August 15, 2022

Pressure Rises on Cameron as Hacking Draws Wide Outcry

For the first time, Rupert Murdoch, the chief executive of News Corporation, released a statement on the scandal. “Recent allegations of phone hacking and making payments to police with respect to the News of the World are deplorable and unacceptable,” he said.

While promising full cooperation with police investigations, he strongly defended the head of the company’s Britain operations, Rebekah Brooks, who has become a focus of the scandal and was urged to resign on the Parliament floor on Wednesday. “I have made clear that our company must fully and proactively cooperate with the police in all investigations and that is exactly what News International has been doing and will continue to do under Rebekah Brooks’ leadership,” he said. “We are committed to addressing these issues fully and have taken a number of important steps to prevent them from happening again.”

Mr. Murdoch said that Joel Klein, the former New York City schools chancellor and current head of the News Corporation’s education unit, would “provide important oversight and guidance” in the investigations while Viet Dinh, a former assistant attorney general in the George W. Bush administration and non-executive director of the company, would keep the company’s board informed of all developments.

Mr. Cameron, facing a potential minefield from the scandal’s fallout, resisted immediately ordering a full inquiry into the workings of the often adversarial, scoop-driven British press, saying that such a step would have to wait for the outcome of the current police investigation, which was ordered after the police initially got nowhere.

“We do need to have an inquiry, possibly inquiries, into what has happened,” the prime minister, David Cameron, told Parliament after days of disclosures that have horrified Britons. There were reports that hackers working for News of the World, owned by News Corporation, listened to the voice-mail messages left on the phones of murder and terrorism victims. One was a 13-year-old girl who was abducted and murdered in 2002. Additionally, Scotland Yard detectives are also investigating whether the voicemail accounts of relatives of victims of the bombings of three London subway trains and a double-decker bus on July 7, 2005, had also been hacked, according to some of the relatives.

“We are no longer talking here about politicians and celebrities, we are talking about murder victims, potentially terrorist victims, having their phones hacked into,” Mr. Cameron said. “It is absolutely disgusting, what has taken place, and I think everyone in this House and indeed this country will be revolted by what they have heard and what they have seen on their television screens.”

A furor has been building in England for months after disclosures that journalists from News of the World, a mass-circulation gossip-laden Sunday tabloid, hacked into the voice-mail messages of celebrities and other prominent people. But, this week, the extent of the alleged hacking has broadened dramatically with reports that the newspaper hacked the cellphone of the slain 13-year-old girl nine years ago, deleting some messages to make room for more in a move that added to vain hopes that she was still alive.

The disclosures have focused on two people in particular — Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of News International, which runs the British newspaper operations of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, and Andy Coulson, a former News International editor, who went on to become Mr. Cameron’s director of communications before he was forced to quit in January, months after the phone-hacking scandal erupted with new vigor.

In his resignation statement, Mr. Coulson reiterated that he had been unaware of the hacking when it took place, but said that the scandal had proved too distracting for him to do his job.

As the catalog of allegations widened on Wednesday, the BBC reported that News International had passed material to the police relating to e-mails that seemed to show that payments authorized by Mr. Coulson had been made to the police for information.

Sarah Lyall reported from London, and Alan Cowell from Paris. Eric Pfanner contributed reporting from Paris.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: July 6, 2011

An earlier version of this article contained a caption that referred incorrectly to the day the photo was taken. It was from Wednesday, not Thursday.

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