In what will be an occasional feature: an update to some previous diaries – in this case about your-friend-and-mine, Rupert – after the jump …
I tend to avoid cross posting material from my work at the Daily Beast, but this is an important unintended consequence of Murdoch’s reaction to the Phone Hacking scandal which has sent a chilling effect through Fleet Street
News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch holds up a copy of the newly launched The Sun on Sunday newspaper last February in London. (Carl Court/AFP/Getty)
Murdoch Journalists Thrown Under the Bus in Phone-Hacking Scandal
“What Rupert Murdoch has done is unprecedented in the free world,” says the veteran journalist Nick Cohen, author of a recent award-winning book about censorship, You Can’t Read This Book. “Managers have been tasked to go over every expense claim and emails for signs of wrongdoing,” he told The Daily Beast. In the process, Murdoch has “basically given up his journalists and their sources.”
Over a hundred people have been arrested since the phone hacking scandal engulfed Murdoch’s UK paper in the summer of 2011. Fifty five of them journalists. And the reason is not as simple as you would think:
During the height of the phone-hacking crisis that hit Murdoch’s London subsidiary in 2011, parent company News Corp. faced an even greater threat-an investigation in by the U.S. Department of Justice into alleged breaches of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bans payments to foreign officials. To reduce the potential hefty corporate fines and indictments of senior executives in New York, Murdoch created a beefed-up Management and Standards Committee (MSC), with access to a recovered database of more than 300 million emails from its London newspapers and a remit to cooperate with the police.
Since the phone-hacking scandal that shuttered the News of the World broke, there have been more than 100 related arrests. Fifty-five of these have been of journalists, and the majority not for suspicion of phone hacking, as in the six new arrests Wednesday, but on suspicion of corrupt payments to public officials, most of it on evidence provided by the MSC.
“Seriously,” Cohen points out, “more journalists have been arrested in Britain this year than in Iran.”
Also available in Orange
It’s hard to believe, but at 4pm BST today it will be exactly a year since Nick Davies and Amelia Hill published online a leak from Operation Weeting, the newly recreated (third) investigation into phone hacking, and revealed that the News of the World had hacked the phone of a missing 13 year old schoolgirl, who was found dead six months later, murdered by Levi Bellfield.
That headline changed the political scene here in the UK. Within days the News of the World had closed, and New Corp were forced to withdraw their takeover bid for Britain’s most lucrative broadcaster, BSkyB. Within two weeks James and Rupert Murdoch were summoned to appear before a Parliamentary select committee, and David Cameron was forced to set up the Leveson Inquiry.
Over the next year, the hacking scandal expanding to a corruption and bribery scandal at the News of the World’s sister paper, the best selling Sun. Over 50 people have now been arrested. An internal News Corp inquiry, the MSC – set up under pressure from the FBI, SEC and DOJ – has now handed over thousands of emails suggesting bribery of public officials. The scandal expanded to include allegations of TV piracy at News Corp’s pay-TV encryption services in Australia, the UK, Italy and the US.
But more than anything, for the UK, the Leveson Inquiry has shone a light into the dark corners of the political media class, and revealed such extensive back door lobbying between the Murdochs and the last five prime ministers, that it was almost like discovering a state within a state. And of course, with Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and James Murdoch meeting virtually every day with David Cameron, George Osborne and Jeremy Hunt, the convergence over the last few years has been almost seamless. As a senior News International journalist expressed it to me:
The Court of Cameron and the Court of Murdoch have become almost totally enmeshed.
This last year has been an amazing journey for our country, and for me personally, as I became inextricably caught up in the coverage of the affair. My book, which explores those 14 days in July which ended a media dynasty – and the 50 years leading up to it – is in the final stages and due for publication at the end of the month.
Below I might share some of the book, particularly the reality of the Milly Dowler story, but mainly this diary is to share YOUR memories, to hear your thoughts about this momentous year.
I’ve missed you guys. Though it’s great to be covering the Leveson Inquiry for the DailyBeast and Newsweek, it’s on teh blogs in the US that I built up the support, courage and debating skills to devote these last few months to covering the Hacking Scandal and the Leveson Inquiry, and doing my bid to purge the UK of years of monopolistic media practices and abuse of power.
