British Parliament Debates Murdoch’s News Corp

Submitted by Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

We’ve been following the growing worldwide scandal of  phone hacking of  the families of victims of terror and lost servicemen by the British tabloid, News of The World. The 186 year-old British weekly  publication shut down earlier this month amid cries for a full investigation into sensationalist journalism that apparently relied on listening in to voice mails of the victims. British PM David Cameron has recalled Parliament into extraordinary session to debate the phone hacking scandal engendered by Rupert Murdoch’s media empire. Murdoch, his son, James, and officials from NOW’s parent company, News Corp, have appeared before Parliament Select Committees amid torrents of popular protest to answer questions about upper management’s role. To date, Murdoch and his lieutenants have denied any prior knowledge of the methods used to fuel the gotcha’ stories. Calls are now being heard for PM Cameron’s resignation and that of Murdoch himself who has denied any  wrongdoing.

The debate in Parliament began this morning and PM Cameron has acknowledged mistakes and “profound regret” in naming former NOW editor, Andy Coulson, as his press secretary, even amid allegations that he was aware of payments made to British police to secure private information which made its way into NOW stories. Cameron also said that if Coulson was aware of the phone hacking during his tenure at NOW,he had been lied to and  a sincere apology to the House of Commons was in order. The opposition was not satisfied, calling for an in-depth investigation into the relationship between the media, police forces, and politicians. The Prime Minster has already nominated a committee of police and media “experts” to head the investigation along with a British judge. In the wake of the scandal two top British police officials have resigned, as has Rebekah Brooks, the CEO of NOW’s parent company and its former editor.

You can watch the debates live on C-Span and here. Given allegations that similar methods were employed in the U.S. by other Murdoch media properties, such an investigation may be coming to a government entity near you. Murdoch owns Fox News and the Wall Street Journal among other media outlets around the world.

Source: BBC

~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

31 thoughts on “British Parliament Debates Murdoch’s News Corp”


    Top Tabloid Editors Endorsed Hacking, Letter Says

    Published: August 16, 2011

    LONDON — A high-profile parliamentary panel investigating phone hacking at Rupert Murdoch’s now-defunct News of the World tabloid released embarrassing new evidence Tuesday that the practice of intercepting voice mail had been widely discussed at the newspaper, contradicting assertions by its owners and editors.

    In light of the new evidence, the panel also announced that it was summoning at least four former News of the World figures for questioning at a hearing next month and could possibly ask Mr. Murdoch’s son James, the head of the Murdoch conglomerate’s European operations, back for more testimony as well. Both father and son testified at a dramatic televised hearing last month.

    The disclosures threatened to push the scandal back to the forefront of public concern, raising worrying questions for Mr. Murdoch and for the British prime minister, David Cameron, who hired Andy Coulson, a former News of the World editor, as his director of communications and has been taunted by the opposition for poor judgment in doing so.

    Tom Watson, a Labour lawmaker and member of the panel, also said Mr. Coulson may be among those summoned to give further evidence.

    The newest allegations are contained in a four-year-old letter released for the first time from Clive Goodman, the News of the World’s former royal correspondent who served a jail term for hacking the mobile phones of members of the royal family, to a senior human resources executive who had informed him that he was being dismissed.

    In addition to the Goodman letter, the parliamentary panel released a letter from Harbottle & Lewis, a law firm hired by the Murdochs, which they have repeatedly cited as having given the News of the World a “clean bill of health” in reviewing a cache of e-mails in 2007. The law firm’s letter contradicts that assertion and says that its own investigation had been limited strictly to advising the company in its employment dispute with Mr. Goodman.

    The scandal has already spread through Britain’s public life and media world. Mr. Coulson quit his job with the prime minister in January as the hacking scandal spread. Rupert Murdoch closed down the 168-year-old News of the World after the scandal exploded last month with reports that the newspaper had ordered the hacking of the cellphone of an abducted 13-year-old schoolgirl, Milly Dowler, who was found murdered in 2002.

    The correspondence, made public by the House of Commons select committee on culture, media and sport, is likely to embarrass former senior officials in the Murdoch empire who denied that phone hacking was widely practiced.

    When both Rupert and James Murdoch testified at the committee hearing last month they said they were appalled by the hacking, in dramatic appearances punctuated by a bizarre episode when a prankster attacked the older Mr. Murdoch with a foam pie.

