This initially was a lighthearted intermission diary, supposing this would be a quiet Sunday as News International tried to manage the chaos engulfing them. But I was wrong.
UPDATE: Sir Paul Stephenson, the Met Commissioner, Britain’s senior police officer, has resigned because of his connections with the scandal. More news as this comes in. But this is affecting all levels of the British establishment. I hear now that the Serious Fraud Office is making forays into the News International books: this means that the payment to police officers is at a deeper and more complicated than first appeared. In company law, such payments would be “a gross misuse of shareholders money”.
In Sir Paul Stephenson’s resignation statement there’s a concealed timebomb; a comparison between his employee (Wallis a former News of the World deputy editor) now arrested in the Hackergate probe, and the Prime Minister’s chief press officer, David Coulson (a former editor of the same newspaper).
Now let me turn to the reported displeasure of the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary of the relationship with Mr Wallis.
The reasons for not having told them are two fold. Firstly, I repeat my earlier comments of having at the time no reason for considering the contractual relationship to be a matter of concern. Unlike Mr Coulson, Mr Wallis had not resigned from News of the World or, to the best of my knowledge been in any way associated with the original phone hacking investigation.
That’s a barb and a half. As Robert Peston says
Stephenson statement implies that Met’s employment of Wallis was less controversial than David Cameron’s employment of Coulson
UPDATE 2; IS CAMERON NEXT? Stephenson explicitly compared his taking responsibility with Cameron’s lack of taking responsibility – an amazing comparison. The Labour Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, has gone for the kill
It is striking that Sir Paul has taken responsibility and answered questions about the appointment of the Deputy Editor of the News of the World whereas the Prime Minister still refuses to recognise his misjudgement and answer questions on the appointment of the Editor of the News of the World at the time of the initial phone hacking investigation.
People will wonder at why different rules apply for the Prime Minister and the Met, especially when as Sir Paul said himself, unlike Andy Coulson, Neil Wallis had not been forced to resign from the News of the World.
It is also a very serious concern that the Met Commissioner felt unable to tell the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary about this operational issue with Neil Wallis because of the Prime Minister’s relationship with Andy Coulson.
Amazing times. This could go all the way up to the Prime Minister – a close friend of Rebekah Brooks. Even Iain Dale, a famous Conservative Blogger agrees; Could Cameron Be Next
I can’t believe I am even writing this, but it is no longer an impossibility to imagine this scandal bringing down the Prime Minister or even the government. OK, some of you reading this may think that last sentence is a deranged ranting, and you may be right. Indeed, I hope you are. But Sir Paul Stephenson launched a thinly veiled attack on David Cameron in his resignation statement and the Prime Minister is already on the ropes about the propriety of his relationship with Andy Coulson.
Now back to the original diary
To everyone’s surprise, police have just arrested the former Chief Executive of News International, Rebekah Brooks. Significantly she being questioned by detectives working on both Operations Weeting and Elveden: in other words.
They have arrested her on suspicion of both phone hacking (under the Phone Intercept Law) and corruption allegations.
This is key development, and puts James Murdoch next in the frame as per my previous diary – FALL OF THE HOUSE OF MURDOCH VI. Indeed, so dramatic was it that the best go to source for inside information on New International, Murdoch’s biographer Michael Wolff, could only emit the tweet “Jesus” at first. Now he adds this…
In 2008, during a two hour interview I did with Rebekah Brooks, she took seven phone calls from James Murdoch–that’s how often they spoke.
A Guardian Video from just seven days ago shows how close Brooks was to both James and Rupert who (rather than the hacked victims or 200 staff redundancies) said Rebekah was his ‘priority’
More on this story as it comes in.
(The video below maybe be more or less amusing given this news. However, I’ll declare an interest. It’s not an anti-redheadism. How can it be? My long time girlfriend’s a red head)
For those who don’t know much of Rebekah Brooks (nee Wade) do check out my previous diaries and the comments by others in them. I can personally testify to Rebekah’s charm, persuasiveness and ruthlessness. But don’t take my word for it: she was a very close friend to David Cameron, and even spent Christmas with him this year: she was so close to Gordon Brown that she had a sleepover party with his wife Sarah at Number 10; she was also close to Tony Blair.
So apart from being the Chief Executive of the most powerful media organisation in the UK, she’s also a major figure in the establishment. This is a stunning moment – and finally the media establishment which, for many years has wielded unaccountable power in this country, are being brought to book.
Key Questions at this Point
1. How will this affect Rebekah Brook’s appearance at the House of Commons Media Select Committee on Tuesday. She’ll certainly be released later today, so she’ll be available. But can she speak about anything now she’s been charged? Has this actually come as a gift to her?
