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Friend on Michael Hasting’s death: “Something doesn’t add up”

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An email published on Friday raises new questions into the death of journalist Michael Hastings (Photo: KTLA)

Late journalist Michael Hastings was working on a story about the CIA before his death from a fiery car crash in Los Angeles last week, according to a close friend.

U.S. Air Force veteran Joseph Biggs, 29, said he received an email from Hastings late Monday morning, hours before the journalist would be killed in a car accident.

Biggs has been in touch with Hastings off and on since the two met in 2008. Hastings was embedded to a U.S. Air Force unit along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Biggs was assigned to that unit.

“We both immediately clicked,” Biggs said in a Facebook chat on Saturday. The two kept in touch after Hastings moved on to other assignments. “He was interested in me. We had regular normal conversations about women and work.”

Occasionally, Hastings would tell Biggs about his news assignments as they were developing. Biggs said Hastings would sometimes “blind carbon copy” him on emails sent to his newsroom colleagues.

Joseph Biggs (center, holding weapon) is seen in an undated photo taken in Khost Province, Afghanistan. (Photo: Facebook)
Joseph Biggs (center, holding weapon) is seen in an undated photo taken in Khost Province, Afghanistan. Journalist Michael Hastings met Biggs in Afghanistan while on assignment with the U.S. military in 2008. (Photo: Facebook)

“I could tell when he was just talking to them or looking for me to speak up,” Biggs said. “He felt safe talking to me because I wasn’t caught up in the every day shit he (was). It was a release. Someone to just talk to.”

Hastings’ final contact with Biggs would come in one such email. On Monday, Hastings sent an message to three colleagues at BuzzFeed: President Jon Steinberg, CEO Jonah Peretti and Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith. In the message, Hastings expressed concern that his “close friends and associates” were being interviewed by federal authorities. He encouraged Steinberg, Peretti and Smith to “immediately request legal counsel before any conversations or interviews about our news-gathering practices or related journalism issues.”

Hastings concluded the email by saying he was onto a big story, and need to go off the radar for a bit.” Biggs said on Saturday that Hastings “was working on a story covering the CIA.” Other reports indicate Hastings may have been working on a story involving a privacy lawsuit filed by activist Jill Kelley against two government agencies.

In any case, the email adds fuel to conspiracy theories surrounding the journalist’s death. Biggs didn’t offer any theories when asked, but did say that something “doesn’t add up.”

“(Hastings) said that the FBI and NSA (were) looking into him and now he’s dead, in one car accident, where the body is burnt so bad,” Biggs said. “Someone knew he knew something and was scared the truth would be told.”

The FBI said it never investigated Hastings. The Los Angeles Police Department said while the accident is still under investigation, it appears there was no foul play involved.

Biggs is now committed to raising awareness on the journalist’s death. Biggs answered questions posed on Twitter and encouraged his Facebook friends to share recent media reports on the car crash that killed Hastings.

“People need to hear about this,” Biggs wrote on his Facebook wall in a message to friends. “The best defense is knowledge…don’t let a good man die for nothing and his memory swept away.”

Among his notable work, Hastings’ 2011 profile of U.S. General Stanley McCrystal in Rolling Stone led to the commander’s recall from Afghanistan and subsequent resignation. He interviewed Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and covered Occupy Wall Street before he was hired by the social content website BuzzFeed in 2012.

His death, announced by BuzzFeed on Tuesday, shocked and saddened his colleagues, many of whom gave micro-eulogies on social media. The Los Angeles County Coroner confirmed Hastings’ death on Thursday. Official accident and toxicology reports are expected to be released within the next few weeks.

KTLA: Hastings Sent Colleagues E-mail Hours Before Crash

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).