    In Mr. Goodman’s letter, dated March 2, 2007, Mr. Goodman challenged his dismissal, saying that his actions “were carried out with the full knowledge and support” of other senior journalists. He also said another senior journalist arranged for payments to a private investigator who carried out the hacking.

    Mr. Goodman also asserted in his letter that the practice of phone hacking was “widely discussed in the daily editorial conference” at the newspaper until “explicit reference to it was banned by the editor.”

    Mr. Watson said the committee had seen two versions of the letter, one more heavily redacted than the other. One version sent to the committee by News International, the British newspaper subsidiary of the Murdoch family’s News Corporation, had been redacted to black out references to “editorial conference” and “the editor.”

    The News of the World had long insisted that the phone hacking was restricted to Mr. Goodman, a single rogue reporter.

    But Mr. Watson said the letter offered a “devastating” rebuttal to Mr. Coulson, the former editor and prime ministerial aide, who has always denied knowledge of the phone hacking. Mr. Watson said it was now “likely” that the panel would recall both James Murdoch and Mr. Coulson.

    “We have written to Andy Coulson to ask him whether he would like to amend his previous evidence,” Mr. Watson said. “Clearly if Clive Goodman’s account is accurate, it shows the evidence he gave us was at best misleading and probably deceptive.”

    Mr. Goodman, the former royal reporter, also claimed that he had been promised his job back after serving a four-month prison term starting in January 2007.

    He wrote that Mr. Coulson and Tom Crone, the newspaper’s senior legal counsel, had “promised on many occasions that I could come back to a job at the newspaper if I did not implicate the paper or any of its staff in my mitigation plea. I did not, and I expect the paper to honor its promise to me.”

    News International said through a spokesman that it “recognized the seriousness” of the material disclosed to the police and Parliament and was committed to working in a “constructive and open way” with all the relevant authorities.

    The parliamentary committee said that on Sept. 6 it would recall Mr. Crone, as well as the News of the World’s former editor Colin Myer, the News International human resources director, Daniel Cloke, and its former legal director, John Chapman.

    The committee also said that “depending on their evidence under questioning, the committee may also have further questions for James Murdoch and others.”

    Sarah Lyall and Ravi Somaiya reported from London and Alan Cowell from Paris.

  2. (mespo, We should all be so agile…, regarding your Wendi nomination.)

    Heard a portion of this, including Hugh Grant’s comments while running to the store this morning…

    What follows is the last portion of the interviews with Grant and Nick Davies of the Guardian:

    AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to get to actor Hugh Grant, who secretly recorded a reporter of News of the World admitting to phone hacking. He’s now suing the Metropolitan Police over their potential involvement in the hacking cases. Speaking on the BBC, Hugh Grant recounted his conversation with the tabloid reporter.

    HUGH GRANT: By sheer coincidence, I broke down in the middle of Kent in my car. It’s a long story, but basically a guy got out of a car the other side of the road, started taking pictures of me. He was Paul McMullan, this ex-News of the World features editor. And I was swearing at him, etc. And anyway, I finally got talking to him. He started boasting about how my phone had been hacked and all the dirtiest tactics of the News of the World and about their relationship with the police and about their relationship with five successive prime ministers. And I was revolted and astonished.

    And then I went back a few months later to the pub he now runs in Dover and pretended to be dropping in for a pint. And I bugged him. It just seemed like symmetry. And I got him talking again about all these things, and I published them all in the New Statesman. And one of the things he told me—

    BBC REPORTER: And what did he—what did he admit?

    HUGH GRANT: Well, all the things I’ve just said, that—you know, how extensive and what an industrial-scale phone hacking went on at the News of the World, particularly under Andy Coulson; how that it wasn’t just the News of the World, it was all the tabloids; and how money regularly passed hands between News International and officers at the Metropolitan Police; how Margaret Thatcher was the first prime minister to realize that it’s very hard to get elected in this country without the backing of the Murdoch press, so she was the first one to become an undignified sycophant to that organization, to that media tycoon, where a pattern has been followed by every single prime minister since, including this one. And he did—when I asked him, because I had heard a rumor—I said, “And do you think the News of the World hacked the phones of the family and friends of the little girl’s murdered at Soham?” He said, “Yes, I think that almost certainly happened.”

    AMY GOODMAN: That was actor Hugh Grant. He said that McMullan admitted to the hacking going on, the phone hacking, not only at News of the World, but other newspapers. So let’s take it from there, Nick Davies. You’ve been on this story now for years. What is left to expose? What do you think was most important that came out of the parliamentary hearings? What wasn’t asked? And where are you headed now?

