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tv   Book Discussion on Seymour Hersh  CSPAN  February 8, 2014 7:33pm-8:52pm EST

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where there are no trials? >> is that continue after the war? >> it does continue after the war and it continues during the war, which is really something. but i think it does continue and there is a willingness among politicians that existed before the war to reconcile because people are willing to see this and we knew each other back then. but it brings together a new number of politicians who don't know about this washington code and i think that is where it exists. there are some examples of people who are around and willing. especially the republicans are
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come to washington after the civil war and they don't know besides. which i think does have an impact. >> are there other questions? [inaudible] >> all right. [applause] >> the book is available up to the register. i personally think you should go buy it. >> i'm happy to sign anything. thank you all for coming. i appreciate it. [applause] [inaudible conversations] >> oh, wonderful. [applause] >> booktv is on facebook. like us and in the with us and
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watch videos and get up-tdate information on events. >> next on booktv the life and career of seymour hersh. over his career he broke stories on u.s. government development of chemical and biological weapons. as well as the massacre in vietnam and watergate and messick spying and the abuse of prisoners in iraq. this is about one hour and 20 minutes. [applause] good evening. thank you all for being here today and tonight. it is my pleasure to be here with you on this cold wintry evening in new york city and i got a text message just before i
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got up here from barack obama who sends his regards. but somehow said something about a speech he had given somewhere and he is unable to make it tonight. we can never belie him elected officials. it's actually my pleasure to be back here in new york city as dana mentioned. i grew up in work for a number of years on staten island and we would always take the staten island ferry across the harbor. there was a big event and a big moment for us as we came in the city. this was always a city and it's great to be here in new york city, the world's greatest city and also great to be here and what i consider to be the new york public library come the world's greatest library. i'm sure that we would have a dispute on that from the labor congress in london, but i'm sticking with that. i'm also sticking with this. i think that it is wonderful
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that you join me here tonight here about the world's most investigative reporter. seymour hersh. i have seen a lot of friends out there and a lot of my former students and the rest of you i don't know but i suspect he may be here because you're part of the legion of fans and maybe some of you are enemies of seymour hersh who has a huge following of friends and enemies. a number of years ago the new yorker magazine where he worked for about a decade went over the million mark in circulation and the editor of the new yorker was asked how did you get to a million and he chuckled and said we had to not push them over the million mark. to thank you all for being here tonight. i also want to thank the new york public library for inviting me and deborah hirsch as well.
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dana sedona for interviewing and i've also spent much of my academic career at the new york public library. in 1985 i was working on my doctoral dissertation on the famous turn-of-the-century american investigative reporter named david phillips. phillips was a well-known muckraking journalist and wrote 27 novels. and we could read all of his 27 models. in the year 2004 and wrote a book on charles edward russell. and he was a 20th century muckraking journalist and very much part of that condition. he wrote steve after scoop in story after story and many of his stories at the pier and in magazines which you can find and the only place i could find those was right across the street at the new york public
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library. and then when i went to work with seymour hersh, i didn't think that i would really need to new york public library. he worked for the seven years for "the new york times" with a new yorker, easy to get access to and when he worked for "the new york times" for 1972 to 1979 he said there was a man named abe rosenthal was an american figure in american journalism and they died a couple of years ago his wife gave his papers and office memos and letters and many of the documents that he had compiled and gave them to the new york public library and so there is of the new york public library right off the street and they were wonderfully juicy memos and wonderful kinds of insights of things i found out about his relationship to
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"the new york times" is a right across the street at the new york public library. so it's a wonderful library and we were sitting up there with the archives and we were on this way and they are pavers were efficient and wonderful and i appreciate the efforts of "the new york times" and we actually hope to get back to that archive. lastly dana was a student of mine a bunch of years ago at the college of new law. and she was interested student and a grade a student. and i appreciated how she would always laugh at my jokes. and then she laughed that is your cue and so dana, thank you for introducing me.
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and let me just welcome c-span here tonight and so who is this man that i called this scoop artist. seymour hersh, seymour myron hersh born in 1937 in chicago. born to immigrant parents. his father owned a dry cleaner and have a dry cleaning business in chicago and his mother was a housekeeper and he went to public school in chicago in two years to community college and then went to the university of chicago law school and got a degree in history and then eventually started law school they did not get along and he bailed out of law school and less than a year. he is the man most people regard as the best investigative reporter in american history. he is a man who has won more awards and prizes than any other journalist. he is an icon and a hero.
