February 25, 2021

Top Tabloid Editors Endorsed Hacking, Letter Says

In light of the new evidence, the panel also announced that it was summoning at least four former News of the World figures for questioning at a hearing next month and could possibly ask Mr. Murdoch’s son James, the head of the Murdoch conglomerate’s European operations, back for more testimony as well. Both father and son testified at a dramatic televised hearing last month.

The disclosures threatened to push the scandal back to the forefront of public concern, raising worrying questions for Mr. Murdoch and for the British prime minister, David Cameron, who hired Andy Coulson, a former News of the World editor, as his director of communications and has been taunted by the opposition for poor judgment in doing so.

Tom Watson, a Labour lawmaker and member of the panel, also said Mr. Coulson may be among those summoned to give further evidence.

The newest allegations are contained in a four-year-old letter released for the first time from Clive Goodman, the News of the World’s former royal correspondent who served a jail term for hacking the mobile phones of members of the royal family, to a senior human resources executive who had informed him that he was being dismissed.

In addition to the Goodman letter, the parliamentary panel released a letter from Harbottle Lewis, a law firm hired by the Murdochs, which they have repeatedly cited as having given the News of the World a “clean bill of health” in reviewing a cache of e-mails in 2007. The law firm’s letter contradicts that assertion and says that its own investigation had been limited strictly to advising the company in its employment dispute with Mr. Goodman.

The scandal has already spread through Britain’s public life and media world. Mr. Coulson quit his job with the prime minister in January as the hacking scandal spread. Rupert Murdoch closed down the 168-year-old News of the World after the scandal exploded last month with reports that the newspaper had ordered the hacking of the cellphone of an abducted 13-year-old schoolgirl, Milly Dowler, who was found murdered in 2002.

The correspondence, made public by the House of Commons select committee on culture, media and sport, is likely to embarrass former senior officials in the Murdoch empire who denied that phone hacking was widely practiced.

When both Rupert and James Murdoch testified at the committee hearing last month they said they were appalled by the hacking, in dramatic appearances punctuated by a bizarre episode when a prankster attacked the older Mr. Murdoch with a foam pie.

In Mr. Goodman’s letter, dated March 2, 2007, Mr. Goodman challenged his dismissal, saying that his actions “were carried out with the full knowledge and support” of other senior journalists. He also said another senior journalist arranged for payments to a private investigator who carried out the hacking.

Mr. Goodman also asserted in his letter that the practice of phone hacking was “widely discussed in the daily editorial conference” at the newspaper until “explicit reference to it was banned by the editor.”

Mr. Watson said the committee had seen two versions of the letter, one more heavily redacted than the other. One version sent to the committee by News International, the British newspaper subsidiary of the Murdoch family’s News Corporation, had been redacted to black out references to “editorial conference” and “the editor.”

The News of the World had long insisted that the phone hacking was restricted to Mr. Goodman, a single rogue reporter.

But Mr. Watson said the letter offered a “devastating” rebuttal to Mr. Coulson, the former editor and prime ministerial aide, who has always denied knowledge of the phone hacking. Mr. Watson said it was now “likely” that the panel would recall both James Murdoch and Mr. Coulson.

“We have written to Andy Coulson to ask him whether he would like to amend his previous evidence,” Mr. Watson said. “Clearly if Clive Goodman’s account is accurate, it shows the evidence he gave us was at best misleading and probably deceptive.”

Mr. Goodman, the former royal reporter, also claimed that he had been promised his job back after serving a four-month prison term starting in January 2007.

He wrote that Mr. Coulson and Tom Crone, the newspaper’s senior legal counsel, had “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 honor its promise to me.”

News International said through a spokesman that it “recognized the seriousness” of the material disclosed to the police and Parliament and was committed to working in a “constructive and open way” with all the relevant authorities.

The parliamentary committee said that on Sept. 6 it would recall Mr. Crone, as well as the News of the World’s former editor Colin Myer, the News International human resources director, Daniel Cloke, and its former legal director, John Chapman.

The committee also said that “depending on their evidence under questioning, the committee may also have further questions for James Murdoch and others.”

Sarah Lyall and Ravi Somaiya reported from London and Alan Cowell from Paris.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/17/world/europe/17hacking.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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