    NICK DAVIES: That was a lot of questions. OK, so, what remains to be exposed? So, what Hugh Grant says there is correct, first of all, that the criminal activity was going on in lots of other newspapers in Fleet Street. Whether or not we get to expose that depends on whether or not we can actually find evidence to prove it, because if all you do is to state it without being able to produce evidence, they will deny it. So, that’s one whole chunk of stuff.

    There’s another whole thing about whether or not this story has a U.S. end to it. And I would say it wouldn’t be surprising if it turned out that Murdoch journalists visiting the United States had done this kind of thing. It wouldn’t be surprising if Murdoch journalists permanently based for his news organizations in the States had done these kind of things. But we need to be careful, because it is all about evidence. And I have a bit of a worry at the moment that one of the tabloids over here a few days ago, the Daily Mirror, ran a big front-page story which implied that victims of 9/11 had had their phones hacked by Murdoch journalists. Now, at the moment, I am not aware that there is any evidence anywhere to support that. And if at the end of the current FBI inquiry they come up empty and say, “Well, we can’t find the evidence,” then you can bet that the Murdoch crew will use that to try to discredit the entire story. And it does worry me that the Daily Mirror shot off too early. And so, that’s a worry as to whether or not—but in general terms, I would say it’s highly likely that evidence could be produced.

    And the other interesting thing is this story breaking overnight, which is whether or not the Murdoch people were using private investigators to do illegal things on the commercial, not on the journalistic, side of their operation. Were they engaged in industrial espionage, for want of a better word? So there’s at least three different ways for this story to keep breaking.

    JUAN GONZALEZ: And in terms of the impact politically on the Prime Minister, Cameron, and the impact on Scotland Yard?

    NICK DAVIES: Well, so, the impact on Scotland Yard has been absolutely huge. You know, the commissioner has resigned. The assistant commissioner, who was responsible for the job, has resigned. They face an internal police inquiry, which is likely to throw up more dirt than a judicial inquiry, which is going to focus in on the implications of their far-too-cozy relationship with Rupert Murdoch and their failure to enforce the law. I mean, there’s a lot of damage being done.

    Insofar as Cameron is concerned, it’s a slightly grayer picture. Clearly it’s doing him political damage. Will the story reach the point where he’s actually forced to leave office? I have never thought it would. But the temperature is rising. There’s an interesting story breaking about how, when David Cameron, as prime minister, hired Andy Coulson, formerly of the News of the World, to be his media adviser, he failed to put him through the normal level of vetting. Now that’s a strange thing to do. You would think that that was part of the routine. You’re going to be allowed into the Prime Minister’s office. You’re going to see the most secret paperwork, take part in the most secret meetings. You have to be fully vetted. But he was vetted up to only a sort of medium level. What was that about? That begins to look like somebody took a decision not to look too deep, in case they came up with a reason which wouldn’t allow them to hire him. And you understand, in the background, the reason they feel they have to hire him is they have to have the Murdoch organization on side. Otherwise, they can’t run the country. And therefore, if you can have a Murdoch man in your office, that establishes the connection. So that’s what tempts Cameron to make a terrible mistake. But we haven’t got there yet. We do not have, at the moment, evidence which would force the Prime Minister out of office.

    AMY GOODMAN: Nick Davies, I want to thank you for being with us, award-winning investigative journalist for The Guardian, speaking to us from The Guardian’s offices in London. We will link to all of your articles. Thanks so much.

  3. Jill,
    Thanks for the timeline. Eniobob, interesting thought about a possible linkage or reason for the alleged hacking of 9/11 victim families’ phone records.

  4. Good news, Jill. And thanks for the links and info, lottakatz. Gotta run downstairs now and pick up that bag that my friend left for me in the parking garage… (Who are they kidding, as you said.)

    Many simply don’t know what they’re missing by not visiting this blog… 🙂

    Anyway, may the dominoes continue to fall.

    (Thanks for this posting, mespo.)

  5. The Irish Times is making some important connections: “The Irish Times – Wednesday, July 20, 2011
    Cameron’s links to phone-hacking scandal make his position untenable
    In this section


    A more detailed than usual timeline of the British hacking scandal

    Early 2000

    Journalists at the News of the World realise anyone can dial unsecured voicemails.

