Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Crisis, What Crisis? Oh, *That* Crisis!

Rupert Murdoch has claimed that he 'cannot be held responsible' for the scandal at the News of the World, claiming that he was let down by 'people I trusted.' One or two people even believed him.
The News Corporation boss said that he was 'not aware' of the extent of phone hacking and had 'clearly' been misled by 'some' of his staff. Doing an inscrutable impression of Fawlty Towers' Manuel at one point he actually did get very close to saying, 'I know nothing. Naaa-thing!' His son, James, apologised to victims, saying that hacking was 'inexcusable.' The hearing was reported as being the first time Rupert Murdoch had faced direct scrutiny by parliament in his forty-year UK media career (although, actually, that turned out to be only partially accurate, he did face a Lords committee some years ago). In a hesitant performance in front of MPs, the News Corporation chairman and chief executive claimed that it was 'the most humble day of my life.' He appeared to have little knowledge of many of the key events and figures who played a prominent part in events that have consumed his company - suggesting at one point that he had 'never heard' of Neville Thurlbeck, the News of the World's former chief crime reporter.
However, when pressed by Paul Farrelly, Murdoch said that his company would cease contributing to the legal costs of Glen Mulcaire, the private investigator formerly paid by the News of the World to hack into mobile phone voicemail messages, subject to 'contractual obligations.' Two hours into the hearing, some stupid berk with a silly name tried to throw a shaving foam pie at Rupert Murdoch and proceedings were briefly suspended. The protester appeared to lunge towards Murdoch but was fought off by a group of people, including Mr Murdoch's wife, Wendi who gave him a right good clouting for his trouble. And, if you want to search it out, you can find that bit all over the Internet. In doing so, the idiot managed to do what had always seemed virtually impossible in the past - he actually got quite a few people feeling more than a touch of sympathy towards Rupert Murdoch. Later Rebekah Brooks told MPs that News International had acted 'quickly and decisively' when new evidence of hacking emerged and that she had never sanctioned payments to police or knew anything about phone hacking at the time it was going on. In other developments, the Met Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson who resigned on Sunday denied 'any impropriety' in the hiring of Wallis to provide media support to the police but said that he now 'regretted' the appointment. The Met's public affairs director Dick Fiasco revealed that ten out of forty five members of his department had once worked for the News International. 'Blindingly obvious' evidence of corrupt payments to police officers was found by the former director of public prosecutions, Lord Macdonald, when he inspected News of the World e-mails, the home affairs select committee was told. Explaining how he had been called in by solicitors acting for News Corporation's board, Lord Macdonald said that when he inspected the messages it took him between 'three to five minutes' to decide that the material had to be passed to police. 'The material I saw was so blindingly obvious that trying to argue that it should not be given to the police would have been a hard task. It was evidence of serious criminal offences.' 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 told MPs. The Prime Minister is expected to face tough questions from MPs later today about his party's links to both Andy Coulson and Neil Wallis as he delivers an emergency statement on the scandal to the House of Commons. Cameron arrived back in the UK from a shortened trip to Africa on Tuesday night as it was revealed that his communications chief, Coulson, had been 'advised' by Wallis in the run-up to the last year's general election. In his statement, Cameron he will announce the names of the panel that will look at press regulation and the final terms of reference for the judge-led inquiry into allegations about phone hacking and illegal payments to police. The Conservative Party said that Wallis, who was arrested as part of the police investigation into phone hacking last week, 'may' have provided Coulson with some 'informal advice' on a 'voluntary basis' before the election. John Yates, the Met assistant commissioner who was in charge of the controversial review of evidence into phone hacking in 2009 and who quit his post on Monday, told the home affairs select committee that Cameron's chief of staff, Llewelyn, told him it was 'not appropriate' for Yates to brief the prime minister on the hacking investigation, adding: 'And I'd be grateful if it wasn't raised.' At the close of trading in New York, News Corp shares were six per cent higher than at the start of the day. A post-mortem examination into the death of whistleblowing former News of the World journalist Sean Hoare has found no evidence of third party involvement. Rupert and James Murdoch's appearance before the Commons culture, media and sport select committee lasted about three hours. Faced with a series of questions from Labour MP Tom Watson, Murdoch paused extensively and his son James made several attempts to intervene. However, Watson told him: 'Your father is responsible for corporate governance, and serious wrongdoing has been brought about in the company. It is revealing in itself what he does not know and what executives chose not to tell him.' Under questioning from the softly-spoken Brummie MP, Murdoch senior's grasp of the facts about what had gone on at the News of the World was, to put it bluntly, not all it might have been. In an organisation