Just so you know, the hacking scandal has finally moved into a much bigger area of illegality, which was the first reason two years ago my interest (and concern) about Murdoch’s News Corp was piqued. James Murdoch’s bid for BSkyB would have given News Corp. a distorting monopoly in broadcast that it already has in newspapers here (40 percent of the readership.)
Not the cover: just a quick promo by Eric Lewis
We were days away from becoming a banana republic, with a foreign, non tax paying dynasty controlling our means of communication. Only the brave work of lawyer (Mark Lewis) and a journalist (Nick Davies) prevented this catastrophe happening by exposing the industrial scale of phone hacking and surveillance deployed by News International – against celebrities, lawyers, and political opponents.
Now, like Saigon in 1975, the Murdoch helicopter is on the roof of News International. Last weeks revelations about back door channels between senior ministers and News Corp. over the $16 billion takeover of our pay TV monopoly, BSkyB, are a clear sign that the Murdochs are burning their bridges, and trying to take down the Coalition Government which – under considerable pressure and only after the Hacking scandal – finally stood up to News Corp., blocked the BSkyB bid, and set up the Leveson Inquiry which is beaming a scorching torchlight through 30 years of political blackmail, back room deals, and illegality.
Tom Watson, the MP who led the charge against Murdoch’s UK empire, is asking for help
On the eve of Lowell Bergman’s excellent PBS documentary (tonight 10 PM PBS) on the original Hackgate allegations that closed News of the World, we have a data dump which actually takes the hacking allegations to a whole new level: to a global News Corp security group which appears to have been behind pay-TV hacking across the world.
Last Night’s BBC1 Panorama Documentary
Through a series of reconstructions, hidden surveillance cameras and interviews with the key players, Panorama alleges that the piracy which crippled ITV Digital was a deliberate attack by the News Corp. subsidiary NDS, which produces about 75 per cent of the encryption software that protects access to pay-tv. The programme centres on an exclusive interview with Lee Gibling, the man behind The House of Ill Compute website which was, until it was closed down in 2001, the main source of codes and software for manufacturing pirate access cards.
Private papers were released last night from the Thatcher Foundation which show the secret meeting Rupert Murdoch had with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to make sure his bid the The Times and Sunday Times would not be referred to the Monopolies and Merger’s commission in return for more political support, and an introduction to Ronald Reagan’s political circle. The eminent and brilliant editor Harold Evans of the Sunday Times, who was against all assurances ousted by Rupert Murdoch, said on a BBC Radio Interview this morning (starts around 1:49).
“The whole thing is so squalid I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at being vindicated after all this time”
For anyone following the #hackgate FOTHOM diaries, you’ll know that that the slow motion crash of Murdoch’s UK Empire is still developing. But it wasn’t until Rush Limbaugh’s recent implosion that I began to think this isn’t just about News Corp, even though it is the world’s 3rd biggest media group and run as a one-man-band. It was in Meteor Blade’s Nopology diary early this week, that this thought came to me:
I think there’s a connection… (40+ / 0-)
between the slow rejection in the UK of the tabloid style of reasoning (basically trollery and personal insult) and the sudden turning on Rush L.
The British Tabloids and the American Shock Jocks basically thrived on the backlash against the civil liberties victories of the 60s: legislation against racial discrimination, homophobia, the rise of women in the work place and reproductive rights. For 40 years they thrived on right wing white male resentment. They had nothing to offer but trollery because they sought to to interfere with communication about race, gender and sexuality, but without an alternative agenda or real ideology, except that of opposition, reduction ad absurdum (looney left fictions about banning nursery rhymes etc) and the shock value of mockery.
This was never anything but a reactionary tribute to all the victories of the 60s. The candidacy of Sarah Palin was the ne plus ultra of this political style. Rebarbative, provocative, posited on antagonism alone, it never could offer much more than a macho guffaw and muttering of unfocused dissent.
Forty years on, the people who find this stuff amusing are diminishing. Shock Jocks have run out of positions. They can only flame out or die down.
The other connection is the rise of social media and blogs like DKos. They can organise dissent. Avaaz and 38degrees focused on the advertisers during the News of the World scandal, and when the public summoned enough outrage through twitter and email, the advertisers withdrew from the paper. That’s what killed News of the World.
Thanks to new media, we really aren’t passive consumers anymore, but can communicate directly with those to attempt to appease us. I guess this is what has happened to Limbaugh.
