May 26, 2024

British Hacking Scandal Widens to Government Secrets

Scotland Yard declined to comment on the report in The Guardian newspaper, saying it would not be “providing a running commentary on this investigation.”

The report said the police had warned Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland secretary from 2005 to 2007, that his computer and those of senior civil servants and intelligence agents responsible for the British province may have been hacked by private detectives working for News International.

News International — whose chairman is James Murdoch, the 38-year-old son of the octogenarian mogul Rupert Murdoch — is a British subsidiary of News Corp., the Murdoch-owned global media empire.

The British outpost has been at the center of a controversy convulsing public life here over the use of private detectives to hack into the voice mail of celebrities and less well-known people thrust into the spotlight of the news by personal tragedy.

But the latest reports suggest that the scandal may be widening if it is established that classified material was also hacked from computers. British news reports on Tuesday said that Mr. Hain’s computer may have contained information about informers within Northern Ireland’s factions. Mr. Hain oversaw delicate negotiations that led to the restoration of local government for the province and the creation of a joint administration grouping its historic adversaries.

The report added weight to previous hints that the intelligence community may have been targeted. A former British Army intelligence officer, Ian Hurst, had previously accused The News of the World, the weekly tabloid that the Murdochs closed as the scandal broke, of hacking into his e-mail account in search of information on confidential informants within the Irish Republican Army.

Mr. Hurst had worked in Northern Ireland, running undercover operations. The BBC reported this year that his computer had been hacked and sensitive e-mails had been provided to The News of the World.

Last month, The New York Times reported that at least one of the scores of lawsuits that allege phone hacking mentions classified information from Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, MI5.

A spokesman for Mr. Hain withheld comment, saying: “These are matters of national security and are subject to a police investigation so it would be inappropriate to comment.” Neither the spokesman nor the police explicitly denied the report.

News International said it was “cooperating fully with the police” on all investigations, The Press Association news agency said.

The hacking scandal has spurred Prime Minister David Cameron to set up a full-blown inquiry into the practices and ethics of the British news media and its relationship with the police and politicians.

In recent days, the inquiry has heard testimony from a procession of celebrities ranging from the actor Hugh Grant to J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books, chronicling episodes of intrusion into their private lives by reporters. While the scandal revolved initially around phone hacking, it has since broadened into the realm of interference with computers by people using so-called Trojan Horse viruses for remote access to their target’s computers.

The police inquiry into alleged computer hacking is one of three police investigations affecting the Murdoch media holdings in Britain. Two of them relate to claims of phone hacking and bribery of police officers. In July, Scotland Yard added computer hacking to the list after receiving what the police called “a number of allegations regarding breach of privacy” since January when previous inquiries were reopened.

Ravi Somaiya contributed reporting.

Article source:

In Retreat, Murdoch Drops TV Takeover

The withdrawal from the bid for complete control of British Sky Broadcasting, also known as BSkyB, represented the most severe damage inflicted so far on Mr. Murdoch’s corporate ambitions by the scandal. Only a week ago, Mr. Murdoch hoped to contain the damage by shutting down his 168-year-old tabloid, The News of the World, which had admitted to ordering the hacking of the voice mail of Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old girl abducted and murdered in 2002.

Since then, virtually every day has brought dizzying new disclosure and developments, culminating in News Corporation’s announcement on Wednesday.

In a statement, Chase Carey, the company’s deputy chairman, president and chief operating officer, said, “We believed that the proposed acquisition of BSkyB by News Corporation would benefit both companies but it has become clear that it is too difficult to progress in this climate.”

As the announcement was made, Prime Minister David Cameron was meeting with Milly Dowler’s parents at 10 Downing Street.

After the meeting, the Dowlers’ lawyer, Mark Lewis, spoke for them to a media throng on the street outside. He said that after what had been “an earth shattering week for everybody,” the family was pleased with the withdrawal of the BSkyB takeover bid because it demonstrated that “however big an organization is,” it could be held to account in a society under law.

It was unclear whether the withdrawal would mute the outcry against Mr. Murdoch’s operations in Britain. Within minutes of News Corporation’s announcement, politicians from the Labour opposition and the Liberal Democrat junior coalition partner said competition authorities should investigate whether to challenge the Murdoch family’s existing 39 percent stake in BSkyB.

Ofcom, the media regulator, said it would continue its scrutiny of BSkyB’s ownership structure.

According to British law, News Corporation would be allowed to make another bid for the BSkyB shares it does not already own in six months. Some analysts said another bid is indeed likely, but that the company would probably have to wait until all investigations into the phone hacking and bribery allegations were completed, a process that is expected to take far longer than six months.

As the announcement was made, the chief lawyer for News International, the British subsidiary of the News Corporation, confirmed reports that he was quitting after 26 years with the company. Officials at the firm said that the lawyer, Tom Crone, had been chiefly responsible for clearing controversial stories published in The News of the World and another paper in the Murdoch stable, The Sun. His resignation made him the first senior executive of News International to quit in the scandal.

In Washington, Senator Jay D. Rockefeller IV, a West Virginia Democrat and the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said he had asked officials to investigate whether any News Corporation entities in the United States had employed illegal methods in their news gathering operations.

The Daily Mirror newspaper had reported that journalists had sought to secure phone data concerning Sept. 11 victims from a private investigator in the United States.

“The reported hacking by News Corporation newspapers against a range of individuals — including children — is offensive and a serious breach of journalistic ethics,” he said in a statement. “This raises serious questions about whether the company has broken U.S. law.

The senator voiced particular concern for the victims of the 9/11 attacks and their families. If the phone hacking did extend to them, he said, “the consequences will be severe.”

Only hours before News Corporation’s announcement, Mr. Cameron made what amounted with his final break with Mr. Murdoch by joining in the common front in Parliament in urging him to drop the bid for BSkyB, reversing his previous support. The announcement came just before Parliament was set to approve the cross-party call for Mr. Murdoch to abandon his long-cherished desire to take full control of the lucrative satellite broadcaster — a deal regarded as the cornerstone of his strategy for corporate expansion.

Mr. Cameron said Murdoch executives should “stop the business of mergers and get on with cleaning the stables.”

John F. Burns reported from London, and Alan Cowell from Paris. Reporting was contributed by Ravi Somaiya and Julia Werdigier from London.

Article source: