04/16/07 "Rolling Stone" 04/02/07 -- -- - On May 29th, 1975, an aide to then-White House chief of staff Donald Rumsfeld sat down with a yellow legal pad and in careful longhand sketched out a list of possible responses to a damaging investigative report in The New York Times. "Problem," the aide wrote. "Unauthorized disclosure of classified national security information by Sy Hersh and the NYT." He then laid out five options, ranging from the most ominous (an FBI investigation of the newspaper and a grand jury indictment) to the least offensive ("Discuss informally with NYT" and "Do nothing"). Number three on the list, however, read, "Search warrant: to go after Hersh papers in his apt."
The note's author? A viper-mean Beltway apparatchik named Dick Cheney, who was making his name doing damage control for the Republican White House after the Watergate disaster. Coming so soon after Nixon was burned at the public stake for similar targeting of political enemies, the Cheney memo was proof that the next generation of GOP leaders had emerged from the Watergate scandal regretting only one thing: getting caught.
This year, an almost identical note in Cheney's same tight-looped, anal script appeared as a key piece of evidence in the trial of another powerful White House aide, Scooter Libby. The vice president's handwritten ruminations on how best to dispose of an Iraq War critic named Joe Wilson are an eerie reminder of how little has changed in America in the past three decades. Then as now, we have been dragged into a bloody massacre in the Third World, paying the bill for the operation with the souls and bodies of the next generation of our young people. It is the same old story, and many of the same people are once again in charge.
But some of the same people are on the other side, too. In the same week that Libby was convicted in a Washington courthouse, Seymour Hersh outlined the White House's secret plans for a possible invasion of Iran in The New Yorker. As amazing as it is that Cheney is still walking among us, a living link to our dark Nixonian past, it's even more amazing that Hersh is still the biggest pain in his ass, publishing accounts of conversations that seemingly only a person hiding in the veep's desk drawer would be privy to. "The access I have -- I'm inside," Hersh says proudly. "I'm there, even when he's talking to people in confidence."
America's pre-eminent investigative reporter of the last half-century, Hersh broke the story of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam and was on hand, nearly four decades later, when we found ourselves staring back at the same sick face in the mirror after Abu Ghraib. At age seventy, he clearly still loves his job. During a wide-ranging interview at his cramped Washington office, Hersh could scarcely sit still, bouncing around the room like a kindergartner to dig up old articles, passages from obscure books and papers buried in his multitudinous boxes of files. A hopeless information junkie, he is permanently aroused by the idea that corruption and invisible power are always waiting to be uncovered by the next phone call. Somewhere out there, They are still hiding the story from Us -- and that still pisses Hersh off.
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