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Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

FALL OF THE HOUSE OF MURDOCH VIII: Lulzsec HacK!: Whistleblower's Death: US Dark Arts: Miliband

Final Update: Lulzsec Hack of the Sun

It’s only fitting, since the Guardian were one of the few major papers involved in disseminating the Wikileaks emails and breaking the Phone Hacking scandal, that they should be the first to report a Lulzsec hack of News International:

The LulzSec collective hacked the Sun’s website and redirected it to another hacked page falsely reporting that Rupert Murdoch had been found dead.

LulzSec also claimed to be “sitting on their [the Sun’s] emails” and that they would release the emails on Tuesday. They tweeted what they claimed was Rebekah Brooks’s email address at the Sun, and said they knew her password combination.

Just in (0.30 BST): A retweet from the Editor of the Guardian says all News International sites down now

RT @jamesrbuk: Okay,,, and all down for me now #lulzsec

Ouch. That’s gotta hurt. It’s coming at them from all angles now.

Update: Sean Hoare’s Death

I go out to gym for a couple of hours, and what happens? More incredible twists and turns

The whistleblower who connected the Prime Minister’s Press officer to the Hacking Scandal in an NYT investigation has been found dead in his home in Watford (just up the road). Police are saying the death of the former NOTW journalist is ‘not suspicious’, though obviously suspicions will be high. As a friend of mine tweets

Sean Hoare’s death like Pincipal Skinner’s line from the Simpsons “There’s nothing sinister here, groundsman Willie has simply disappeared.”

As the editor of the Guardian has just tweeted, Hoare had already been interviewed under caution as a suspect in the case. Must have been tough on him, since he was also a major contributor to this article on the growing scandal only last week.

A former show-business reporter for The News of the World, Sean Hoare, who was fired in 2005, said that when he worked there, pinging cost the paper nearly $500 on each occasion. He first found out how the practice worked, he said, when he was scrambling to find someone and was told that one of the news desk editors, Greg Miskiw, could help. Mr. Miskiw asked for the person’s cellphone number, and returned later with information showing the person’s precise location in Scotland, Mr. Hoare said. Mr. Miskiw, who faces questioning by police on a separate matter, did not return calls for comment.

My guess is that he was driven to suicide by events, but of course all kinds of speculations are going to take root given the billions of dollars involved, political and business careers: what a horrible mess for him and his family.

Sean Hoare was a key figure in this scandal actually reaching the public and causing the outcry we see now: a brave man. May he Rest in Peace.

Other developments Today in the UK

So what David Cameron calls a ‘firestorm’, unleashed by the Murdoch hacking scandal, burns out of control. It  has made Cameron cut short his African visit: led to a rare emergency recall of Parliament for Wednesday, and James Murdoch looks set to leave the BSkyB board. More importantly, in a seismic unprecedented series of events for the Metropolitan Police (which supervises many elements of national policing), the scandal has today claimed the scalp of our second most senior police officer John Yates.

Cameron’s Firewalls Fall

Basically, Britain has lost its two senior police officers because of the revolving door of interest between News International and the Metropolitan Police. These officers were supposed to have investigated the initial hacking claims five years ago.

However, Yates’ predecessor Andy Hayman left the Met to join News International. Meanwhile Yates and Stephenson recruited a former deputy editor of the News of the World, Neil Wallis, as their press advisor. You can see the problem…

And this is where the flames lick the Prime Minister’s feet.

1. Stephenson and Yates resigned because of their professional employment of a Deputy Editor of the News of the World.

2. Cameron employed the Editor of the News of the World, Andy Coulson, as his Press Spokesman


3. Shouldn’t Cameron resign?

As Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary, has just said (1600 BST) in a fiery feisty performance in the House of Commons

People will look at this and think it’s one rule for the police and another for the prime minister.