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hundreds of american journalists and the darling of the political left and the man the political right loves to despise and demonizing the man who in 1969 revealed to us the massacre by american soldiers of 500 civilians in a small village in vietnam and he is the man who is often overlooked and he single-handedly manned a production of stockpiling of biological weapons. one of his early and wonderful achievements and as we will see some of his achievements have not held and some of them have actually kind of faded as conditions have changed. he is the man who in 1975 revealed to a nation that does central intelligence agency in
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direct violation of law was tapping the phone and opening the mail of american citizens think edward snowden, he was telling us about the ways of the american government and getting viciously attacked for it back in 1975 and today it is edward snowden getting all of the heat in 1975 in all of that went back to seymour hersh after coupon eia. the man whose 1983 book revealed the dark underside of the nixon administration and they will call the price of power. including under the nixon administration and with henry kissinger. in 1998 he showed us the darker side of john kennedy's white house in a book about the dark
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side of the white house and i'm blanking on the name. the dark side of camelot. a sorted view of the white house that we had not gone up to that point. he is the man who had finished and washed up over the hill at the age of 67 and he was viciously attacked for his book on john kennedy. everyone said that it is over for him and he's washed up and he will never do it again in 2004 he revealed to startle that american soldiers were torturing iraqi prisons. "newsweek" magazine called him the viagra of american journalism. and there he was not actually gave him this book, lots of
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great stuff in between as well. he had butted heads with every american president since lyndon johnson. sy hersh showed us otherwise. richard nixon said that otherwise. gerald ford said that they were not spying on american citizens and he showed us otherwise. ronald reagan's head of the central intelligence we threatened to throw her in jail for a book that he wrote about the downing of korean airliner by the soviet union. reagan backed off. dick cheney later to become vice president brenda brave into his house and have him thrown into jail because he was writing stories that the ford administration did not like about activities in america. george w. bush will refuse of
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taking gifts after world war i, needless to say the bush family never talk to seymour hersh again. george w. bush called him and abject liar. the obama administration, soon after obama was dead set call your man off and tell them to stop and he did not understand it he said there's something wrong with that man. undoubtably his state of the union speech tonight included so many names and that he cannot be trusted and he had a homerun with that story. either you love him or you hate
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him. that's over four decades he begins his work as a journalist in the late 1950s and early 1960s and he has been doing what is doing from lawyers than you can ever possibly imagine and he continues even today to be completely and totally indignant and angry which really substratum from so many other journalist. i hear one of the great stories about him, legion and legendary and is clearly one of the top individuals in american life and one biographers take a look at this we look at presidents and secretaries of state and supreme court justices and others and we need to look at journalists and as we look at them we need to look at seymour hersh, who has been the premier journalist in america for four decades. he's a great character. he breaks so many of the rules
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of ethics in journalism and probably where he did some of his stories and why he infuriates so many people. he makes so many people angry and i will tell you that in that sense he is infuriating to so many people because the way he goes about getting his story. on the other hand he is great in a different sense and he is heroic. fearless and going to places that no one else will go and other people had that story and knew that story and he decided that it was a story that had to be read and he went and got it and he wrote it and no one would write that the israelis had nuclear weapons and that they had refused to have international action of their weapons and he wrote that story he's a maverick in his outspoken and he is a progressive.
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so that is a bit of a snapshot of this guy and i thought i would try to do two things for us it came out in october raise hogs and the reason the hogs and the reason a number of important outcome of the loot with below link that asks for my isn't he the greatest american investigative journalists are there other rival of them did he cooperate in the writing of this by the business authorized book in what is it about seymour hersh that resonates today and where has he been for the past
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two years the only people to come up said i haven't for two years and where has he been. has he retired and we know that he is absolutely not. he has worked on a very good book right now with the cheney bush administration and he was just about to publish and thought he was the most to be finishing it and then somebody dropped in his lap a trove of docs indicates a covert intelligence activities that took place during the bush years that extended into the obama isn't so he had to keep going and he has now been working on that and he will be back and he will have been held. the other thing that i thought i could do besides answer those questions with this. one other question is the question of will we ever see the light of him again in the age of the internet and these little
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thin pieces of information and can we ever expect to someone again like this. the other thing that i thought i could do for you tonight is tell you a little bit about what is not in the book in one i have done to chase them. i have been on this book for probably about 10 years or so although my interest goes way back beyond that and i thought i could plug about my six years of muckraking journalist diehards. he becomes a famous international well-known person in 1969 in 1969 he is a freelance journalist and his phone number, by the way is publicly listed and he calls himself a clearing house individual on any story they can call him and you will get him and he will snarl.
