Yes, the Murdoch story may be flying under the mainstream media radar, but with three British police investigations ongoing, two Parliamentary committees, a televised public enquiry with full powers of subpoena starting tomorrow, a DOJ enquiry stateside, and other investigations and legal cases in the US, Australia and Italy into Newscorp anti-competitive and/or criminal behaviour, this is not about to go away any time soon.
As an early indication of this, it has just been announced that over sixty separate claims (some filed in multiple names) have been filed in the UK civil claims court against News International: these include dozens of celebrities and prominent politicians, but also the families or partners of murder victims, or casualties of other high profile incidents such as the 7/7 London bombings.
These weren’t people who thrust themselves into the limelight – but people who had already been violated by some awful event, only to have their own privacy violated by illegal means by a company whose only interest was profit and using press exposure to exert political power.
Bernstein on the Watergate Analogy and the Culture of Lawlessness
If you think the Watergate analogy is hyperbolical or fanciful, don’t forget it was first made by Carl Bernstein himself in The Daily Beast nearly three months ago
The circumstances of the alleged lawbreaking within News Corp. suggest more than a passing resemblance to Richard Nixon presiding over a criminal conspiracy in which he insulated himself from specific knowledge of numerous individual criminal acts while being himself responsible for and authorizing general policies that routinely resulted in lawbreaking and unconstitutional conduct. Not to mention his role in the cover-up. It will remain for British authorities and, presumably, disgusted and/or legally squeezed News Corp. executives and editors to reveal exactly where the rot came from at News of the World, and whether Rupert Murdoch enabled, approved, or opposed the obvious corruption that infected his underlings.
The parallels with Watergate… Had to do with the culture itself that made this possible. In the Nixon Whitehouse Nixon was responsible for the sensibility that permeated the place, that had to do with unconstitutional acts with a cynicism about the political process and how it was practised, and a disregard for the law. And it became apparent to me, as I read more and more what was happening here, that really at bottom what this hacking furore is about, it’s about a culture in the newsroom that has nothing to do with real journalism, real reporting (which is very simply put the best obtainable version of the truth) but rather has to do with serving up both the lowest common denominator of information and calling it news, and obtaining it through a methodology which is outrageous, whether you’re talking about hacking or other kinds of invasions of privacy, and that the atmosphere in that newsroom is a product of the culture that Murdoch in the News of the World .
This needs must be quick because the unofficial news has just hit the street, but for those of you who think Holder and the Department of Justice aren’t taking the what Gordon Brown has called the ‘criminal media nexus’ seriously, Bloomberg just has this
News Corp. was sent a letter by U.S. prosecutors investigating foreign bribery, requesting information on alleged payments employees made to U.K. police for tips, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.
The letter is part of an effort by the U.S. Justice Department to determine whether News Corp. violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or FCPA, according to the person, who declined to be identified because the matter isn’t public. News Corp. fell 1.7 percent on the news.
This week’s testimony by News International’s former lawyers and executives turned into a bit of a damp squib (executives and lawyers boring? How’s that?). But with the start of the Leveson Inquiry, and further arrests by the three police teams now investigatiing phone hacking, computer hacking and corruption of police officials, there’s no danger this schadenfreudefestschrift is going to go away.
So let me take this relative calm to explore British Prime Minister’s David Cameron’s disastrous decision to employ Andy Coulson, as his main media strategist.
It’s a fascinating tale, that gives a brilliant insight into what Gordon Brown described as the ‘criminal-media nexus‘ which explains the rise of Newscorp as the most powerful global media force.
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
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.
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’