Developments Stateside: DOJ and Newscorp/News America Dark Arts

It appears the DOJ are already in contact with British police: US DoJ sounds out Serious Fraud Office on News International

The interest of the Washington-based DoJ stems from the US nationality of the News of the World’s and News International’s parent company, News Corporation. It is illegal for any US company to pay bribes to overseas officials, under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

More importantly, the New York Times has already begun to dig deeper into the nefarious behaviour of Newscorps other arms:

In the case of News America Marketing, its obscure but profitable in-store and newspaper insert marketing business, the News Corporation has paid out about $655 million to make embarrassing charges of corporate espionage and anticompetitive behavior go away.

I have to thank fellow Kossack Dweb8231 for some great investigative work here as he/she has dug deeper into lawsuits against News America, their bullying tactics, and the nightmare for a whistleblower when dealing with their non-disclosure agreements.

There’s plenty of mining to be done, and many diaries yet to be written, about the pernicious black arts of Newscorp and affiliates in the US.


But let’s explore the bigger ideological battle going on – and how one of our senior politicians has finally been brave enough to stand up to the modal monopolies and restrictive practices affecting not only the media, or politics, but also our whole Anglo Saxon financial system.

Murdoch’s Consent Factory

Just in case anyone’s in doubt about the connection between news coverage, media ownership, and political pressure, check out the career of one Rupert Murdoch, who has always cannily touted his ‘anti elitist’ rhetoric to secure his dynasty. Murdoch is a Chomskyite: he believes his media organs can manufacture consent, and in the UK, Australia and the US, he’s pushing back with the same theme: in the Australian:

“What we are witnessing in Britain is a media coup led by a tiny gaggle of illiberal liberals”.

Or, as dweb8231 diaries today in ‘Unsighed WSJ Editorial Attacks Guardian and BBC’, the ideological is at the forefront in the minds of the editors of The Wall Street Journal:

“We also trust that readers can see through the commercial and ideological motives of our competitor-critics. The Schadenfreude is so thick you can’t cut it with a chainsaw.”

Ideology often sounds like a dry thing, and having been immersed in the Marxist critical theory for years, I find it often too jargon filled and despairing to actually motivate people. But there’s little doubt about the analysis, as this crisis has laid bare.

Newscorp have always clothed their commercial interests in the language of freedom and free markets. I’ve already diaried in detail his son’s James ideological speech two years ago when he laid out his plan to defeat the BBC quoting Orwell and Darwin. The vested interests defending closed markets and privilege are very passionate about their ideas – for obvious reasons. But until recently, Britain has lacked a passionate voice that could connect to the wider population about the abuse of power here.

But as Yeats once said “Great passion leads to abstraction”. In a crisis, an idea – a portable, simple, killer idea – can be much more powerful than spin, image manipulation or the optic of lobbying. Finally, this morning the leader of our opposition has attack Murdoch’s  crude monopoly power with passion and force.

An Impassioned Fightback

Some key quotes on the banking comparison from the full transcript:

” I said earlier that the crisis in our media had something in common with what happened in politics and banking.

Of course, there are differences; not least that nobody responsible for the banking crisis appears likely to end up in prison.

Yet that should not obscure the similarities.

The banking crisis too was a story of vaulting power and of shameful failures of responsibility.

It was the closed culture of recklessness and excess in the banks that completely disconnected them from the reality of most peoples’ lives.

It allowed some executives to receive vast salaries and bonuses which often did not reflect the contribution they made or the way they were putting our entire economy at risk.

Powerful people who answered to nobody.

And when they were in crisis, they turned to the rest of us to rescue them.

They were too big to fail and all of us bailed them out.

Yet they have now returned to business as usual.

Still getting the big bonuses.

Still not lending the money to the firms and entrepreneurs that will create the jobs we need in the future. “

“It is one of the great failures of our politics that this power went unchallenged for so long.”