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and then he will dismiss you. and so he gets a tip and the tip is simple that the united states government in fort benning, georgia, and the soldier has been accused of ordering are actually killing a number of billions in vietnam. and the story smells like it's true. he begins to make calls all over washington. no one can confirm it. and his name is in the name of latimer and he says that i'm coming out there and he drives out of salt lake city. he begins to talk to him and he loves. he says the guy, look, he is
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accused of killing 100 to 250 civilians. and it's only 100 and 11. how many generals in the army were fooled by this time and time again. and he gives the story confirmed. and it's one of the huge as military bases in the country. 140,000 acres to 100,000 people work there on a daily basis and he walks in to 100,000 acres and he says that i have to find william howard. it's like looking for a needle in a haystack is not breaking
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any laws, not yet. because of the telephone operators committees trying to get a telephone number for him there trying to look at the way it is located i may give up today but i'm going to find them and it's late at night and he is totally drunk and has been having drinks and finally one soldier says hey, and he finds
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them after 12 hours of searching and he gets together and he has an amazing likability to cuddle up to every toxin and i talk to people who who should by all rights have hated him and yet they talk to him and here he is, this guy from florida whose life and background is totally foreign and alien and suddenly he convinces him, let's go back to your apartment, they go out and they buy a couple of eggs may get a bottle of bourbon and they go to his girlfriend's apartment and they drink the bourbon and they get drunk together and she tells him them the story. in the story is horrible. basically american soldiers, he is accused of killing some but it's probably more in the 500 of the people that were killed, they simply rounded up the civilians and they put him heritage and they shot him and
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they killed him. and the young child crawled out and tried to run away and the worst was the atrocity of this very awful war. he was back to washington and he eventually writes it into books trying to cover up the massacre and he becomes an international hero and it makes the worldwide headlines all across the world and everyone knows can as well. and i have to tell you that i was 19 years old at this point in time. i was in a more college and i remember it but i don't think i connected with it and it was a little bit too distant for me. in 1974 i graduated from
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graduate school and got a masters degree in journalism and came back to reporting and i was a little bit more interest to in pursuing the world of journalism and you should know in 1974, that was a big year for americans. richard nixon resigned as president and it is the year that many people believe that he was toppled by two reporters from "the washington post" and all the presidents men, to separate them and bob woodward was very cooperative and i went to talk to him and i kept thinking that he really doesn't look like that at all. but bob was actually very helpful and very cooperative in the making of this book. and so since 1974 along with hundreds of others of my generation and my age and i have
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the sense that we could save the world and journalism was going to be the aggressive place where we can make wonderful things happen and of course we are looking for role models. the person i began to look at is seymour hersh. and he was a different kind of journalist. and i wasn't alone on my looking at him as the rock star of american journalism and investigative reporting. he told me that he came to a conference in new york city in the early 1970s and he said that the keynote speaker at this event was seymour hersh and he was like a rock star and everyone wanted to the lie cam. so we have this legendary status early and i began to get interest in him. that interest was piqued by the fact that in number of 19 of war
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he broke his story which some people think is the story of the decade. in that story was pretty simple and resonates even today. he found out that the american central intelligence agency the indirect violation of the law was actually opening the mail of american citizens and having their phones. they were allowed to do now but only in europe and the rest of the world. they had crossed over and infuriated even the fbi by doing it and hersh rounds out found out about this. ..
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we find out six months later that he not only had it right he underestimated the number of dossiers. the government was compiling thousands and thousands of dossiers on american citizens. their argument then was we are trying to find out about terrorists and then they argued we are trying to find out about communist so we are following them from europe to america and hersh breaks this very big story. i clearly remember that story. that certainly had my interest and then in 1975 he breaks another story, less important but much sexier and a terrific story. this story, here's the story. the soviet union had a submarine
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that was in the pacific ocean and something happened with the sub and it sank to the bottom of the pacific ocean and sad at the bottom of the ocean. soviet technology was not good enough to know where it was. they couldn't find it that our technology was good enough. we knew exactly where it was and we hatched this plot that we would send a huge troller. it would go out exactly where the submarine was and they actually built this huge troller with a special hole and it would pick up the submarine haul it up and we would have this great cold where coup. we would have the missiles, we would have the codes and a wonderful accomplishment. either way this accomplishment that failed cost us $300 million we go out and start to pick it up. the submarine breaks in half and drops to the bottom of the ocean. they have to go back and it's a failure and a toy in with doing it again. hersh hears about it and says
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enough is enough, i'm going to write the story. he writes the great explorer story. a little show and tell here. this story has been sitting around in my folders at home for 40 years. the cia salvage ship brought up soviet sob in 1968 failed to -- missiles. i had this sitting in my files for many years. in the same year 1975, hersh was becoming so famous for so many of his scoops. "rolling stone" magazine decides to do two-part interview with seymour hersh. inside is seymour hersh.
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the toughest reporter in america interviewed by joe esther harrah's -- esther house who later became a screenwriter. the toughest reporter in america. i clipped this and it was sitting around my file for many years. by the way the photos were that were done by andy liebowitz a famous photographer and the cover isn't andy liebowitz photograph taken that point of time when she was working not as well-known but working for "rolling stone" magazine and sent to take lectures of sy hersh. one of the pictures by the way and one of the photos is of sy hersh carrying a typewriter on the stairs with one of his children and his wife and as you will see when i describe trying to get hersh and his family to talk he was terribly upset when he knew that i was going to be using this photograph. i called him and i told them i had to photograph and i was going to use it.