I personally don’t think so. Brooks thought she was ‘not on the police radar’ so this comes as an unwelcome shock. The fact she might not appear with Rupert and James Murdoch actually stops her being the lightning rod, and puts them direct in line for the tough questions.
2. If Brooks was arrested for corruption, what will stop James Murdoch also being charged for paying off the victims of phone hacking 2 years ago – and thereby perverting the course of justice. Murdoch has been on the back foot, fighting the firestorm too late, trying to create fire brakes only to find the worst has happened. How long can these flames lap around Murdoch’s senior lieutenants without consuming the family
e news on this thanks to AnnetteK and Voroki and what I understand about police interrogations. CNN are reporting that Brooks came in for an interview, but did not know she was going to be arrested. This indicates to me that, after three arrests last week, the investigation team have prima facie evidence of collusion and/or coverup. It certainly explains the shocked silence from NI, though they knew about the interview on Friday. Here’s more from The Guardian.
Rebekah Brooks did not know she was going to be arrested when she handed in her resignation to News International, her spokesman has confirmed.
Brooks was taken into custody at mid-day on Friday, after agreeing to attend a London police station for questioning. Her spokesman, Bell Pottinger chairman David Wilson, said she did not know she was to meet with police until late on Friday, and that she did not know the appointment would result in her arrest.
The News International chief executive announced her immediate departure from the company on Friday morning. She had agreed to give evidence this coming Tuesday to the Cutlure, Media and Sport select committee’s inquiry into allegations of phone-hacking at the News of the World.
Her lawyers are currently in discussion with the committee about whether she should attend. Wilson said: “It’s left Rebekah in a very difficult position and has left the committee in a very difficult position”.
This is very significant to me. The police are moving at speed, probably with co-operating witnesses, to prove that criminal activities went all the way up the corporate chain. They’re already mightily pissed at the leaking of stories by NI, especially after the destruction of documents, and the Met are desperate to restore their reputation as an investigative force.
My guess – they’re going as high as they can.
3. The Impact on our PM David Cameron
He’s already wounded with his appointment of David Coulson, arrested last week. But he was very close to Brooks. As Michael Wolff has just tweeted.
Spotlight now on Brooks-Cameron nexus and an unraveling of NI power cabal which traded RM approval (even tho he disdained DC).
And an even more profound point:
Almost time to start considering the structural transformation of Britain without the Murdochs. Like Russia with the Communist Party.
SEE MY UPDATE TWO ABOVE: even senior Tories are wondering ‘Could Cameron be next?’
4. The Met police were coming under heavy fire today, with the Commissioner in the frame for accepting gifts from those related to News International. Could this have been an attempt to stifle those headlines and replace them with something else?
Michael White, assistant editor of The Guardian, says he is “wary” of these “grandstanding” arrests – “when they tip off their friends in the media, including me” – suggesting that they are somewhat intended to show that the police are doing their jobs. “Remember that there are a few questions to answer about the Met in this case”, he says, adding that it’s not clear they needed to arrest Brooks, since she was attending the police station anyway.
True, the Police have grandstanded on certain arrests recently, especially when it comes to MPs and Parliamentary aides. They ridiculously over-reacted with a leak to the MP Damian Green, and with No 10 aides during the Cash for Honours investigation, and all the time they were going easy with NI. But some kind of rectification is overdue. I doubt that this is to take the flak for the Chief Met Commissioner, since the arrest was arranged on Friday after she had resigned
Key Points for the US
I’ve constantly stressed the US dimension of this story, partly for the sake of readers here, but also because both Rupert and James Murdoch are US citizens, and Newscorp is registered there. So recap
1. James already looks in the frame both for the coverup and potential FCPA violations in regard to his handling of the hacking. As Diego UK has diaried, James, a US citizen and senior Newscorp executive, is under a huge cloud here: Senior Scotland Yard Officer: Hacking Scandal a ‘Conspiracy to Pervert the Course of Justice’
A senior Scotland Yard officer has told The Sunday Telegraph that News International executives – including Mr Murdoch’s son James – are being investigated for any alleged role in covering up the extent of “industrial scale” phone hacking.
2. There are allegations of hacking 9/11 victims by NotW – these are being investigated and would sure comprise a stake through the heart for the Murdoch empire.
3. But as I almost forgot in the rush of news, and as MsLibrarian has covered well, there are now hard and fast allegations of hacking on US soil. A smoking cellphone perhaps?
4. As I’ve diaried constantly, the practices at NotW and Murdoch’s UK papers were bound to be copied in the US, where British and Australian journalists were regularly sent. Now we have two great reclisted diaries outlining
All the newspapers in the 140 paper network have shared in the editorial process and the contagion of criminal content of the toxic tabloids could spread.
Former Fox News executive Dan Cooper has claimed that a special bunker, requiring security clearance for access was created at the company’s headquarters to conduct “counterintelligence” including snooping on phone records: