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Michael Hastings researching Jill Kelley case before death

June 20, 2013|By Brian Bennett

WASHINGTON – During the weeks before he was killed in a car crash in Los Angeles, reporter Michael Hastings was researching a story about a privacy lawsuit brought by Florida socialite Jill Kelley against the Department of Defense and the FBI.

Hastings, 33, was scheduled to meet with a representative of Kelley next week in Los Angeles to discuss the case, according to a person close to Kelley. Hastings wrote for Rolling Stone and the website BuzzFeed.

Kelley alleges that military officials and the FBI leaked her name to the media to discredit her after she reported receiving a stream of emails that were traced to Paula Broadwell, a biographer of former CIA director David H. Petraeus, according to a lawsuit filed in Federal District Court in Washington, D.C., on June 3.

Petraeus resigned from the CIA after publicly admitting that he and Broadwell had carried on an extramarital affair.

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The story about Kelley, Broadwell and the Petraeus affair would have been consistent with topics that Hastings has focused on during his reporting career. His unvarnished 2010 Rolling Stone profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top American commander in Afghanistan, led to McChrystal’s resignation. The story described the disdain McChrystal’s staff showed for President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

Since Hasting’s death early Tuesday, wild conspiracy theories have bloomed on the Internet implying that he was murdered by powerful forces wanting to silence him.

On Wednesday night, the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks inserted itself into the story, publishing a message on Twitter that Hasting had contacted a lawyer for the organization hours before his car smashed into a tree on North Highland Avenue in Los Angeles.

The message read: “Michael Hastings contacted WikiLeaks lawyer Jennifer Robinson just a few hours before he died, saying that the FBI was investigating him.”

The crash is under investigation and there will be an official accident report after a toxicology test is completed in the coming weeks.

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brian.bennett@latimes.com

Twitter: @bybrianbennett

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