Actually this Kos comment was just a combination of two comments I’d made on the Moose in Strummerson’s Diary – so that just shows where my real thinking happens.
Whew! This has been an exhausting weekend of revelations and arrests as the Hackgate scandal at News of the World has spread, via an email hacking scandal at The Times, to the arrest of ten journalists, many of them senior, at Britain’s most popular paper, The Sun.
Without doubt, from the multiple angry responses from NI journalists, the British arm of Newscorp is now at war with its corporate masters in the News Corp headquarters in New York. The latter are in charge of the 100 plus lawyers at the Management and Services Committee which is directly co-operating with 161 officers in the Met Operations Weeting, Tuleta and Elveden engaged in investigating phone, email hacking and bribery of state officials. It’s the latter which are behind the recent spate of arrests, and directly threatens the News Corp base with the threat of prosecution under FCPA violations.
I haven’t got long because all these developments have to be incorporated in my book with Eric Lewis, Bad Press: Fall of the House of Murdoch. But in short the DOJ, the FBI and the SEC have all been investigating News Corp since the summer. Mark Lewis, the sterling lawyer for the hacking victims is heading to New York this week to launch civil claims on this basis. In the meantime it’s the FCPA violations which could land senior News Corp Executives in the dock.
There are so many sources on this, from Reuters, the NYT, even the WSJ, I’m just going to link to the most recent: Ed Pilkington on the US Guardian site:
The perils to News Corp of an FCPA prosecution in the US against the company and its executives was underlined by the revelation that a grand jury has been convened in the case of Avon Products. The Wall Street Journal reported that US authorities are probing an internal audit report compiled in 2005 that found that Avon employees had bribed officials in China, yet the company only launched an official inquiry into possible violations three years later.
In the Avon case, the grand jury is likely to be asked to consider whether executives were culpable under the “willful blindness” provision of the FCPA.
Professor John Coffee, a specialist in white-collar crime at Columbia law school in New York, said that executives were at risk of prosecution in cases where they failed to ask relevant questions about a suspicious persistent pattern of payments. He gave the metaphorical example of a driver used by a Mexican drugs cartel to transport cocaine across the border who was aware that the vehicle contained a secret storage panel but made no attempt to find out what packages had been placed inside.
As part of its response to the billowing phone hacking scandal, News Corp has amassed the most formidable team of FCPA lawyers ever assembled. “They have appointed not just one of the best lawyers in this field, they have appointed most of the best lawyers,” Coffee said.
“That’s not normal defensive strategy,” he added.
And in other ‘news’ (I use the term lightly in the Fox news sense), there are rumours that the government scientist David Kelly, who committed suicide after the Iraq invasion over allegations of sexing up WMD threat, could have been a hacking victim. Michael Wolff, Murdoch’s official biographer speculates that James could be arrested this week. And dozens of tabloid journalists, more than happy to see others arrested in dawn raids or suffer trial by media, are whining loudly, in a liberal way, about human rights, due process, and innocent before being proven guilty.
Sweet is it in this dawn to be alive.
A brief but potentially vital heads up…..
It’s been several weeks since I predicted the dynastic succession was over at Newscorp, mainly because of the independent shareholder rebellion last month, and although James did a worthy stonewalling job at the DCMS select committee this Thursday, that does nothing to stop the three ongoing police investigations here (plus suggestions of a secret ‘Operation Millipede’ in SOCA – our equivalent of the FBI).
But this morning, a very reliable reporter on the Daily Mail suggested that James’ testimony could be blown out of the water thanks to find among the millions of supposed deleted News International emails found on a server in India:
Today in Parliament
As expected, the appearance of James Murdoch, the Chief Executive of News International (and related to some other famous people) before the DCMS Committee today failed to produce any huge bombshells. Let’s remind ourselves that the Parliamentary Committee has no real powers of subpoena, witnesses are not obliged to testify on oath, is not run by trained lawyers, and is not allowed to investigate anything that could prejudice the three ongoing police investigations.
James is smart, lawyered up, and left no hostages to fortune in terms of his evidence. Tom Watson had some stellar moments, challenging James over various contradictory testimonies, naming three or four other private investigators working for News International (adding some cryptic reference to Operation Millipede), and at least landing a rhetorical blow by calling James
‘the first mafia boss in history who didn’t know he was running a criminal enterprise.’.