The document-leaking organization WikiLeaks says journalist Michael Hastings called the organization's attorney hours before his death Tuesday in a fiery one-car crash in Los Angeles.
In a tweet, WikiLeaks announced: "Michael Hastings contacted WikiLeaks lawyer Jennifer Robinson just a few hours before he died, saying that the FBI was investigating him."
Hastings, 33, was known as a hard-charging reporter who caused Gen. Stanley McChrystal to lose his job as commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan with an explosive 2010 story in Rolling Stone, in which he quoted McChrystal offering unsavory commentary about the Obama administration.
In his final article, published June 7 by BuzzFeed, Hastings wrote of revelations that the National Security Agency was harvesting large quantities of phone and Internet information. "Perhaps more information will soon be forthcoming," the article said.
The FBI declined to say if Hastings was under investigation.
"We can neither confirm nor deny FBI investigative activity," Ari Dekofsky, a spokeswoman for the FBI's Los Angeles field office, told U.S. News. "Sometimes that can change, sometimes it can never change."
For many journalists it's standard practice to file a Freedom of Information Act request for FBI files on recently deceased public figures. It's possible, however, that documents relevant to an ongoing investigation would be withheld.
A staffer at the FBI's national press office swatted at conspiracy theories that the reporter's death might have been related to an investigation.
"I don't see how killing could be part of an investigation," the staffer told U.S. News. "We're supposed to investigate and that's what we do." The woman declined to provide her name because she is not an official spokeswoman.
The Los Angeles Police Department has not yet positively identified Hastings as the person killed in the Mercedes-Benz C250 that crashed, pending a coroner report. His death, however, has been acknowledged by many news publications, including his employer, ahead of official confirmation.
"First of all, we haven't 100 percent identified Mr. Hastings as the driver," Detective Connie White told U.S. News on Thursday. The department's traffic detectives believe speeding contributed to the crash, but White noted the exact cause of the crash is "still under investigation."
The motor of Hastings' car was thrown 100 feet from the crash site, LA Weekly reports.
If Hastings was indeed under FBI investigation he would likely join a growing list of journalists ensnared in anti-whistleblower probes.
In court documents approved by Attorney General Eric Holder, Fox News reporter James Rosen was labeled a possible "co-conspirator" in breaking the law for reporting in 2009 on leaked material. That revelation was made by the Washington Post in May, days after The Associated Press revealed that the Justice Department seized the records of 20 phone lines used by the news agency.