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a great shot of you and your wife. you are not using that are you? it's in the book but there it was 35 or 40 years ago i began to look at sy hersh. i leave journalism in the late 1970s and i got to college 70 miles north in hudson valley new york. some of my students are here and they begin to teach journalism. in 1983 i got a call from sy hersh's agent. hersh had two careers one careers a journast among career as a lecturer and he wanted to come to the college in new polls. he was not a lecture tour. he was always broken when he is broke each gives talks. one of his talks with hopefully going to be at the college and he had to come up with $2000 to get him. he had just written a very big book on henry kissinger called kissinger in the nixon white house the price of power a
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vicious attack on his -- henry kissinger and probably prevented kissinger from becoming secretary of state again in the reagan administration which he very much wanted but when this book came out it was really over for kissinger. so the book was published but it had not yet came out and when it came out a become a bestseller. he did a thousand interviews for it so we booked him before the book comes out. the book comes out and he is as proud as a pistol and he comes to college in new paul in the fall of 1983 and i am his host when it comes to the college. i wanted to read to you one short section of the book that describes hersh's visit to the college and i think in some ways it captures hersh's personality. i first met sy hersh and the fall of 1985 when he was 40
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years old. i invited him to speak at my university a small college 70 miles from newark city near the hudson river right taught journalism for 30 years. my office was located in a remote part of the 257-acre campus and i hope hersh could find me. he was scheduled for an afternoon workshop for journalism students. he arrived 15 minutes before showtime. this is a tough place to find he said. i answered i figured if you could find calley at fort benning you could find my office. he shuffled his feet in a manner and looks away and said that was a long time ago. it happened 16 years ago since he tracked down an oratory is william calley. as he walked across campus i told him how my wife and investigative reporter worried so much each time she published. we all worried out there all alone. his book on kissinger was bringing protest from the former secretary of state and one minor participant in the plot line sued hersh for $50 million
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although it ultimately was resolved in hersh's favor. at the workshop after night could not get him to discuss journalistic techniques. instead he wanted to talk about the cia intelligence gathering richard nixon and kissinger. the reporter did to talk about reporting only what he had uncovered in the process. my goal was a great journalist was the issues form and function before the evening lecture the college president hosted a dinner at their home and invited vice president beans and local officials. a kid from chicago the son of immigrant parents a law school dropout and former crime reporter with the celebrity abutting celebrity is a call themselves in the pulitzer interview. one guest was a political science kesser who was a well-known personality and had a network of public public radio station said he ran from the state capitol in albany. hersh had a neighbor who he knew. he liked a man in chartran did not.
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they proceeded to argue about him over dinner. when he left the dinner her hrsa to me who is that little guy? i explained he is considerably influential pundit in new york's capital and hersh added more profanities. he seldom pulls punches i came to learn. he leaves enemies were very few goes from presence to to secretaries of state. nearly 750 pack the college's largest lecture hall hirsch had notes on three small cards tucked them in his pocket and he spoke without them fluently passionately assailing the moralities from vietnam to watergate. too many people in this university town hirsch was a hero and a plot it frequently. hersh more than earned his feet. when the evening talk was over and he answered many questions and received a standing ovation i escorted him to his car. he was staying in a dingy hotel courtesy of the college outside of new poll heading home the
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next day. i miss my family he said andy left campus referring to his wife elizabeth three children back in the nation's capital. i did not speak to sy hersh again for nearly 20 years as he produce five more books all controversial and two documentary films and dozens of articles in "the new yorker" magazine. i kept eyeing sy hersh. he was constantly in the headlines constantly anybody interested in investigative journalisjournalis m and muckraking journalism could miss by her straight in 1986 he made headlines in the near times and he looked at the times and left to write a book on henry kissinger. he still did some freelance stuff freelance work for "the new york times" and in 1986 do
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you remember the name manuel noriega? manuel noriega was the president of panama. he was sometimes called the panamanian thug of three presidential administrations. they had him on the payroll and he was supporting american policy but also running drugs, killing his opponents and america's ally. he first finds out about this and the rights in a page one story in the new york times. panama strongman said to. in drugs seymour hersh. i know i'm particularly searing and in saying i've got to do something about this guy because at the top of my thing is has hersh file. i was beginning to stuff the file with all sorts of stuff on seymour hersh. somebody has to do this guys were free at some point in time.
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in the year 2004 i wrote a biography of the now forgotten but once very famous american journalist charles edman russell russell didn't like seymour hersh and he was angry about the conditions. he had the story that was most realistic known as the muckraking journalists. i do his biography and i'm trying to figure out okay what comes next? of course what becomes to mind for me was sy hersh. charleston russell was dead. i could only find one person who knew him. when you write a biography about someone who is dead it's actually easier. you don't have to worry about offending them. you don't have to worry about making contact with them. you don't have to worry about where they are. you know where they are. on the other hand it's very
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frustrating because many times you run into situations and you just don't know what happened and you would love to pick up the phone and say mr. russell in 1906 when he wrote that article and threatened what happens? you don't have that luxury. you are stuck with his work and you are stuck with this memory, his memoirs and letters and you are stuck with the written record. when you work on a biography of someone who is alive there are these wonderful possibilities and real disadvantages. the wonderful possibility of course is that you can talk to the person and of the person talks to you than you can get him to turn over letters and get them to tell you exactly what happened the back story, the inside story. you have the possibility of his world opening up to you. on the other hand you run the risk of it being, of being accused of writing an authorized biography. i knew that seymour hersh would never admire anyone who wanted
