Phone hacking: News of the World reporter's letter reveals cover-up Disgraced royal correspondent Clive Goodman's letter says phone hacking was 'widely discussed' at NoW meetings
Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and their former editor Andy Coulson all face embarrassing new allegations of dishonesty and cover-up after the publication of an explosive letter written by the News of the World's disgraced royal correspondent, Clive Goodman.
In the letter, which was written four years ago but published only on Tuesday, Goodman claims that phone hacking was "widely discussed" at editorial meetings at the paper until Coulson himself banned further references to it; that Coulson offered to let him keep his job if he agreed not to implicate the paper in hacking when he came to court; and that his own hacking was carried out with "the full knowledge and support" of other senior journalists, whom he named.
The claims are acutely troubling for the prime minister, David Cameron, who hired Coulson as his media adviser on the basis that he knew nothing about phone hacking. And they confront Rupert and James Murdoch with the humiliating prospect of being recalled to parliament to justify the evidence which they gave last month on the aftermath of Goodman's allegations. In a separate letter, one of the Murdochs' own law firms claim that parts of that evidence were variously "hard to credit", "self-serving" and "inaccurate and misleading".
Goodman's claims also raise serious questions about Rupert Murdoch's close friend and adviser, Les Hinton, who was sent a copy of the letter but failed to pass it to police and who then led a cast of senior Murdoch personnel in telling parliament that they believed Coulson knew nothing about the interception of the voicemail of public figures and that Goodman was the only journalist involved.
The letters from Goodman and from the London law firm Harbottle & Lewis are among a cache of paperwork published by the Commons culture, media and sport select committee. One committee member, the Labour MP Tom Watson, said Goodman's letter was "absolutely devastating". He said: "Clive Goodman's letter is the most significant piece of evidence that has been revealed so far. It completely removes News International's defence. This is one of the largest cover-ups I have seen in my lifetime."
Goodman's letter is dated 2 March 2007, soon after he was released from a four-month prison sentence. It is addressed to News International's director of human resources, Daniel Cloke, and registers his appeal against the decision of Hinton, the company's then chairman, to sack him for gross misconduct after he admitted intercepting the voicemail of three members of the royal household. Goodman lists five grounds for his appeal.
He argues that the decision is perverse because he acted "with the full knowledge and support" of named senior journalists and that payments for the private investigator who assisted him, Glenn Mulcaire, were arranged by another senior journalist. The names of the journalists have been redacted from the published letter at the request of Scotland Yard, who are investigating the affair.
Goodman then claims that other members of staff at the News of the World were also hacking phones. Crucially, he adds: "This practice was widely discussed in the daily editorial conference, until explicit reference to it was banned by the editor." He reveals that the paper continued to consult him on stories even though they knew he was going to plead guilty to phone hacking and that the paper's then lawyer, Tom Crone, knew all the details of the case against him.
In a particularly embarrassing allegation, he adds: "Tom Crone and the editor 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 honour its promise to me." In the event, Goodman lost his appeal. But the claim that the paper induced him to mislead the court is one that may cause further problems for News International.
Two versions of his letter were provided to the committee. One which was supplied by Harbottle & Lewis has been redacted to remove the names of journalists, at the request of police. The other, which was supplied by News International, has been redacted to remove not only the names but also all references to hacking being discussed in Coulson's editorial meetings and to Coulson's offer to keep Goodman on staff if he agreed not to implicate the paper.
The company also faces a new claim that it misled parliament. In earlier evidence to the select committee, in answer to questions about whether it had bought Goodman's silence, it had said he was paid off with a period of notice plus compensation of no more than £60,000. The new paperwork, however, reveals that Goodman was paid a full year's salary, worth £90,502.08, plus a further £140,000 in compensation as well as £13,000 to cover his lawyer's bill. Watson said: "It's hush money. I think they tried to buy his silence." Murdoch's executives have always denied this.
