August 19, 2022

British Tabloid Sought Phone Data of Investigators

The disclosure, based on interviews with current and former officials, raises the question of whether senior investigators feared that if they aggressively investigated, The News of the World would punish them with splashy articles about their private lives. Some of their secrets, tabloid-ready, eventually emerged in other news outlets.

Those damaging allegations, about two of the senior officers’ private lives, involved charges that one had padded his expense reports and was involved in extramarital affairs and that the other used frequent flier miles accrued on the job for personal vacations.

“If it is true that police officers knew their phones had been hacked, it is a serious matter that requires immediate investigation,” said John Whittingdale, the chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, which investigated phone hacking. “It would be shocking.”

The lead police investigator on the phone-hacking case, Andy Hayman, left the Metropolitan Police in December 2007 after questions were raised in the news media about business expenses he had filed and the nature of his relationship with a woman who worked for the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

At the time, Channel 4 News reported details of 400 text messages and phone calls that Mr. Hayman had sent to her.

John Yates, the assistant commissioner who has become a lightning rod for the police’s handling of the phone-hacking case, had reportedly used frequent flier miles earned in the line of duty to pay for flights for his relatives.

The outlets that reported these allegations have not been implicated in the hacking.

Members of Parliament will question Mr. Hayman, Mr. Yates and several other senior police officials at a hearing on Tuesday of the Home Affairs Select Committee to try to determine why the Metropolitan Police decided to strictly limit the initial phone-hacking inquiry in 2006.

One area of inquiry is whether the fact that the officials’ phones had been hacked had any impact on the scope of their initial investigation, according to two members of the committee. They are also concerned about whether the investigators had a conflict of interest because they themselves were victims of the people they were investigating.

Among the 11,000 pages of documents seized from the home of The News of the World’s phone-hacking specialist, Glenn Mulcaire, in August 2007, the investigators also found the names of Sir Ian Blair, then the Metropolitan Police commissioner, and at least two other senior police officials involved in the inquiry, according to several former senior Scotland Yard officials. The officials declined to reveal the names of the other investigators.

Sir Ian declined to comment on Monday.

In the autumn of 2006, the police notified only a handful of victims that their cellphone messages had been hacked, even though there was evidence that News of the World journalists might have gained access to the messages of nearly 4,000 people. The top police officials learned they had been hacked after an 8-to-10-page list of potential victims was assembled that fall for Mr. Hayman, several former Scotland Yard officials said.

In January 2007, Mr. Mulcaire and Clive Goodman, the paper’s royalty reporter, pleaded guilty to gaining access to the messages of aides to the royal family and were sentenced to prison. The inquiry was then concluded. For years after that, Scotland Yard officials, including Mr. Yates, insisted that there was no evidence of further hacking, a claim he repeated in 2009.

A Scotland Yard spokesman declined to discuss whether any senior officials’ phones had been hacked. “We will not comment on media speculation or give a running commentary on our investigation,” the spokesman said.

In an interview published by The Telegraph on Sunday, Mr. Yates apologized for the initial Scotland Yard inquiry, acknowledging that it was lax and ineffectual. “I have regrettably said the initial inquiry was a success,” Mr. Yates said. “Clearly now that looks very different.”

In Parliament on Monday, two Labour Party lawmakers, Chris Bryant and Tom Watson, accused Mr. Yates of lying and renewed calls for his resignation.

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