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to write anything that is authorized. he never had anything authorized in his life. he never asked permission. reporters don't ask permissiopermissio n and is a bugger for i knew i could never win his respect if i had to ask his permission but i knew i had to try to see if i could possibly get him to talk. a couple of years walter isaacson wrote a good biography on the apple computer guru steve jobs. he sat down with jobs for a number of interviews when the book came out they said this is an authorized the. how can we really trust it? like you have to criticize the person you are writing out -- about and get their permission and does this water down the book collects i was wanting to talk to hersh but did suggests that this would be an authorized biography so i decided that i would have to call hersh and let
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him know what i intended to do. i talked to hundreds of people for this book and i knew that once i called the first person they would immediately call sy hersh and he would know i was writing a book. i wanted him to know about the book for me and not from somebody else. i said okay got to contact and a few no sy hersh in no when you call him you get a couple minutes in and he says you've got enough goodbye and he hangs up on you. i explained what i wanted to do and i hope he remembered me from our short time many years before it together. some of you probably don't know what that registered letter is that here's this registered letter that goes to him and i get a copy with his signature on it saying he received it. i write them a letter and a wait 10 days. that bat point they said let me write the red district letter and i will call. i weighed about two weeks and i
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call sy hersh. i picked up the phone. i said broad miraldi and i wrote your letter. yeah ian i got you the letter. i had to walk to the post office and i was sweating bullets. a great beginning. i then explained to him i would like to write your biography. you have an incredible body of work and we on the what you done and i'd like to do biography. silence and then he said i'm not dead. i said okay and away we go. i recovered quickly and i said the whole world knows you are not dead side and then he told me what he really thought about the possibility of someone writing his biography. very sy hersh he said until they are out of the white house, until we get bush and cheney there's no way i have time to sit down and talk about myself. in his words i'm not owing to --
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in public. i hate when people asked me what i think. my opinion means nothing. it's my facts facts, it's my story, it's my scoop. dozens of filmmakers have wanted to do my story. he said i've never cooperated and i will never cooperate. i'm simply not going to do it. he said i just wrote this big article in "the new yorker" and they spent the last week in his words the author going all over the country doing interviews and i've got to get back to work. i'm not going to sit down and talk to you are a long period of time many wish me luck very at i was at a stand off and i do know where stand off and i do know where it would stand off you nowhere with it although i was hoping at some point he might decide it was time to sit down perhaps talk and he would give me his time. that time never came by the way. i'm still waiting. we develop kind of an interesting relationship over time. first off when i needed to get information especially working on his early life over the years
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growing up with the associated press, he worked for the "associated press" in chicago and new york and a legendary place called the city news bureau in chicago and it was tough to find as much information that i needed for the early years but i called sy. he was helpful. he answered three or four and he would say you got enough, good eye and hang up very this one on for quite a while but it was helpful and useful. then we began to kind of e-mail over time. he would e-mail five minutes 10 minutes, one hour, two hours. i know there was a huge fbi nsa file on seymour hersh. the way the law is written right now until he is dead i can't request it. only he can get his file created so i called and i wrote and said sy or not you send me a file? not interested he said.
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don't give a -- in his words. at one point in time i was trying to track his parents, his mother and father in poland lithuania and immigrants who came through the port of austin. i was trying to track the family and trace him and i didn't have his mother's maiden name. when charles entered russell said what was your mother's name and with hersh i said what is your mother's maiden name? it's on the public record, you find it, kid. i didn't get too far on that one. when he wrote his book on henry kissinger it was a vicious attack on kissinger in major american public figure. kissinger only once responded to the book on ted koppel. that's the only time he commented never talked about
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what the problems were. when i went to the new york public library archives there was a 20 page memo from any kissinger detailing every single complaint and problem he had in the hersh book and it was a private memo but there was an archive. the only time i saw a specific response to sy end this cried out for sy to respond to the responded so i wrote to sy and told them i had it. i said do you want to see if? do you want to comment on it? his answer was, yesterday's news. frankly i'd kind of didn't need it. that is sort of the that is sort of the way it went in our conversations, short, short little responses. sometimes he would direct me to talk to this person or talk to that person and sometimes he was held -- helpful. it seems like i knew more about his work 30 years ago than he did.
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he's 74 years old right now but i was dredging up stuff from 30 or 40 years ago and sometimes they knew more than he did. at one point in time i heard a tape that told a fascinating story. the story with this. he had a housekeeper at his house and the housekeeper was taking care of his house and his children. a call comes to the house, telephone call with the foreign accented voice and the person tells the housekeeper where her three children were at that moment and then tells her exactly where sy's three children were at that point. it was a threat to sy and his family. he's very secret -- secretive about his family. he said this tonight talk to a group of investigative reporters and editors. i called him and they said were just trying to get more detail on this.
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sy said one of the thing in the talk. every morning for six months after he got that call he would get up and go to his car not knowing what would happen. he said i never talk about security stuff. i will never discuss that. i said i have a tape where you talk about it. he said you're kidding me? i talk about a? at times i was finding stuff that he didn't quite remember. in 1968 sy crossed over for a short time on the dark side and became a public relations person for eugene mccarthy. eugene mccarthy was a senator from minnesota in 1967 who decided to take on the president of the united states lyndon johnson who was increasingly unpopular with the vietnam war. he tried to unseat him and he needed a press secretary. sy hersh was out of work and he became his press secretary.