When Goodman's letter reached News International four years ago, it set off a chain reaction which now threatens embarrassment for Rupert and James Murdoch personally. The company resisted Goodman's appeal, and he requested disclosure of emails sent to and from six named senior journalists on the paper. The company collected 2,500 emails and sent them to Harbottle & Lewis and asked the law firm to examine them.
Harbottle & Lewis then produced a letter, which has previously been published by the select committee in a non-redacted form: "I can confirm that we did not find anything in those emails which appeared to us to be reasonable evidence that Clive Goodman's illegal actions were known about and supported by both or either of Andy Coulson, the editor, and Neil Wallis, the deputy editor, and/or that Ian Edmondson, the news editor, and others were carrying out similar illegal procedures."
In their evidence to the select committee last month, the Murdochs presented this letter as evidence that the company had been given a clean bill of health. However, the Metropolitan police have since said that the emails contained evidence of "alleged payments by corrupt journalists to corrupt police officers". And the former director of public prosecutions, Ken Macdonald, who examined a small sample of the emails, said they contained evidence of indirect hacking, breaches of national security and serious crime.
In a lengthy reply, Harbottle & Lewis say it was never asked to investigate whether crimes generally had been committed at the News of the World but had been instructed only to say whether the emails contained evidence that Goodman had hacked phones with "the full knowledge and support" of the named senior journalists. The law firm reveals that the letter was the result of a detailed negotiation with News International's senior lawyer, Jon Chapman, and it refused to include a line which he suggested, that, having seen a copy of Goodman's letter of 2 March: "We did not find anything that we consider to be directly relevant to the grounds of appeal put forward by him."
In a lengthy criticism of the Murdochs' evidence to the select committee last month, Harbottle & Lewis says it finds it "hard to credit" James Murdoch's repeated claim that News International "rested on" its letter as part of their grounds for believing that Goodman was a "rogue reporter". It says News International's view of the law firm's role is "self-serving" and that Rupert Murdoch's claim that it was hired "to find out what the hell was going on" was "inaccurate and misleading", although it adds that he may have been confused or misinformed about its role.
Harbottle & Lewis writes: "There was absolutely no question of the firm being asked to provide News International with a clean bill of health which it could deploy years later in wholly different contexts for wholly different purposes … The firm was not being asked to provide some sort of 'good conduct certificate' which News International could show to parliament … Nor was it being given a general retainer, as Mr Rupert Murdoch asserted it was, 'to find out what the hell was going on'."
The law firm's challenge to the Murdochs' evidence follows an earlier claim made jointly by the paper's former editor and former lawyer that a different element of James Murdoch's evidence to the committee was "mistaken". He had told the committee that he had paid more than £1m to settle a legal action brought by Gordon Taylor of the Professional Footballers Association without knowing that Taylor's lawyers had obtained an email from a junior reporter to the paper's chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck, containing 35 transcripts of voicemail messages. Crone and the former editor, Colin Myler, last month challenged this.
In letters published by the committee, the former News of the World lawyer repeats his position. He says this email was "the sole reason" for settling Taylor's case. He says he took it with him to a meeting with James Murdoch in June 2008 when he explained the need to settle: "I have no doubt that I informed Mr Murdoch of its existence, of what it was and where it came from."
Myler, in a separate letter also published on Tuesday, endorses Crone's account. Their evidence raises questions about James Murdoch's failure to tell the police or his shareholders about the evidence of crime contained in the email.
Watson said that both Murdochs should be recalled to the committee to explain their evidence. Hinton, who resigned last month, may join them. Four days after Goodman sent his letter, Hinton gave evidence to the select committee in which he made no reference to any of the allegations contained in the letter, but told MPs: "I believe absolutely that Andy [Coulson] did not have knowledge of what was going on". He added that he had carried out a full, rigorous internal inquiry and that he believed Goodman was the only person involved.
Commenting on the evidence from the select committee, a News International spokesperson said: "News Corporation's board has set up a management and standards committee, chaired by independent chairman Lord Grabiner, which is co-operating fully with the Metropolitan police and is facilitating their investigation into illegal voicemail interception at the News of the World and related issues.
