OSINT picks holes in Seymour Hersh’s Nord Stream claims
Open-source analysts argue that the journalist's theory doesn't add up
Since he published an explosive Substack piece earlier this month, arguing — in great detail — how the United States was responsible for the sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipeline between Russia and Germany last year, the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has received both enthusiastic support and dismissal. The White House responded quickly to label Hersh’s claims ‘utterly false and complete fiction’, an assessment which the CIA and State Department echoed. Russian state representatives have, unsurprisingly, been more open to the theory. Indeed, the State Duma today proposed an urgent UN investigation into the attack based on the article.
Where some rebuttals of the Substack post have used as their reasoning Hersh’s supposed history of conspiracism, as well as his reliance on anonymous sources, more substantial and evidence-based criticisms have now emerged, based on the use of open-source intelligence, or OSINT.
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One such response was published, also on Substack, by Denmark-based OSINT analyst Oliver Alexander at the end of last week. While insisting that he makes no accusations himself as to who was responsible for the pipeline explosion under the Baltic Sea, Alexander writes that Hersh’s account has ‘massive glaring holes’, such as the suggestion that the NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, ‘had cooperated with the American intelligence community since the Vietnam War’. Stoltenberg had, as it happened, just turned 16 when the conflict ended.
Alexander also takes issue with Hersh’s implication that the pipeline explosions took place in close proximity to one another, when really there was 80 km between the Nord Stream 1 blasts and the area targeted along Nord Stream 2. What’s more, Hersh’s claim that the Biden administration colluded with the Norwegian Navy doesn’t stand up to scrutiny either, given the ‘exceptionally high level of secrecy for this operation’.
Hersh argues that the Nord Stream attack was executed on 26th September 2022 when a Norwegian aircraft dropped a sonobuoy (a ‘sonar buoy’) to trigger detonators allegedly earlier planted by a team of US Navy divers during the NATO BALTOPS 22 exercise in June of that year. But the Alta ship which, in a filmed interview earlier this week, Hersh says carried out the mission last actively moved under its own power — as opposed to being towed — over a decade ago.
In Alexander’s words, ‘if we argue that Hersh misspoke and means one of the other ships in the Alta or similar Oksøy class, we need to also look at those’. Yet the analyst’s data shows that all of these possible alternatives were accounted for at the time of the operation. His post builds on an earlier Twitter thread, posted by OSINT journalist Joe Galvin, which displays vessel tracking data to explain how Hersh’s account is inaccurate. For Galvin, the suggested involvement of Norwegian P-8 Poseidon aircraft is contradicted by open-source analysis of the area on the day of the sabotage, while the minesweepers cited by Hersh were apparently not present in the vicinity of the pipeline at the time of the BALTOPS mission in June.
After Western leaders were quick to point the finger of blame at the Kremlin, in December American and EU officials conceded there was no conclusive evidence that Russia was the Nord Stream culprit. Hersh has claimed both in his Substack piece and in subsequent interviews that, besides American and Norwegian involvement, Sweden and Denmark were partially briefed about the sabotage in advance. The Norwegians, in his view, are ‘anxious to increase the amount of natural gas they can sell to Western Europe and Germany’. As with the US, they were also, he claims, motivated by an animosity towards Russia. Speaking to New Left Review about the establishment media’s reluctance to cover his story, Hersh said:
Oliver Alexander, in his Substack post, had another explanation for the suspicion directed at a writer he elsewhere labels ‘a liar at best or a Kremlin asset at worst’:
From Wikipedia: “My Lai was first revealed to the American public on November 13, 1969—almost two years after the incident—when Hersh published a story through the Dispatch News Service. The article threatened to undermine the U.S. war effort and severely damage the Nixon presidency. Inside the White House, officials privately discussed how to contain the scandal. On November 21, National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger emphasized that the White House needed to develop a “game plan”, to establish a “press policy”, and maintain a “unified line” in its public response to the incident. The White House established a “My Lai Task Force” whose mission was to “figure out how best to control the problem”, to make sure that administration officials “all don’t go in different directions” when discussing the incident, and to “engage in dirty tricks”. These included discrediting key witnesses and questioning Hersh’s motives for releasing the story. What soon followed was a public relations offensive by the administration designed to shape how My Lai would be portrayed in the press and understood among the American public.”
