Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Tuesday, August 16, 2011 8:07 pm

What News Corp. knew, and when it knew it

Filed under: Journalism — Lex @ 8:07 pm
Tags: , , ,

I think the legal term for this kind of disclosure is “Oops”:

LONDON (Reuters) – Phone hacking was widely known about at Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World, according to a reporter blamed as the sole culprit, contradicting repeated denials by senior executives and dragging Britain’s prime minister back into the scandal.

In a letter written four years ago in an appeal against his dismissal from the tabloid, former royal reporter Clive Goodman said the practice of hacking was openly discussed until the then editor Andy Coulson banned any reference to it.

Coulson, who has repeatedly denied all knowledge of the practice, went on to become the official spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron, a move which took the affair into the political arena and forced the government to turn on Rupert Murdoch after years of courting his favor.

“This practice was widely discussed in the daily editorial conference, until explicit reference to it was banned by the Editor,” the Goodman letter said, published as part of a parliamentary investigation into hacking. “Other members of staff were carrying out the same illegal procedures.”

Goodman, who was jailed in 2007 along with private detective Glenn Mulcaire, said he had been told he could keep his job if he agreed not to implicate the newspaper — but was fired nonetheless after being sentenced to prison.

The committee investigating the hacking scandal said on Tuesday it would probably recall James Murdoch to give further evidence after receiving the Goodman letter and statements from other parties which contradicted his previous testimony.

Unlike our government, the Brits are perfectly happy to look back rather than (or in addition to) forward. Accordingly, I think Murdoch fils had better have a very good lawyer, because he appears to have lied to Parliament, and right now you couldn’t swing a dead cat in London without hitting an MP who wants the Murdochs gutted like trout.

And again I ask: Is it even barely possible that this kind of practice could have been widespread in Murdoch’s UK properties but nonexistent on this side of the pond? Cuz I don’t think so.



Thursday, July 21, 2011 8:33 pm

How the Murdochs stole voicemail messages …

Filed under: Geek-related issues — Lex @ 8:33 pm
Tags: , ,

… and how it could happen to you.

My voicemail is not on any of the networks these reporters (the WNYC ones, not the Murdoch ones) were able to hack in their tests, and I always password-protect my stuff. But the technology and the sheer will to evil out there, along with the carelessness, or worse, so common among the corporations that keep our data, leave me more than a little uneasy.

News of the world

Looks as if James Murdoch may have committed perjury earlier this week:

Tom Crone and Colin Myler were well aware that the statement they were about to make could prove fatal to James Murdoch.

When the Guardian pointed out in the wake of his parliamentary testimony that Murdoch’s son had sought to blame them for concealment, one friend of the two men said: “To contradict James will be as good as coming out and calling him a liar.”

Myler and Crone, the News of the World‘s then editor and News International‘s top newspaper lawyer, both of whom have lost their jobs in the wake of the phone-hacking affair, subsequently spent the day debating what to do.

If their statement of Thursday night is correct, Rupert’s son will have proved to have misled parliament. He will also have destroyed the Murdoch family’s last line of defence against the scandal – that they knew nothing, and had been betrayed by those underlings they trusted.

Myler and Crone are, in effect, accusing James Murdoch of being part of the cover-up, one in which the company’s executives vainly twisted and turned to conceal the truth about phone hacking and blame it on a single “rogue reporter”.

James Murdoch’s crucial claim to the committee was that he had personally agreed to a massive payout, of £700,000 to hacking victim Gordon Taylor, in ignorance of the true facts. He said Crone and Myler had told him the payout was legally necessary.

The Labour MP Tom Watson, one of the affair’s most persistent investigators, extracted from Murdoch towards the end of the committee session what was to prove an explosive claim.

He claimed that Crone and Myler had concealed from him the crucial piece of evidence in the case – that an email had come to light with a voicemail hacking transcript, marked “for Neville”, ie Neville Thurlbeck, the News of the World chief reporter.

The existence of this email, if made public, would explode the “rogue reporter” defence and begin to implicate the rest of the NoW newsroom. It was – and is – the smoking gun in the whole hacking case.

