November 24, 2020

Suspicions About Former Editor in Battle Over Story Complicate Hacking Scandal

But the day before The Telegraph was to run the article, the paper was scooped by Robert Peston, the business editor of the BBC. Mr. Peston reported that “a whistle-blower” had provided him with a secretly recorded conversation between The Telegraph’s undercover reporters and Mr. Cable.

Senior editors at The Telegraph, furious that Mr. Peston had somehow beat them on their own story, suspected they were the victims of corporate espionage.

As the editors saw it, the person who stole the audiotape of Mr. Cable was either an enemy of the newspaper or someone with a motive to see Mr. Cable replaced by an official more willing to push forward the Murdochs’ bid for BSkyB, as the network is known.

Or, perhaps, the perpetrator was someone who fit both bills. The editors said they instantly suspected the hidden hand of William Lewis, the newspaper’s former editor in chief, who was dismissed from the Telegraph Media Group in May 2010 after a dispute with company executives. Mr. Lewis was now working at News International, the British subsidiary of the News Corporation.

The editors’ suspicions grew when a computer technician at The Telegraph, Jim Robinson, left in January to work for Mr. Lewis at News International. The two celebrated the appointment over pints at a pub.

The episode is significant because in recent weeks Mr. Lewis, 42, has emerged as a leader of the News Corporation’s campaign to clean up the phone-hacking and police bribery scandal that has engulfed the company and raised questions about the judgment of its top executives. He is a member of the News Corporation’s Management and Standards Committee.

The tale of the tape is yet another twist in a scandal that has ricocheted between the people making the news and those reporting it. Those in the anything-goes British press corps had already been suspicious of one another’s methods and motives. Now, every “splash” — a tabloid’s Page 1 story — is assumed to have been “nicked,” or stolen, by a hacked phone or other illicit means.

Within days of Mr. Peston’s scoop last December, The Telegraph hired Kroll, the security firm, to try to determine whether the newspaper was the victim of computer hacking or outright theft of the audio recording, and to identify who might have been responsible.

“It is a matter of record that Kroll was commissioned to investigate the unauthorized removal in December 2010 of an audio recording from Telegraph Media Group,” a Telegraph spokesman said Friday. “They concluded that the removal of the recording was, in all probability, an act of theft orchestrated by an external organization.”

Kroll found circumstantial evidence that Mr. Lewis and Mr. Robinson were behind the episode, according to a summary of its work, though it stressed in its report that investigators had not found direct proof of the link.

Mr. Lewis declined to answer questions about the episode but released a statement through a spokesman. “This is a clear attempt to undermine the strong working relationship between News Corp.’s Management and Standards Committee and the Metropolitan Police Service,” Mr. Lewis said. “Nothing will prevent us from continuing to cooperate fully with Operation Weeting,” the police investigation into illegal phone hacking at The News of the World, a Murdoch newspaper, now defunct, at the heart of the scandal.

A News International spokesman said Mr. Robinson had declined to comment.

Neither Mr. Peston nor the BBC would answer questions on how he had obtained the interview.

Kroll also declined to be interviewed for this article, saying it does not remark on matters concerning clients.

The Telegraph spokesman declined to comment further or to identify remedies it might have put in place to prevent such an episode from recurring.

The New York Times has pieced together a detailed account of Kroll’s internal inquiry through interviews with executives at The Telegraph and a review of Kroll’s executive summary of its work, which was completed last March.

Kroll found that a tight circle of former employees had “strong motivations to damage The Telegraph,” and that they included Mr. Lewis. Kroll investigators concluded that as The Telegraph was preparing its article in December, Mr. Lewis learned about it from a former colleague at the newspaper.

Kroll wrote in its report that it suspected that Mr. Lewis was “involved in orchestrating the leak of the information.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=15104887ea2d4bd9b4df17c572480ed1

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