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he finally quit. he wanted mccarthy to go into the neighborhoods in milwaukee and more mccarthy said that's not my style. he wasn't good on race related issues so he quit and it was on page one of the new york times. i didn't know how i would re-create this tumultuous three-month period areas hersh has been accused of three things over the years. one is he use too many anonymous sources number two he's a lefty and number three he is not reliable. he's not reliable because he worked for eugene mccarthy. we all know what the politics are. this is an important chapter and it turns out the university of minnesota which has the mccarthy papers right after the mccarthy campaign ended are the oral histories. everybody who worked for eugene mccarthy. there was a two-hour oral
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history interview with seymour hersh about what to place during that time. hersh is working for eugene mccarthy and he is needing money to do some mailing for a campaign. it's hersh, this big-money fat cat mccarthy and paul newman the act or who was actually a supporter of eugene mccarthy and was on the campaign trail with him. hirsch asked for money and the fat-cats had no i'm not giving you any more money. they start to yell and they get closer and closer. they are about to have a big fistfight and paul newman has to jump up and tackled him to the ground. there is paul newman separating hersh from this fat cat guy. i tell him about this archive and i said i gave an interview like that? my god i have a big mouth. i was beginning to find very
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often i knew stuff that sy didn't know or even remember from his time in many years of journalism. so it lands the biggest he had was over access to his family. sy had two older sisters and a twin brother. as everyone said to me if you really want to know about sy hersh you have to get to his twin brother alan who had never given interviews about sy. i called alan in northern california. my wife and i were scheduled to fly to california and i was going to do a couple of interviews on the hersh project with his brother. we had set up to date and then sy intervened and he began to growl. the biggest growl was who gives a dam about what i was like when i wore short pants and chicago? beyond that he said he hasn't been involved in my work. why should you talk to my brother?
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i don't think sy believe that but i wanted to understand and know what motivated sy in the in 50 double investigator and it would be great to know about the childhood ingrates know what the parents and great to know about the household. one person who would clearly do that for me would be his brother alan alan. we go around and around and i was never able to interview his brother alan. he has a twin sister who lives nearby in northern new jersey. she very much wanted to talk to me and she wanted to talk about her parents and talk about sy. sy intervened in that interview never happened. i wrote a letter to his wife although i was quite clear that i would never be able to talk to his wife. he told me early on, that ain't going to happen but it would have been wonderful to talk to his wife. i can't imagine the kinds of things that it would have added. elizabeth, mary to the same
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woman for many years had very dutiful family man. he met her in chicago. she decided to go to medical school. he was working in washington to move the family to new york where he worked for "the new york times" and she went to medical school in manhattan. i knew she would a wonderful. elizabeth tommy what was it like in 1969 after he wrote the eli massacre story and he would call you consistently at 3:00 in the morning and threatened to cut off her husband's private parts? what was it like to live with this guy who would get up at 5:00 in the morning and beyond the phone by 6:00 with the united states senator. john stennis a powerful democrat in the united states senate said sy would call me at 6:00 in the morning. we would talk for an hour before they go to work.
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this guy who would start his day at 6:00 in the morning and 11:00 at night in the newsroom at the washington bureau of "the new york times" surrounded by obscure government people with the phone still crept in his neck. what was it like to live with this obsessed guy? the other thing i would have liked to have asked her speaking of threats and this was an important time in new york. 1978 in 1979 after seven years working for "the new york times." he does to major projects when he comes to "the new york times." one is on the owner of the paramount and the new york knicks and the rangers. the other investigation he does is on a guy named sidney korsak. most people don't know about him and didn't know who he was but you shouldn't look as vito
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corleone as the godfather. you should look at sidney korsak. he was a mob lawyer a union lawyer hollywood lawyer, a big powerful guy who knew how to make things happen for his clients. sy begins to tackle mr. korsak. of course he wants to talk to korsak. let me read one quick segment of the book. seymour hersh was in los angeles and he simply picked up the phone and called korsak. korsak took the call. mr. korsak i'm here he said. i want to see you. korsak said i won't see you. adding mr. hurst let me ask you a question. i will never forget this as long as i live very korsak said what he is doing? you are an expert en masse
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murder. you write about crime and people are dead in their bodies all over. why are you writing about me? you write about murder. why are you interested in me? go back to your mass murders, go back to the blood and the killing. not about me. hersh remembered it vividly and korsak kept talking about murdering and blood and never said a word. the whole context was murder blooded murder. it set me on edge and it was pretty chilling. i would have liked to have asken that happened? sy was in new york cooking hamburgers for his kids one afternoon when he got a phonecall and the person on the phone said sy get out of your apartment, get out of your house, go to a phone. i can trust your phone. he goes to the phonebooth and called the guy and the guy says somebody from "the new york times" has leaked to korsak's
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people all of your phone records and all of the bills you have been submitting to the times. they know everybody you are talking and every phonecall you are making. i would have liked to have known what was it like to live with this guy? you would think the wife might have said stop sy, stop. i never spoke to his wife. finally i went to washington d.c. and schedule an interview with bob woodward who was very cooperative and very pleasant and very useful. he and sy hersh had been friendly rivals for 40 years. they both would jockey over who is the greatest investigative reporter and history. that is an interesting debate for many years. while i was in washington i said this guy is showing up at the door and i kept showing up at