"We recognise the seriousness of materials disclosed to the police and parliament and are committed to working in a constructive and open way with all the relevant authorities."
Phone hacking: 7/7 disaster victim's mother to sue NoW publisher News emerged as fresh revelations placed the conduct of Murdoch's global media group News Corp under intense scrutiny
Rupert Murdoch's New Corp is facing a string of fresh revelations.
The mother of a victim of the 2005 London terrorist attacks is suing Rupert Murdoch's media empire after she was told by police that her son's mobile phone is likely to have been targeted by a private investigator working for the News of the World.
Sheila Henry filed a high court writ this week against the paper's owner, News Group Newspapers, alleging that journalists at the tabloid, which closed in July, hacked into a mobile belonging to Christian Small, 28, on the day he was killed by a bomb blast on the London Underground.
Henry left messages on her son's phone on the day of the attacks, in which 52 people died. In common with many of the victims, Small was missing for some time after the initial bomb blasts, and his family were trying to discover where he was.
The news emerged on the same day as fresh revelations in the phone-hacking affair that once again put the conduct of Murdoch's global media group News Corp under intense scrutiny.
The company's UK subsidiary told the high court on Tuesday it had found "tens of thousands" of extra emails that could potentially shed light on the extent of phone hacking at the paper "which the current management were unaware of". They are understood to include correspondence between reporters and senior managers at the News of the World and the Sun.
Mr Justice Vos, the judge overseeing the phone hacking cases, said : "There's some important material in what has already been disclosed. I took the step of looking at some of the material. There's some significant material. I'm sure there's lots more to come."
The high court was also told Scotland Yard has handed a 68-page document to phone-hacking litigants who are pursuing civil cases. It lists the names of News of the World journalists who commissioned Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator the paper employed, to hack into mobile phones. The fact that the document runs to so many pages suggests Mulcaire acted on the orders of a number of News of the World reporters.
Separately, James Murdoch, 38, son of Rupert and third most senior News Corp executive, was recalled to parliament for a second grilling by MPs over whether he was told three years ago that hacking extended beyond a single "rogue reporter" at the paper. Murdoch's denial was contradicted by the News of the World's last editor, Colin Myler, and former legal head Tom Crone, at the Commons culture, media and sport committee last week.
Meanwhile, a group of News Corp shareholders in America who are suing the firm for corporate negligence widened their action against the company. The investors now allege that "illicit phone hacking and subsequent cover-ups at News of the World were part of a much broader, historic pattern of corruption". The action targets Rupert Murdoch, chief operating officer Chase Carey, and Carey's deputy, James Murdoch.
The case brought by Sheila Henry is the first to be launched by a 7/7 victim or a family member of a victim. The Metropolitan police have warned relatives of a handful of those killed that day that mobile numbers belonging to their deceased relatives were found in Mulcaire's notebooks. It is understood that Mulcaire made a note of Henry's own mobile as well as her son's. The apparent confirmation of the News of the World's willingness to target victims of a terrorist attack brought immediate condemnation.
Labour MP Tom Watson, who has vigorously pursued the hacking allegations, said: "If this is accurate it shows that in the week we commemorated the victims of 9/11, the victims of our own terrorist attack have had their memories insulted in a callous and inhuman way."
A spokeswoman for News International, News Group's parent company, said: "We take very seriously the matters raised in court this morning and we are committed to working with civil claimants to resolve their cases." Henry's claim will be one of half a dozen lead cases heard at trial early next year. If successful it will set a benchmark for the amount of compensation awarded to victims of hacking.
They could include the parents of Milly Dowler, the schoolgirl who was murdered in 2002. The revelation in July that their daughter's phone had been targeted by Mulcaire led to the closure of the News of the World and the resignation of former NI chief executive Rebekah Brooks.