Same old strategy. He got some details wrong, so now we must consider the whole story discredited!
He didn’t get “some” details wrong, he got the most important details of his theory wrong in that the ships and planes he says were used to destroy the pipeline weren’t in the area. Therefore I think it’s reasonable to suggest he may be mistaken in this instance
I thought the most important detail was that the US ordered it, not what ship they used or what they had for breakfast. This reasoning reminds me of OJ getting off because the gloves didn’t fit. And I’m sure the US will leave no stone unturned trying to find the real culprits – just like OJ.
However I’ve not seen any real proof the US did order it. They may well have done, it is in their interests after all, but to me it’s just speculation. Until somebody shows me proof that isn’t immediately debunked then it’s just a theory
Well it was theory enough to make msm today, check out the comments section, consensus is, America did it. We need to rethink our ‘special relationship.’
The bit in that article about truss – sounds like someone made it look like it was us?
A blatant and facile conflation of the premises with the conclusion.
The name of the ship is not a ‘premise’ of an argument, its simply a detail. Could the witness have got the name wrong? Or could the records showing the ships were not there have been altered? Certainly not beyond the capability of the main suspects. Like supporters of OJ – you simply like the US position more than you dislike the crime. So rather than pick at their story, you prefer to pick at anyone who challenges their story. Blatant and facile indeed.
What made Hersh believable about My Lai was the publication of photographs of the dead in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Nov 20, 1969 by a guy who was there. Without those, Hersh may not ever have been believed.
Find some physical evidence of US involvement – particularly the order to destroy the pipeline, not just Biden’s meandering comments – and Hersh will be vindicated. Until then, I have an open mind as to whether the US did it.
“Open Source Intelligence” just means western spook asset so this isn’t terribly surprising.
Also, is it unfathomable that a ships tracking device/software was tampered with or just shut down? I’m no spy, but if I was sabotaging something, I wouldn’t leave the GPS on…
If it’s open source intelligence it should be open for us to examine, right? That is what those words mean. A different spook does not equal open source. Authenticated satellite footage might.
The obvious question, who has benefitted from the sabotage? If there was a scintilla of evidence that implicated Russia it would have been broadcast far and wide as propaganda.
Spot on. Why don’t the USA and Norway back the proposed UN Security Council motion to investigate the allegations. I think the meeting is on the 22nd.
Well, if Russia did do it & has managed to point the finger at the USA, it seems to be working out quite nicely for them.
Very likely with today’s sophisticated satellite surveillance and communications technology there is evidence to point the finger at the culprit(s). For some reason it has not been released.
Because Ukraine first claimed Russia did it, the whole world had to believe it. I read comments in the msm with increasing disbelief. Maybe 95% of comments believed it was Russia. One splendid explanation was that Russia blew up its own pipeline to scare the West: showing that they could do it. Obviously the West does not have a troll factory like the one in St Petersburg. They just have a docile population who enthusiastically believe what they are told without critical thought.
There’s no proof the Yanks did it, but no one had greater motive. It might be speculation, but if I’m a betting man…
Especially since both Victoria Nuland and Joe Biden are on video saying Nordstream will *ahem* be no more.
Russia is currently benefiting from the growing belief in the west that the USA did it.
That isn’t proof Russia did it, but the increasingly common refrain of “why would Russia have blown up their own pipeline” doesn’t really ring true.
I may be wrong, but at least my opinion is based on logic.
I’m struggling to see how it would have benefited the Russians to have done it. Presumably there’s a great big tap at the Russian end they could have just turned off. Although I’m often accused of over-simplification.
But surely the confusion & suspicion around the explosion benefits Russia? It’s not inconceivable that Russia would have created this situation.
Putin limiting supplies through “maintenance” and other ploys resulted in him being the bad guy. “Turning off the tap” with two explosions met two goals: threatening to stop deliveries didn’t end European support for Ukraine, so explosions got Russia out of the mix and threw suspicion on Ukraine’s main supporter. Seeing that Germany had already withdrawn Nordstream 2’s permit, this hypothesis makes more sense to me.