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the door and one day there he was. we spent a couple of hours and he was very pleasant. he wouldn't talk about himself. you want to talk about foreign policy in the state of journal journal -- journalism that would not talk about sy hersh. my job is not going to sit down for any period of time to talk about myself. it's not about me. it's about what i write about. i'm not the person you should be focusing on. there he was stuck to his guns and never really sat down for a long. of time to help with this work in putting the book together. our last conversation gets us to one of the questions that began with. our last conversation was about
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what is up to today. the question about what he is up to today. he's working on very big book on cheney, george bush and barack obama over intelligence policies. he was very close to writing the book that someone dropped the documents in his lap. it is now gone from not just the push of administration. the book has gone from being about bush to now being about obama and i suspect very soon we will see headlines and see sy hersh going across the country giving his latest exposé about the bush obama foreign policy. what does hersh think about the revelations of the leaking of material by snowden? he says the recipients of leaks like this, if anyone knows what it's like to be friends with and have secret sources of
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information with sy hersh one of the great criticisms if you read a sy hersh story you don't really know who is talking. there are a lot of unnamed people but he said about snowdei have to tell you he has changed the nature of the discussion today. sy hersh has changed the nature of discussion in america for many years. the key right now is on snowden and the heat has been on hersh for many years. when he wrote about the cia in 1975 and launched three investigations using assassination as a technique of foreign policy. he has brought about more changes in american life. it altered the course of vietnam more, tremendously important
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public opinion turning point in the vietnam more. he has been a major important figure for many years. which leads me to what it is about sy hersh's book that resumes -- resonates today. in 1968 he was one of the first people to be writing about chemical biological weapons warning us that these are incredibly potent secret weapons that we simply have taken for granted. he also pointed out that america made a change in policy and instead of saying we would respond with chemical biological weapons have attacked americans said we will use them as a weapon. he got america that point in time of course to ban the use of biological weapons. not too long ago in syria 2500
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people were killed with the gas attacks of the issue of chemical weapons is an important one today. sy talk about that story many years ago. what resonates mostly today is about the power of the press or the at least the potential power of the press. he has been responsible for kicking up some of the greatest stories of reforms in american life. when woodward and bernstein for example came out with that watergate story in 1973 nixon would have gone on to continue to be president. "the new york times" for seymour hersh to get into the story. he not only caught it but wrote stories that woodward said without sy hersh we would have been able to continue with our watergate investigation. woodward said that hersh was like a marine. he's the first one on the each.
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he takes a heavy hit. he goes after him and we all follow sy hersh. he gave us the best unvarnished look at the bush administration after the 9/11 attacks. after his book on john kennedy hersh was considered to be washed up and his life considered to be over. he got to work a little bit on committees and then the 9/11 attacks happened. he was backing his car out of his driveway in washington d.c.. he said sy we know what you will be doing for the next year. you will be working on the bush push of administration and the middle east and he then gave us over a four-year period the best luck apple was taking place in the middle east that you can find anywhere at all. hersh has been for many years what a journal is should he, a
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pariah at a gadfly constantly indignant and independent source of information someone who gets below the surface behind closed doors and tells us what things are really like. that is why you spend so controversial and revered and reviled. a funny story there was a protest in london and a little girl at a protest holding a sign in the sign said protect seymour hersh the last -- journalist in the world. is he that greatest american investigative reporter? those people who believe it's bob woodward and does the leave its seymour hersh. i think it's actually an apples and orange comparison because woodward tells us inside stories from the top. he tells us what the people at the top are thinking and doing
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and have done. her says that's fine and dandy and it's useful. the problem is they don't tell us the truth. he said he told us to woodward and from hersh's point of view those are the people who really would tell us what happens. in some ways it's mr. insider versus mr. outsider and i don't think that will ever change. will we ever see the likes of a seymour hersh again? i am optimistic about the state of american journalism although there are tremendous changes in journalism. circulations have plummeted in advertising resources of plummeted. there's this whole world of investigative reporting. hersh was just one of many. the question is from my point of view will anyone ever do what seymour hersh has done?
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no one will ever produce the range of scoop. i can't see anyone being as indignant or angry or in fatigue of all as sy has been for 40 years. he still continues to have anger at the conditions he sees. one more closing segment. in some ways it typifies sy hersh. anger at is what fuels hersh. he is as one says a man on fire. his morality or immorality is never part of the debate. it's not even on the pages. hersh is unabashed in describing what he thinks is the job of a reporter. if you follow the career this book bears his work.
