Saturday 11 February 2023

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist claims US blew up Nord Stream pipelines, White House vehemently denies sabotage accusations

 Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh penned a piece accusing the United States of purposely blowing up the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea. The White House quickly and vehemently denied the accusations of orchestrating a covert operation to sabotage the underwater gas pipelines.

In Hersh's 5,000-word report, the investigative journalist claims that in December 2021, President Joe Biden ordered National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan to work with the CIA to develop a black op to take out the Nord Stream pipelines. Hersh claims that President Biden saw the pipelines as a "vehicle for Vladimir Putin to weaponize natural gas for his political and territorial ambitions."

The report – which relies heavily on one anonymous source "with direct knowledge of the operational planning" – claims that the group of CIA operatives informed Sullivan's team in early 2022: "We have a way to blow up the pipelines."

The alleged plan was to detonate underwater explosives to destroy the Nord Stream pipelines. 

The Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 underwater pipelines were constructed to transport natural gas from Russia to Germany through the Baltic Sea. The pipelines are owned and operated by Nord Stream AG, the majority shareholder of which is the Russian state-owned energy behemoth Gazprom. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline – which reportedly cost $11 billion to build – was completed in 2021 but never went into operation.

As early as the spring of 2021, Russia began a massive buildup of military assets near the border of Ukraine.

On Jan. 26, 2022, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price told NPR, "I want to be very clear: if Russia invades Ukraine one way or another, Nord Stream 2 will not move forward. I'm not going to get into the specifics. We will work with Germany to ensure it does not move forward."

The next day, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland stated during a press conference, "I want to be clear with you today. If Russia invades Ukraine, one way or another, Nord Stream 2 will not move forward."

During a joint news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Feb. 7, President Biden proclaimed, "If Russia invades ... again, then there will be longer Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it."

On Feb. 23, Biden ordered his administration to impose sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG and its corporate officers. He declared, "These steps are another piece of our initial tranche of sanctions in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine. As I have made clear, we will not hesitate to take further steps if Russia continues to escalate."

The next day, Russia launched a military invasion of Ukraine.

Hersh said senior officials of the CIA determined that the Biden administration threatening to end the Nord Stream 2 pipeline meant that the operation "no longer could be considered a covert option because the President just announced that we knew how to do it."

The veteran journalist alleges, "The plan to blow up Nord Stream 1 and 2 was suddenly downgraded from a covert operation requiring that Congress be informed to one that was deemed as a highly classified intelligence operation with U.S. military support."

Hersh claims that the CIA enlisted the expertise of deep-sea divers from the U.S. Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center in Panama City, Florida. The diving center boasts the largest diving facility in the world, and trains military divers from all services – including explosive ordnance disposal officers.

Hersh writes, "Everyone involved understood the stakes. 'This is not kiddie stuff,' the source said. If the attack were traceable to the United States, 'It's an act of war.'"

Hersh claims that the U.S. carried out the pipeline attack by utilizing a NATO military exercise involving 16 NATO-allied and partner nations as cover. The report alleges that the U.S. secretly worked with the Norwegians to plant underwater explosives near the pipelines in June during the maritime military exercise known as Baltic Operations 22, or BALTOPS 22.

Hersh's single, unnamed source allegedly informed him, "On September 26, 2022, a Norwegian Navy P8 surveillance plane made a seemingly routine flight and dropped a sonar buoy. The signal spread underwater, initially to Nord Stream 2 and then on to Nord Stream 1. A few hours later, the high-powered C4 explosives were triggered and three of the four pipelines were put out of commission. Within a few minutes, pools of methane gas that remained in the shuttered pipelines could be seen spreading on the water's surface and the world learned that something irreversible had taken place."

In the summer of 2022, the CIA warned German authorities about a possible attack on gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea, according to a Spiegel report that cited unnamed sources.

Investigations by Swedish, Danish, and German authorities into the pipeline sabotage have not definitively named a culprit in the bombing.

Adrienne Watson, a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, said of Hersh's report, "This is utterly false and complete fiction." Spokespeople for the CIA and State Department also dismissed the accusations, according to Reuters.

Pentagon spokesman Marine Corps Lt. Col. Garron J. Garn told the New York Post, "The United States was not involved in the Nord Stream explosion."

Ned Price called the report "propaganda" and said it is "utter and complete nonsense and that should be rejected out of hand by anyone who is looking at it through an objective lens."

Hersh made a name for himself by exposing the My Lai massacre of South Vietnamese civilians by U.S. troops in 1968 and his 2004 report on the torture of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Hersh, 85, was a former reporter for the New York Times, Associated Press, and contributor to the New Yorker.

Hersh has faced controversy over his reporting in the past, especially for relying heavily on anonymous sources.

The Times U.K. notes, "Once hailed 'the greatest American investigative reporter,' Hersh's more recent stories have been called into question. These included articles about how the U.S. found Osama bin Laden and calling into question the use of chemical weapons on Syrian civilians by Syria’s regime, which were criticized for relying heavily on anonymous sources and lacking hard evidence."

Hersh wrote in a London Review of Books article that the official story of the operation that killed Osama bin Laden was "one big lie." Hersh claimed that the CIA was tipped off by Pakistani intelligence as to the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.

Then-White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Hersh's reporting was "riddled with inaccuracy and outright falsehoods."

Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell said, "I started reading the article last night, I got a third of the way through and I stopped, because every sentence I was reading was wrong. The source that Hersh talked to has no idea what he’s talking about."

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