The news comes as the lead investigator in Operation Motorman, a 2006 inquiry by the Information Commissioner's Office into the use of private investigators by newspapers, said that his team were told not to interview journalists involved.
The investigator, a retired police inspector with 30 years experience, accused authorities of being too "frightened" to tackle journalists. "I feel the investigation should have been conducted a lot more vigorously, a lot more thoroughly and it may have revealed a lot more information," he said. "I was disappointed and somewhat disillusioned with the senior management because I felt as though they were burying their heads in the sand. It was like being on an ostrich farm," he told the Independent.
Leveson inquiry: David Cameron in firing line as Kelvin MacKenzie hits out Prime minister using Leveson inquiry to escape his own 'lack of judgment' over hiring Andy Coulson, says former Sun editor
Kelvin MacKenzie said Cameron wanted Murdoch's support, no matter what.
Former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie has said the Leveson inquiry was set up by the prime minister in an attempt to "escape his own personal lack of judgment" over his hiring of former News of the World editor Andy Coulson.
MacKenzie, now a columnist at the Daily Mail, told a seminar in London on Wednesday arranged by Lord Justice Leveson that David Cameron made a mistake when he appointed Coulson as his director of communications in an attempt to curry favour with Rupert Murdoch.
"It was clearly a gesture of political friendship aimed over Andy's head to Rupert Murdoch," he said. "A couple of phone calls from central office people would have told him that there was a bad smell hanging around the News of the World."
Describing the inquiry as "ludicrous", MacKenzie said: "This is the way in which our prime minister is hopeful he can escape his own personal lack of judgment. He knows, and Andy knows, that he should never have been hired into the heart of government. I don't blame Andy for taking the job. I do blame Cameron for offering it."
The former Sun editor and columnist attacked "Cameron's obsessive arse-kissing over the years of Rupert Murdoch. Tony Blair … was pretty good, and Brown wasn't too bad. But Cameron was the daddy of them all."
He said Cameron was wrong to believe the Sun would help to secure him victory in last year's general election and should not have courted its leading executives in the UK so assiduously.
"There was always a queue to kiss their rings," he said. "It was gut-wrenching. Cameron wanted Rupert onside as he believed, quite wrongly in my view, that the Sun's endorsement would help him to victory." MacKenzie said the Sun's sales went down by 40,000 on the day the paper declared its support for the Tories.
The consequence of that, he said, was that: "An American with a disdain for Britain, running a declining industry in terms of sales, profitability and influence, was considered more important than a meeting with any captain of industry no matter how big their workforce or balance sheet."
MacKenzie claimed the prime minister had decided to call an inquiry to distance himself from the phone-hacking scandal which erupted over the summer. "The order went out from Cameron: stop the arse-kissing and start the arse-kicking. And the answer is this bloody inquiry chaired by Leveson."
He also attacked Leveson personally, saying: "God help me that free speech comes down to the thought process of a judge who couldn't win when prosecuting counsel against Ken Dodd for tax evasion." Leveson acted in the case against the comedian when he was a QC.
MacKenzie added: "Yes, there was criminal cancer at the News of the World. Yes, there were editorial and management errors as the extent of the cancer began to be revealed. But why do we need an inquiry of this kind? There are plenty of laws to cover what went on."
"Supposing these arrests didn't come from the newspaper business," he said. "Supposing they were baggage handlers at Heathrow nicking from luggage. Would such an inquiry have ever been set up? Of course not."
MacKenzie also claimed it was not Murdoch's decision to drop the Sun's support for Gordon Brown two years ago. "Whoever made that decision should hang their head in shame. I point the finger at a management mixture of Rebekah [Brooks] and James Murdoch."
He said Murdoch had told him on the day that edition of the paper was published that Brown had phoned the media mogul and told him: "You are trying to destroy me and my party. I will destroy you and your company."
MacKenzie said: "That endorsement that day was a terrible error."