Oliver Alexander labels Hersh a liar, refers to him as a ‘Pulitzer Price’ (sic) winner (he can’t even get that right) misinterprets the article, relying on Twitter ‘evidence’ in an attempt to debunk Hersh, at which he fails miserably. Thank goodness he isn’t a lawyer. No doubt Alexander thought taking on Hersh would get him some headlines and increase his Substack audience. It worked. Sadly UnHerd wasn’t the only outlet to promote this grandiose narcissist drivel.
More important than the misspelling of “Prize” for assessing the Pulitzer Prize — after all, the critic is Norwegian — might be that it has been given to some very undeserving characters. The worst was the sleazy Walter Duranty, who was being paid by the Russians to conceal and deny the Stalin-organized famine in Ukraine, in 1932/33. And ever since that was revealed, the PP Committee has ignored calls for posthumously revoking that honor.
Accusing someone of being a “Kremlin asset” or “Putin stooge” is the last refuge of a scoundrel.
We don’t know and we may never know; that’s the beauty of an action like this. The Russians are also not in the clear: a message of ‘to hell with you’ would not be out of character from the current regime.
As someone from the global South I am amazed at the collective delusion among large sections in the West to still be in denial about the US role in Nordstream.
Quibbling over minor points of mis- match to shut up any tracking of facts – if this is what a ” free “Western MSM does- one can only commiserate with the shape- shifted nature of ” truth” in a post Truth Western eco- system.
‘Minor points of mismatch’ is a bit of a stretch. Which ones do you refer to, and what are the major evidential points to which you are comparing them?
It is impossible to say, simply from considering quality of motives, who did it. If X has a good motive, then Y has a good motive to actually do it, and blame X. And in a situation this complex, one can construct a motive for just about anyone.
My personal favourite tongue-in-cheek ‘motive’ theory: the Israelis did it! Why? To help convince the European market that Russian gas isn’t reliable, so they will turn to Israeli gas that is about to come online. See, wasn’t that easy?
As if the CIA and other Western intel agencies couldn’t manipulate OSINT data?
I do not know what happened to Nordstream, but I do know that in looking at a crime you start with Motive, Means and Opportunity, all of which point to NATO, esp. the US and/or maybe the UK, and given the lack of motive and the location in NATO waters, do not point to Russia. Hersh’s source provides details that may or may not be true, but conflicts with easily manipulable OSINT sources is hardly a strong case against it.
I think that if US and the West didn’t know who did it or they would think it was Russia, the investigation would be on any front page of any news paper and we would have seen speculation and bits of information everywhere. Right now it seems to me, they are completely ignoring it. It is strange considering that this was an important part of infrastructure for the West and whoever did it has incredible means.
Where are photographs of pipeline? If explosives did damage metal should be pushed inwards if faulty workmanship metal should be pushed outwards. It is odd that today we have no facts either way, only opinions.
If in fact it’s external damage, that won’t help narrow the field. Actually, now that I think about it, neither would internal – a cunning operator would use a method that would cast blame somewhere else.
We’ll probably never know. All we do know for sure is that the Germans poured a vast pot of money into a hole in the ocean.
Actually, that brings up another whole raft of suspects – what nations are competing with the Germans for leadership in Europe? Maybe the French did it!
Whee, isn’t this ‘game’ fun?
Sleepy Joe orders secret espionage that risks fracturing NATO and the Ukrainian alliance. The secret doesn’t then leak out.
Come on, get real. It’s cobblers.
The US wants to cause fractures. That’s how they’ve survived so long: Division. You can’t have a One World Government if Russia and Germany are benefiting hugely from each other. There is no Ukrainian alliance. They’re all rats fighting in a sack.
America does not want us depending on the east. Its that simple.
Don’t look know, but it appears the secret is leaking out.
Along with the biggest methane cloud released in history….. The Americans progressive green lobby is going to have to pipe down for a while I think.
You’re forgetting that Trump also was unhappy about the pipeline. So, it was a conspiracy between Trump and Biden to blow it up – to increase the demand for US-supplied LNG!
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