HERSH, SEYMOUR (1937–), U.S. journalist. Born in Chicago and a graduate of the University of Chicago, Seymour (Sy) Myron Hersh began his career in journalism as a police reporter for the City New Bureau in Chicago in 1959. After stints with United Press International and the Associated Press, Hersh joined the little-known Pacific News Service and went to Vietnam. In 1969 Hersh gained worldwide recognition for exposing the massacre at My Lai, where United States soldiers tortured and killed nearly 500 civilians, and its cover-up. He also covered the court martial of Lt. William Calley, the commanding officer at My Lai. Hersh received the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting and published two books on the subject: My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and Its Aftermath and Cover-up: the Army's Secret Investigation of the Massacre at My Lai 4.
In 1972 Hersh joined the Washington bureau of The New York Times and also became a regular contributor to the New Yorker magazine. His disclosures about the covert operations of the Central Intelligence Agency created a swarm of controversy. So did his book on Henry A. *Kissinger, The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House, in 1983, which detailed the secret bombing of Cambodia while the administration was ostensibly pursuing an end to the war in Vietnam. The book won the National Book Critics Circle award. Hersh worked for The Times from 1972 to 1975 and again in 1979.
In his 1991 book The Sampson Option, about Israel's secret nuclear weapons program, Hersh revealed that in 1986 Nicholas Davies, the foreign editor of the London Daily Mirror, tipped off the Israeli Embassy in London that the Israeli whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu had given information about the country's nuclear capability to the Sunday Times and later the Sunday Mirror, both owned by the British media magnate Robert *Maxwell, who was thought to have had extensive contacts with Israeli intelligence services. According to Hersh, Davies and Maxwell published an anti-Vanunu story as part of a disinformation campaign on behalf of the Israeli government.
Hersh wrote a number of investigative articles for the New Yorker detailing military and security matters surrounding the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the subsequent occupation. In a 2004 article, he examined how Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld circumvented the normal intelligence analysis function of the cia in their quest to make a case for the invasion. His coverage of Richard Perle, a pro-Iraq war advisor to the Bush White House, in another article led Perle to say that Hersh was the "closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist." In 2004 Hersh published a series of articles describing, and showing photographs, of the torture by U.S. military police of prisoners in the Iraqi prison of Abu Ghraib. Hersh asserted that the abuses were part of a secret interrogation program, known as Copper Green, expanded from prisoner treatment in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with the direct approval of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, in an attempt to deal with a growing insurgency in Iraq. In 2005 Hersh disclosed that the U.S. was conducting covert operations in Iran to identify targets for possible strikes. This was dismissed by both the U.S. government and by Iran.
Hersh published eight books, including The Dark Side of Camelot (1997), which looked at John F. Kennedy's relationship with Lyndon B. Johnson and scandals surrounding Kennedy. His other books include The Target Is Destroyed: What Really Happened to Flight 007 and What America Knew About It (1986), Against All Enemies: Gulf War Syndrome: The War Between America's Ailing Veterans and Their Government (1998), and Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib (2004).
[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]