to engage in a Middle East peace, The New Yorker, April 6, 2009 issue
  • "Defending the Arsenal" — In an unstable Pakistan, can nuclear warheads be kept safe?, The New Yorker, November 16, 2009 issue

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