Michael Hastings Death Prompts Lawsuit Against FBI

Michael Hastings, famed American journalist known for his vicious brand of national security investigation, was found dead about a month ago in a fiery Los Angeles car accident. He was 33 years old.

Hastings was probably most known for his piece in Rolling Stone, "The Runaway General," about four-star general Stanley McChrystal, who headed NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. The piece portrayed McChrystal as anti-administration, and ultimately led to his resignation.

Among growing concern over Hastings' secretive and potentially dangerous pursuit of a story against the FBI, his associates, Jason Leopold and Ryan Shapiro, filed a joint suit on Friday after the FBI failed to respond on time to a pair of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests filed regarding Hastings' death. The purpose of the legal action is to expedite pleas that have thus far been ignored by the FBI, when there should only be a 20-working day delay period required by law. 

Needless to say, there is a pretty strong argument to be made for the FBI to release the files. Why? Because of the Freedom of Information Act. Unless there is some massive national security issue, that’s really all there is to argue.

The story took another turn more recently. Just hours before his death, Hastings warned his colleagues over email that his next big investigative story would likely have the FBI investigating his known associates. One of these friends, Staff Sergeant Joseph Biggs, responded to the email by saying, “It alarmed me very much … 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 told KTLA News.

Shortly thereafter, Hastings was dead. This surveillance video shows his last seconds:


Hastings' untimely death also incited a response from anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, which claimed that Hastings made contact with their group attorney the night before his fatal car crash. Of course, this fact perpetuates the conspiracy theories that claim that Hastings sought protection from a potential government investigation. 

Today, there has still been little released about the night of Hastings' accident and if any investigation at all occurred in the days and weeks prior. Although the FBI has officially rejected reports that it was involved in a probe focused on Hastings, the journalist’s associates Leopold and Shapiro still demand their case and their FOIA request be pushed through.

"By suing the FBI for failure to comply with the Freedom of Information Act, [we] hope to obtain records pertaining both to the unusual circumstances of Michael Hastings' death and to the broader issue of FBI surveillance of journalists and other critics of American national security policy," Shapiro said.

In the trial to come, the Freedom of the Press Foundation stated that Leopold and Shapiro retained attorney Jeffrey Light, who has filed the motion for summary judgment to seek expedited processing of the federal complaint last week. 

Leopold concluded by saying, “Perhaps the FBI doesn't have any records … Regardless, I think Hastings would appreciate that Shapiro and I are trying to find out whether that is truly the case.”