Galloway may take 'Fake Sheikh' action
21st Jan 2012
GEORGE Galloway is considering further legal action against publishers of the News of the World in connection with an alleged encounter with the "Fake Sheikh" in a London hotel. It comes after the former Glasgow Kelvin Labour MP won an undisclosed sum of damages from News Group Newspapers (NGN) for having his phone hacked.
Mr Galloway is unable to speak of the details of the settlement due to confidentiality agreement but it is understood that the deal does not prevent him from taking further action against the company. He was one of 37 public figures who settled their damages claims with the firm earlier this week.
It is believed Mr Galloway may now try and pursue the publisher over an apparent sting set up by the former tabloid's investigation editor Mazher Mahmood, known as the Fake Sheikh given his often-used disguise of Arab robes, in a London hotel room six years ago. He was contacted by someone posing as a representative of a wealthy Arab benefactor to arrange a meeting. A source said: "George turned up to this meeting reluctantly and a man tried to suborn him by offering money for his campaign. George said this couldn't happen because he was not a British citizen. This man then started spouting anti-semitic stuff and George was very suspicious."
Sources said Mr Galloway is to claim his phone was hacked around the time of the meeting, given the tabloid raised an injunction against the former MP and an aide as they prepared to host a press conference to reveal the indentity of the reporter. Suspicions about his mobile phone security intensified when a planned meeting between Mr Galloway and Mr Mahmood's cousin was cancelled at the last minute, it is believed. Mr Mahmood has been recalled to the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics.
So, GG did take the settlement - under duress, according to what he said on the talkSPORT show tonight. I wonder what that duress was? Considering he said he would fight this to the end, I'm guessing the 'word from high' was that any other investigations would be too expensive.
Posted: Sat Jan 28, 2012 7:07 pm Post subject: Scandal expands to the Sun
5 arrested in British tabloid corruption probe Information from Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. led to arrests, police say
The Associated Press (link)
Posted: Jan 28, 2012 5:48 AM ET
Last Updated: Jan 28, 2012 11:52 AM ET
British police searched the offices of Rupert Murdoch's British newspapers Saturday after arresting a police officer and four current and former staff of his tabloid The Sun as part of an investigation into police bribery by journalists.
The arrests spread the scandal over tabloid wrongdoing — which has already caused the closure of one tabloid, the News of the World — to a second Murdoch newspaper.
London's Metropolitan Police said two men aged 48 and one aged 56 were arrested on suspicion of corruption early in the morning at homes in and around London. A 42-year-old man was detained later at a London police station.
Murdoch's News Corp. confirmed that all four were current or former Sun employees.
A fifth man, a 29-year-old police officer, was arrested at the London station where he works.
The investigation into whether reporters illegally paid police for information is running parallel to a police inquiry into phone hacking by Murdoch's now-defunct News of the World.
Officers were searching the men's homes and the east London headquarters of the media mogul's British newspapers for evidence.
Police said Saturday's arrests were made as a result of information provided by the Management and Standards Committee of Murdoch's News Corp.
News Corp. said it was co-operating with police.
"News Corporation made a commitment last summer that unacceptable news gathering practices by individuals in the past would not be repeated," it said in a statement.
No charges laid
A dozen people have now been arrested in the bribery probe, though none has yet been charged.
They include former Rebekah Brooks, former chief executive of Murdoch's News International, ex-News of the World editor Andy Coulson — who is also Prime Minister David Cameron's former communications chief — and journalists from the News of the World and The Sun.
Two of the London police force's top officers resigned in the wake of the revelation last July that the News of the World had eavesdropped on the cell phone voicemail messages of celebrities, athletes, politicians and even an abducted teenager in its quest for stories.
Murdoch shut down the 168-year-old tabloid, and the scandal has triggered a continuing public inquiry into media ethics and the relationship between the press, police and politicians.
An earlier police investigation failed to find evidence hacking went beyond one reporter and a private investigator, but News Corp. has now acknowledged it was much more widespread.
Last week the company agreed to pay damages to 37 hacking victims, including actor Jude Law, soccer star Ashley Cole and British politician John Prescott.
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