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i've been at it for 40 years he says that i still consider myself a newspaper man. that's my soul. it's such an important business you have to hold the people at the highest possible standards. those people have the right when our sons and daughters die in the name of democracy. the same things that are so valuable in our personal lives and their family lives we don't want to lie. we want to trust in that relationship. it's the business that gives the chance to the average person and anybody gives them a chance to hold to the highest standards but your finger in their eyes. i have been chasing sy hersh for 25 or 30 years and intensely for the last six years and actually it's been a great thing for me in the last six years. he is a man who is one of the greatest figures in american life in a typical person, has
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many enemies and probably has many flaws but this is a man who was told us more about the realities of america than any american journalist ever in american history. i was reading comments this morning from bruce springsteen. peet pete's 90th birthday in madison square garden springsteen said he called pete a living archive american music a testament to the power of song and culture and his ability to touch history along. i thought about sy hersh and i wanted to substitute in that sentence by hersh is a living archive of american journalism and conscience a testament to the power of the facts exposé and the ability of journalism to nudge history along. chasing sy hersh has been a great way to spend the last six
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years of my life and i thank you all for joining me tonight to hear about this wonderful journalist. [applause] >> we are going to open up for questions. >> thanks very much for your talk. and it's a great look. i just want to get clear on this i am 53 so i just barely remember 58 and 59 although i do remember it was discussed in school during cali's trial. we were just little kids. was that the times that published the story? >> it's interesting sy was a
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freelance journalist. no one wanted that story. look magazine and "life" magazine turned it down. the "washington post" would not run it. nobody would run that story. they were able to syndicate to the number of initially 35 newspapers and when these 35 newspapers published hersh's freelance piece everybody suddenly got on board and it wasn't until 60 minutes back, hersh brought one of the soldiers in the massacre and put them on the air and when that appeared in "life" magazine published a photograph of the massacre the story took off but no one wanted the story. edward cali had never been prosecuted. the story was -- >> i asked the question was a possible lose never would have known about eli and it's more likely it will would take 10, 15
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or 20 is to know about eli. they would have quietly prosecuted caliente would have led to a lesser offense and gone off and never talked about it and it would have been 10 years before some historian dug up the story. what we know about the war and how it changed the course of the war might've been different. the story would have come out that it might not come out in that point in time. there were other journalists who knew of the atrocities and there was something about sy in his make make up that made them pursue the story when others would not. he went into dangerous zones. he wrote the story and very few people were happy. it either didn't happen and he lied about it and even if it happened they shouldn't have written it. he was wickedly and fiercely attacked. he was attacked in the 40 years of his career. >> hey. this is more of a general
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question about the journalism business these days and if you think about the threats against journalists are more substantial than it used to be legally and also weighed from executive secrets and legal process against whistleblowers and in some cases hypothetical physical pressures and threats from the government and higher-ups against journalism. >> eight think the thread in journalism today is a real issue and problem today. journalists have rapidly change because of the internet and the real problem with the investigative reporter is finding the time in and the money to do their work. many publications have simply cut back and that's more problematic. i am not sure there anymore threats in terms of sources or legal aspects. lawsuits are kind of down
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against journalists so my sense is the real threat is to continue to be able to have the money and resources to do the job in journalism. an investigator -- investigative journalist will take three to six months to write one story and that's very expensive. here's a breath of fresh air and organization called propublica funded by non-profits. it's also exciting in the tremendous possibility of unlimited space. you now have lots of space on narrative journalism. i think the real threat to journalists is less externally although i do worry. in some ways in my mind there's a real threat to democracy and that you don't have independent journalism and you don't have independent investigative reporting than what do we have? we have a clip koch brothers
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spending $400 million in this election. you need a corrective for that. the amount of money that is being spent is very worrisome and very dangerous. see if i remember correctly and tell me if i'm wrong but in march of either 2002 or 2003 hersh exposed the forged letter in the yellowcake uranium story in "the new yorker" in march in the story went nowhere and tell about june until it became a scandal and everyone now spit it out. what it takes a long? can you talk about that? >> i'm not so sure remember the specifics of that story and why it took so long. obviously it became a bigger issue when ambassador wilson was accused and his wife was outed but i don't remember the details on the story. sorry i can't help you with that one.
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>> you mentioned a letter from dr. kissinger. >> actually a 20 page memo. [inaudible] >> the book does detail and i give him space and tried to get kissinger to talk and he would not in his people would not. i did have the memo. there was some validity to some of the things he said that there were so many things he didn't respond to so i wasn't particularly convinced of what he was really trying to do. that was a memo to rosenthal the editor of "the new york times" that "the new york times" did give him tremendous space when his book came out on page one of "the new york times." an op-ed columnist was writing about it according to hersh. this was a memo trying to provide enough evidence to
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rosenthal and what he said to rosenthal was literally you should look at the facts and hear some of that vaccination stopped writing about it in the book. there's one more funny and treated i was not convinced. i didn't find the facts convincing. one of the people in the kissinger book sued seymour hersh and i went to trial in a federal court in chicago. when the trial took place henry kissinger had to testify only the second time he has ever testified publicly in a courtroom. the other time had something to do with his wife with regard to an unrelated issue. kissinger had to take the stand. kissinger has to take the stand and the first thing he says in that wonderful german accent of his is i really would have preferred to never see this man again for the rest of my life. but here i am.
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hersh actually won that lawsuit. >> hi. can you tell us and correct me if i am wrong but i think seymour hersh said a year ago that -- do you have any information on that? >> did not exactly say it was fake. he said it was overly trumped up by the obama administration and there's a lot that we don't know about exactly what happened. that came in the context of the speech you is giving about obama and i know that this will be a chapter or something like it in the book that's going to come out. he actually went back on that. he certainly didn't say what happened there was fake trait he simply said that it was trumped up and it played into something beyond what he thought it was. hersh gets himself in trouble all the time.
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he is very careful, very cautious and conservative when he writes but when he gets in front of a microphone he says me and my big mouth. he sticks his foot in his mouth a lot and trouble when he gives speeches. in 1985 we paid them $2000 and now he gets $25,000. >> hi there. you mentioned that the current trend in journalism is investigative journalism and it's its drying up and things like that. i am wonder if you are for me with was the work of james o'keefe is somewhat more entrepreneurial young journalist and do you see any heir apparent in another seymour hersh out there? >> to say that sy is the only great st


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