Just so you know – Ed Miliband has done well during this scandal. Two weeks ago there were questions about his leadership. He seemed adrift, returning to old triangulating ways of New Labour, hitting out at benefit claimants and strikes. But when the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone was revealed, he made an amazingly brave step. He did what no politician has dared to do in thirty years, and directly confronted Murdoch and his minions at News International: at every stage he’s led the debate – the call for Brooks’ resignation, the setting up of a public enquiry, an end to the Newscorp take over of BSkyB, and even today calling for Parliament to be extended till Wednesday. At every stage he has been on the front foot – and has transformed from what someone called an ‘insignificant flea’ to a ‘killer bee’. And today he has made a bold connection

What is the reason for this? One of the top left wing thinkers here, Anthony Painter, puts it down to his background: Ed is the son of the Marxist Thinker Ralph Miliband who believed in an early version of Chomsky’s manufacture of consensus. Painter thinks The phone-hacking crisis calls for Ed Miliband to prove his dad wrong

Ralph Miliband spotted the dangers of corporate power subjugating the state. We have to hope he was wrong about its inevitability. In fact, let’s prove that he was wrong. If there is one person who stands at the edge of this Rubicon it’s Ed Miliband. After this morning’s press conference, there is little doubt that he is now setting the political pace of this issue. He’s found his voice, and it’s a determined one. His challenge is now to use his voice wisely — to break up a concentration of over-weaning media power.

Some Background on Miliband

Of course the family background doesn’t explain why Ed’s older brother, David Miliband, more senior in both years and experience, and originally expected to be a shoo-in for Labour Party leader, was much more entrammelled in the New Labour courtship of News International. Had he been leader now – and he was but for a whisker of votes – this saga would be almost as difficult for Labour as for the Tories. As a reader on the New Statesman blog puts it:

It’s the Blairites – Tony Blair, David Cameron, Peter Mandelson, George Osborne, and Michael Gove etc – who are going to be most affected because they are closest to News International. No more “heir to Blair” talk! These are the losers.

I voted for Ed in the leadership campaign this time last year, having rejoined the Labour Party after a 15 year absence. One of the reasons I did so was that Ed, out of all the viable candidates, had an analysis that addressed the fundamental problems of the economy. We’d been too reliant on banking services as a sector of our economy, and ridden an asset bubble which had created an unhealthy dependence of property prices and private debt. Only Ed seemed to get that the days of Thatcher/Reaganomics were truly over, and the left needed no longer triangulate around some unassailable truth or all powerful sector.

I think he’s shown exactly the same kind of insight and leadership when it comes to the other bastion of privilege in our country: the media industry, and its distorting influence on the political process. In simple words, and without the alienating jargon the left often uses, he’s managed to sketch out a connected vision of how unaccountable power has built up in both politics, media and finance.

It sounds abstract: but it isn’t. As Yeats said: “Great passion leads to abstraction.” And in a major crisis nothing is as powerful as a big idea. In Ed’s case it’s quite simply the hacking scandal and the banking collapse shows a shirking of responsibility.

It is large concentrations of power that lead to abuses and to neglect of responsibility.


  1. Strummerson

    that Ed Miliband is the son of a Marxist Jew…oh, wait, that’s in his official bio.

    Glad he’s doing well and Labour has dodged a bullet.  I’ve been underwhelmed by his performances on the floor, but he seems really smart and if the unions (and Peter) are behind him, he’s my guy.

    Raise the scarlet standard high

    Beneath its folds will live and die

    Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer

    we’ll keep the red flag flying here!

    Yep.  That’s right.  Bragg singing the original jacobean tune of the old Labour party anthem as Israeli communists march by!

    So what are the odds this ends Cameron at this point?

  2. Strummerson

    Does this topple Cameron?

    If not, does it cripple him?

    Austerity is already through, so much damage done.  Are there any tories that would be better?

  3. fogiv

    From The Guardian:

    Sean Hoare, the former News of the World showbiz reporter who was the first named journalist to allege Andy Coulson was aware of phone hacking by his staff, has been found dead, the Guardian has learned.

    Hoare, who worked on the Sun and the News of the World with Coulson before being dismissed for drink and drugs problems, is said to have been found dead at his Watford home.

