Posts Tagged ‘News of the World phone hacking affair’

David Cameron was “played” by News International

August 23, 2011

David Cameron’s judgement in employing Andy Coulson has already been brought into question. Apparently Coulson was also privy to confidential documents and meetings beyond his security clearance and that he was spared – or protected from – the highest level of security vetting. It has been suggested that his appointment may have been at the behest of Rupert Murdoch or Rebekah Brooks.

It now appears that Andy Coulson was working for two paymasters strengthening the impression that David Cameron was not just a “dupe” but that he was being “played” by News International. Presumably the real objective for News International was the acquisition of BSkyB.

The BBC breaks this story:

Coulson got hundreds of thousands of pounds from News Int

Andy Coulson, the former editor of the News of the World who has been arrested on suspicion of involvement in phone hacking and bribing the police, received several hundred thousand pounds from News International after starting work as the Conservative Party’s Director of Communications in July 2007.

These payments were part of his severance package, under what is known as a “compromise agreement”.

According to sources, Mr Coulson’s contractual leaving pay was given to him in instalments until the end of 2007 – which means he continued to be financially linked to News International for several months of his tenure as David Cameron’s main media adviser. ….. Mr Coulson also continued to receive his News International work benefits, such as healthcare, for three years, and he kept his company car. ………

Related: Phone hacking: PM’s defence of Coulson over the years

Phone hacking: One law for the Guardian and another for the News of the World?

August 6, 2011

The list of UK journalists involved in phone hacking just gets longer. After the Mirror it is now the turn of the Guardian.

The Guardian newspaper may have been a major player in exposing the phone hacking scandal in Murdoch’s News of the World, but is not itself free from the cancer. Their investigations executive editor, David Leigh is a self-confessed hacker (5 years ago) but seeks to justify himself because his ends were in the public interest!!

David Leigh obviously considers himself an inherently good guy such that his means are justified by his ends. I am afraid Mr. Leigh’s ethics are a little confused, a little arrogant and not very convincing. The Daily Mail reports that he is to be questioned by the police.

UPDATE! It now seems that David Leigh was probably also involved in some kind of nefarious activity against the anti-global warming community after Climategate. It would seem that police provided him – or the Guardian – with information in contravention of the Data Protection Act. A form of “information laundering” perhaps!! 

Forbes: Jeff Bercovici

Here’s one more irony in a saga that already has plenty of them: The Guardian, the paper most responsible for bringing the phone hacking at News of the World to light, is harboring a confessed phone hacker. That would be investigations executive editor David Leigh, who, in 2006, volunteered that he had used some “questionable methods” to get scoops, including listening to a subject’s voicemail and lying about his identity on phone calls. That admission drew shrugs at the time, but the Guardian’s avidity in pursuing justice for other phone-hackers has given it new relevance. …

Does Leigh’s defense — that what he did was permissible because it was in the public interest and he was transparent about it after the fact — hold water? I put that question to Kelly McBride, who teaches ethics at the Poynter Institute. She thinks it doesn’t.

“The problem with that is he’s suggesting that the ends justify the means,” McBride says. “In most ethical reasoning it doesn’t because it’s a subjective call. For him, it’s exposing bribery and corruption. For somebody else it might be exposing that some pop star lip synchs over his songs.” (That might sound like a big leap of relativism, but think of all the stories that fall somewhere in the middle, like political sex scandals.)

…. Setting aside the lofty realm of ethics, there’s still the practical application of the law to consider. Leigh writes that “there is a public interest defence available under the Data Protection Act” that, in theory at least, protects him from prosecution while enabling the phone-hackers from News of the World to be brought to justice.

Even if that’s the case, McBride says journalists who choose to break the law ought to be prepared to accept the full consequences. That, in itself, is a useful guide for determining whether a story is one of overriding public interest or just a sexy scoop. “If you get 30 days in jail for trespassing, it’s got to be worth going to jail for 30 days,” she says.

Hacking scandal spreads to Mirror and Piers Morgan’s protests ring hollow

August 4, 2011

The UK News of the World hacking scandal is like a cancer across all the tabloids where the spread is only gradually being revealed. It has now enmeshed the Mirror and covers the time when Piers Morgan was the Editor. CNN – his current employer – is revelling in Murdoch’s scandal but is steering well clear of the allegations against Morgan.

The Independent:

Piers Morgan under fire from Heather Mills hacking claim

The former editor of The Mirror, Piers Morgan, was under intense pressure last night after Sir Paul McCartney’s ex-wife came forward to claim a journalist had bragged to her about hacking sensitive messages left on her phone.  