Rupert may yet skate, but his son and his “like-a-daughter,” Rebekah Brooks (already charged in the case), may not be free before he shuffles off his mortal coil slime.

UPDATE: Watson says he is referring James Murdoch’s testimony to the police for a criminal investigation.

(h/t: DougJ at Balloon Juice)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 8:25 pm

Too big to govern? There’s an app for that.

Having a job and all, I did not watch Murdoch’s Parliament testimony today except briefly while my flat tire was being fixed (pictures, no sound), nor did I have time to read much about it. But I gather one of his defenses was that News Corp. is so big he couldn’t possibly be expected to know about a vast, wide-ranging illegal electronic surveillance program that victimized, at a minimum, upwards of 4,000 people, evidence of which Scotland Yard somehow managed to sit on for more than five years.

(This is, of course, the same defense offered by Alberto Gonzalez for allowing the United States Department of Justice to be converted into a wholly-owned subsidiary of Karl Rove to root out U.S. attorneys who refused to gin up fake, politically motivated criminal cases: The department employs more than 100,000 people, he couldn’t possibly be expected to know what they’re all up to, yadda yadda yadda.)

Let’s manually disarm our BS detectors for just a moment and do something utterly counterintuitive: Let’s take Rupert at his word.

What, then, are the implications?

Rupert Murdoch is 1) the world’s pre-eminent media baron and 2) utterly incapable of detecting, let alone preventing, a years-long, widespread, continuing criminal enterprise within the company he supposedly runs — because that company is too large. Accordingly, we must conclude that if he, with his vast skills and knowledge, can’t keep crimes like this from occurring in such a large enterprise, then no one can.

Therefore, no such large enterprises can be allowed to exist, and those that exist now must be broken up into much smaller, more governable entities, so that even the typical, not-especially-brilliant CEO can run one without running afoul of RICO. Heck, we’ve even had a mechanism on the books for a century that would go pretty far toward allowing us to do that.

So, OK, Rupert, you’re right. Lesson learned. Off you go.

(**turns BS detector back on**)

Monday, July 18, 2011 11:03 pm

Did he fall or was he pushed?

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 11:03 pm
Tags: , , ,

The primary whistleblower in all the legal trouble in which Rupert Murdoch, his current and former minions and a couple of Britain’s former top cops now find themselves was found dead, or “found dead,” today:

If I had a fiver for every hack and distant acquaintance who has told me over the last year what a nice bloke Sean Hoare was, I’d be a wealthy man – even given the state our currency is in.

I never met him. He only came to my attention at all because of his confession to the New York Times about endemic phone-hacking within Newscorp in general, and under the stewardship of  Andy Coulson in particular. I remember very well that the venom with which Murdoch set a gaggle of legals on the NYT at the time made my nose for a scandal twitch. To be honest, I rather suspect that without Sean Hoare, the full Hackgate depravity might never have come out. Sean Hoare was a good man who did something – and he should be remembered for that.

Coulson, predictably, fired him. His version of the event is that Hoare was a hopeless office drunk and marching powder addict. What Handy Andy omits to mention is that it was he and others in the Newscorp cesspool who encouraged this essentially decent man to get coked up with celebs, the better to find out what skeletons rested uneasily in their mental cupboards.

Others close to the action have told me in the past that Hoare made his unease known to Newscorp management, and that the firing on the basis of drink and drugs was a cynical insurance against anything he might later say. It proved to be wise insurance. …

Hoare eventually got himself clean, but the guilt about what he’d done drove him back to his best friend the bottle. He was found dead at his home today, and details so far are scant. The police say that there is no evidence of foul play. How sad it is that nobody in Britain will believe them.

Or outside Britain, for that matter — and it’s not sad; it’s merely logical. Given what we have learned so far about the behavior of Murdoch and his minions, the idea that they might have a critic whacked — “And, Louie?” “Yeah, boss?” “Make it look like an accident.” — doesn’t seem at all implausible.


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