    Hertfordshire police would not confirm his identity, but the force said in a statement: “At 10.40am today [Monday 18 July] police were called to Langley Road, Watford, following the concerns for the welfare of a man who lives at an address on the street. Upon police and ambulance arrival at a property, the body of a man was found. The man was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after.

    “The death is currently being treated as unexplained, but not thought to be suspicious. Police investigations into this incident are ongoing.”

  4. Shaun Appleby

    If you noticed you have a nice link to your dairy in Jed Lewinson’s front-page post on Murdoch today over at DKos.

  5. Shaun Appleby

    Seems Rupert is on the edge of ‘free fall.’  Shareholder revolts, expensive stock buys to support declining values, FBI “fishing expeditions” and all.  And the timing maybe is fortuitous for Republicans who have had enough of Fox setting the agenda for them:

    Then, to the shock of many, a Republican stepped up too. New Yorker Peter King fired off a missive to FBI director Robert Mueller demanding a probe into the 9/11 allegations. “Any person guilty of this purported conduct should receive the harshest sanctions available under the law,” King said. That seemed to be enough for the FBI, which promptly began a preliminary investigation.

    Two FBI units have been assigned to the task, one that specialises in white collar crime and corruption, and a cybercrimes unit. Though the public evidence of wrongdoing in the US – in the form of that Mirror report – is scant, experts believe that may not be the point. “This allows a fishing expedition for the FBI. They are able to probe and find out what else might be going on,” said Lule. If that expedition finds criminal evidence in the US then many believe that News Corp’s suitability to run TV stations in the US could be called into question.

    Paul Harris – Murdochs fight to stay afloat in US as sharks circle News Corp Guardian 18 Jul 11

    Fingers crossed.  I’m guessing more than one establishment Republican wouldn’t mind seeing Fox News de-clawed at this point.

  6. Shaun Appleby

    Having trouble with the whole media shoulder-shrug over Hoare’s death?  Occam’s razor may need a turn on the whetstone if this is the best they can come up with.  And the optics of Rupert and James seated with the recently arrested and perp-walked Brooks is just the kind of theatre News Corporation is famous for themselves.  Who’s driving this thing?  Whomever they are they seem to have given Murdoch the pollice verso, the Schadenfreude is pretty thick on the ground at the moment.  Rupert should be impressed.

  7. From The Guardian’s report yesterday:

    There was an unexplained delay in the arrival of forensics officers at the scene.

    Neighbours said three police cars and two ambulances arrived at the property shortly before 11am. They left around four hours later, around 3pm, shortly after a man and a woman, believed to be grieving relatives, arrived at the premises. There was no police presence at the scene at all for several hours.

    The curtains were drawn at the first-floor apartment in a new-build block of flats.

    At about 9.15pm, three hours after the Guardian revealed Hoare had been found dead a police van marked “Scientific Services Unit” pulled up at the address, where a police car was already parked. Two officers emerged carrying evidence bags, clipboards, torches and laptop-style bags and entered the building. Three officers carrying cameras and wearing white forensic suits went into the flat at around 9.30pm.

  8. fogiv

    something about murdoch testimony being interrupted by some kind of ‘violent incident’, but I can’t find anything more about it.  anyone know what the hell is happening?

  9. Shaun Appleby

    The Home Affairs testimony seems more likely to move things along.  How’s this for “see no evil?”:

    David Cameron’s chief of staff, Ed Llewellyn, stopped Scotland Yard briefing the prime minister on the phone-hacking scandal in September 2010, a senior police officer has told a panel of MPs.

    John Yates, the Met assistant commissioner who was in charge of the review of evidence into phone hacking in 2009 and who quit on Monday, told MPs that Cameron’s chief of staff told him it was not appropriate for him to brief the prime minister on the hacking investigation, adding: “And I’d be grateful if it wasn’t raised”.

    Hélène Mulholland and Matthew Taylor – Phone hacking: emails show Cameron aide ‘stopped’ briefing Guardian 19 Jul 11

    Fail.  Pretty damning revelation regarding the office of the Prime Minister which doesn’t leave much wiggle room for the Sergeant Schulz defence.

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