Heather Mills said she received a call from an executive at Mirror Group Newspapers in 2001 “quoting verbatim” voicemails left by the singer after the couple had had a row. Her comments undermine Mr Morgan’s claim that he knew nothing about phone hacking – as the voicemails appear to be the same as those which he later admitting hearing. 

In a 2006 newspaper article, Mr Morgan referred to hearing a recorded message which Sir Paul had left for Ms Mills while she was away in India. He wrote: “At one stage I was played a tape of a message Paul had left for Heather on her mobile phone. It was heartbreaking. The couple had clearly had a tiff, Heather had fled to India, and Paul was pleading with her to come back. He sounded lonely, miserable and desperate, and even sang ‘We Can Work It Out’ into the answer phone.”

Last night Ms Mills said: “There was absolutely no honest way that Piers Morgan could have obtained that tape that he has so proudly bragged about unless they had gone into my voice messages.” However she said the journalist who contacted her was not Mr Morgan. …

Footballer Rio Ferdinand and TV presenter Ulrika Jonsson (also) believe they were hacked by the Mirror group.

Piers Morgan of course is protesting his innocence but his protests ring very hollow. Paul Staines (Guido Fawkes) has more on Piers Morgan’s hacking knowledge and his “insider” share dealings.

A website called FirePiersMorgan.com has sprung up and claims

Morgan knew about the hacking while he was at the NOTW and that Morgan is named in a Scotland Yard complaint about a U.S. victim of hacking.

CNN is maintaining an uncomfortable silence on Morgan’s many connections to the scandal. It has not mentioned him once in its 100-plus segments on the crisis in Rupert Murdoch’s meda empire. It’s odd because although Morgan has denied he knows anything about phone hacking, he’s probably the best expert CNN could hope to have for commentary on the story. And he’s on the channel every night.

New York Post implicated? Told to preserve emails following UK hacking scandal

July 30, 2011

UPDATE! News International ordered mass deletion of emails nine times

New York Post staff have been told by News Corp. to preserve any documents that may relate to phone hacking or payoffs to officials as the News of the World hacking scandal spreads across Murdoch’s empire. The clear implication is that something illicit has taken place at the New York Post – possibly connected with the victims of 9/11.

A memo to all staff from the legal department was followed by another from the editor Col Allen.

The text of the 2 New York Post memos is here – New York Post Memos

The documents to be retained were defined very broadly as:

“Any documents pertaining to unauthorized retrieval of phone or personal data, to payments for information to government officials, or that is related in any way to these issues, must be retained.

Please note that the term “documents” should be construed in its broadest sense, including but not limited to: written material, graphs, charts, files, e-mail, text messages, instant messages, any content in social media, voicemail, tape recordings, microfiche, video and film, handwritten notes, draft documents, memoranda, calendars, card files, appointment books, and the like whether in hard copy or on computer databases, hard drives, desk tops, laptops, thumb drives, disks, backup tapes, or any other storage medium, and regardless of whether the document is located on a company-issued or personal device. It also includes all copies of the same document.

The term “related in any way” should also be applied broadly. If you have any doubt whether a document should be preserved, you should err on the side of preserving it.”

Reuters reports:

In another sign that the phone-hacking scandal may implicate or at least taint News Corp.’s U.S. properties, the company’s legal team has asked New York Post employees to “preserve and maintain all documents and information that are related in any way” to phone hacking or bribery.

The email frames the demand as an effort to demonstrate how seriously it is taking the issues of hacking or bribery, improprieties — both confirmed adn alleged — which harpooned News Corp.’s famed British tabloid News of the World.

“Please know we are sending this notice not because any recipient has done anything improper or unlawful,” it reads.

However, the implication is that something illicit may have taken place. It asks that employees retain any documents “to unauthorized retrieval of phone or personal data, to payments for information to government officials, or that is related in any way to these issues.”

One possible reason is that the FBI has begun an inquiry into allegations that News Corp. newspapers hacked the phones of 9/11 victims.

As for what “documents” and “related” mean, the email asks the Post employees apply the terms as broadly as possible.

Post editor Col Allan sent out a memo to his staff regarding the email in which he says this should not be surprising.

“As we watched the news in the U.K. over the last few weeks, we knew that as a News Corporation tabloid, we would be looked at more closely,” he wrote.

Allan added that all employees must cooperate absolutely and that this edict should not endanger one’s ability to protect sources.

The legal team’s email instructed employees to contact Genie Gavenchak with any questions. A phone call to Gavenchak’s office was redirected to Rubenstein Communications. The PR firm did not immediately return a request for comment. 

In related news, the Guardian is reporting that Scotland Yard has opened up another inquiry involving hacking at News of the World, this time via computers.


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