    June 2000

    Tony Blair agrees to an expansion of the Echelon intelligence system, enabling it to intercept every phone call, e-mail and digital signal on earth.

    July 2000

    Parliament passes New Labour’s Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, which outlaws phone-hacking by journalists but allows most public bodies to spy on citizens without a warrant. Permitted methods include e-mail, internet and telephone tapping, bugging houses and cars and using “covert human intelligence sources”.

    March 2002

    An academic study estimates the number of CCTV cameras in Britain at 4.2 million, all basically unregulated. Police later dismiss this as inaccurate and put the true figure at a mere 1.9 million.

    October 2002

    New Labour commissions Connecting for Health, a computer system storing everyone’s medical records and making them accessible to 1.4 million NHS staff. Following privacy complaints, patients are allowed to opt out by calling their GP and explaining what they think they have to hide.

    November 2003

    Parliament passes New Labour’s Criminal Justice Act, allowing the police to store the DNA of anyone arrested in England and Wales, whether or not they are charged. Entries to the database, already the largest in the world, rise to 30,000 a month.

    March 2005

    New Labour approves a national number-plate recognition system using 2,000 computer-linked cameras to record 100 million vehicle movements a day. The database is unregulated and available to police and the intelligence services.

    March 2006

    Parliament passes New Labour’s Identity Cards Act, introducing compulsory biometric cards plus a national identity database storing 50 pieces of information on every UK citizen. The data is accessible to 265 government departments and 48,000 private sector organisations.

    July 2006

    The Home Office admits the police DNA database, now holding three million samples, has been used for 20 academic studies into criminal and racial profiling and that the private firm analysing the samples has secretly kept copies.

    August 2006

    Councils across England admit installing 500,000 electronic monitoring devices in wheelie bins without householders’ knowledge.

    November 2006

    New Labour unveils the Independent Safeguarding Authority, which will store background information on all 11.3 million adults who have contact with children, including lifestyle issues and unproven allegations.

    April 2008

    The BBC runs a TV licensing ad with the slogan “Your town, your street, your home. It’s all in the database.” After numerous complaints, it changes the slogan slightly and runs the ad again.

    January 2009

    New Labour launches ContactPoint, a child protection database covering every under-18 in England and Wales and accessible to one million officials including police. Due to privacy concerns, politicians’ children are exempted.

    April 2009

    New Labour signs a statutory instrument requiring everyone’s internet records to be stored for a year and made available to “designated authorities”.

    Late 2010

    The new Tory-led government cancels ID cards, scales back Connecting for Health, reforms the Independent Safeguarding Authority, regulates CCTV and number-plate recognition, deletes the ContactPoint and national identity databases and stops police storing innocent people’s DNA. But David Cameron once hired a journalist from the News of the World – clearly he must go.”

  6. Just some food for thought,On the radio(again my new medium)a caller brought up this point,when they talk about the possible wire tapping of 911 families?

    The caller talked about the wives of the 911 families who were responsible for getting the 911 commission going,and if you can remember Ann Coulter was slandering them left and right,amongst other people.

    Just thought I would throw that in the mix.

  7. IMO it looks like someone in the Brooks household was expecting a search to be made and wanted to get rid of possibly incriminating evidence IMO. Who has friend that ‘drops’ a bag of computer gear off in a parking garage and leaves it there apparently thinking it’s an agreed-to rendezvous point with the owner of the gear? Is that how borrowed/returned items are exchanged in Britain or among the rich and powerful?

    (posted this elsewhere but it fits better here.)

    “Police examine bag found in bin near Rebekah Brooks’s home

    Former NI chief executive’s husband denies bag – containing computer, paperwork and phone – belonged to his wife”

    “Detectives are examining a computer, paperwork and a phone found in a bin near the riverside London home of Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International.

    “…. a bag containing the items was found in an underground car park in the Design Centre at the exclusive Chelsea Harbour development on Monday afternoon.

    The car park, under a shopping centre, is yards from the gated apartment block where Brooks lives with her husband, a former racehorse trainer and close friend of David Cameron.

    It is understood the bag was handed in to security at around 3pm, and that shortly afterwards Brooks’s husband, Charlie, arrived and tried to reclaim it. He was unable to prove the bag was his and the security guard refused to release it.

    […] Wilson said Charlie Brooks had left the bag with a friend who was returning it, but dropped it in the wrong part of the garage. When asked how the bag ended up in a bin he replied: “The suggestion is that a cleaner thought it was rubbish and put it in the bin.”

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