of fifty three thousand people - and with the now-defunct News of the World accounting for just one per cent of revenues - Murdoch and son claimed that they were simply too far removed from the alleged dodgier practices of some of their employees, Rupert Murdoch claimed. The rest of the committee did not quite scale the forensic heights of the West Bromwich MP, and Rupert Murdoch soon got more into his stride. There were occasional flashes of the steel that has made him such a formidable figure, as he banged the table to emphasise a point. Murdoch said his questioning by MPs - who are investigating alleged criminal behaviour at the News of the World and the extent of what senior executives knew - was the 'most humble day of my life.' The News Corp boss said that he was 'not aware' of the extent of phone hacking at the company 'until earlier this year' when it handed over new information to the police - triggering a new inquiry. 'I was absolutely shocked, appalled and ashamed when I heard about the Milly Dowler case two weeks ago,' he told MPs. Arguing that he ran a global business of over fifty thousand employees, he said that he was 'not ultimately responsible' for what went on at the News of the World. Asked who was responsible, he said: 'The people I trusted to run it and maybe the people they trusted.' Murdoch said he was focused on his US newspaper interests and that he had 'perhaps lost sight' of what was going on at the paper, saying he spoke to the editor 'very seldom.' James Murdoch, chairman of News International, said that the firm failed to live up to 'the standards they aspired to' and was 'determined to put things right and make sure they do not happen again.' More focused, more polished and - seemingly - more contrite than his father, he added: 'I would like to say just how sorry I am and how sorry we are to particularly the victims of illegal voicemail interceptions and to their families.' Rupert Murdoch said that he had not been made aware by News International management of out-of-court settlements made to a handful of victims of hacking. James Murdoch said he was 'surprised and shocked' to learn that News International was still been paying the legal fees of Glenn Mulcaire - the private investigator jailed for phone hacking in 2006 - while his father said he would like to 'end' this arrangement. Rupert Murdoch said that a law firm, Harbottle & Lewis, had 'trawled through e-mails' of six specific middle management employees at the News of the World on the company's behalf while it defended itself against a claim for unfair dismissal by its former royal editor Clive Goodman. He said that the firm had written to News International to say there was 'nothing to suggest' that phone hacking was not the work of 'one rogue reporter' working with Mulcaire - and, therefore, the company had based its 'push back' against new allegations largely on that advice. Harbottle & Lewis later said that it could not respond to 'any inaccurate statements or contentions' about the letter due to client confidentiality. Later, the former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks said that she had only learned of the content of the e-mails in April of this year - the evidence was subsequently handed to police on 20 June. Scotland Yard later launched Operation Elvedon - an investigation into alleged corrupt payments to police officers. In a separate hearing on Tuesday, the former Director of Public Prosecutions Lord MacDonald, who was asked to review files from Harbottle & Lewis and advised News Corporation to hand them over to the police, said that there was 'evidence of serious criminal offences.' He said the News Corporation board was 'shocked and stunned' but accepted his advice immediately. Rupert Murdoch said the News of the World had to close because it had 'lost the trust' of the people after recent allegations and that this was not done for 'commercial reasons.' One of the reasons he had been forced to withdraw his bid to take full control of BSkyB, he added, was that its competitors had 'caught us with dirty hands and created hysteria.' On his relationships with senior British politicians, he said that he had been asked to Downing Street 'for a cup of tea' by David Cameron shortly after he entered No 10 as a recognition of his support for the Conservatives before the election. Murdoch claimed that he had been asked to enter Downing Street by the back door - both by Cameron and by former prime minister Gordon Brown - because it would 'attract less attention.' Asked whether he had considered resigning - he said that he had not because people he trusted had 'let me down' and it was 'for them to pay,' adding: 'I think that frankly I'm the best person to clear this up.' Rupert Murdoch said he had made his 'share of mistakes' but at no time had he felt as 'sickened' as when he found out what the Dowler family had been through. He said that he would 'work tirelessly' to win the forgiveness of phone-hacking victims. It was his understanding, he said, that when two men went to prison in 2007, the situation had been resolved. he later found out that this was not the case. Good old mad-as-toast Geoffrey Robertson QC, told the BBC that Tom Watson was the only MP among those who questioned the Murdochs who had 'carried out his homework.' However, he believed that Paul Farrelly was the only MP who 'landed a killer punch' when he asked the father and son if News International had been continuing to pay the legal bills of Glenn Mulcaire. The revelation of an enduring link between the private investigator and the company was 'sensational' said Robertson, and one that appeared to have showed up the company's apology to the family of Milly Dowler, the murdered teenager whose phone was hacked by Mulcaire, as 'utterly insincere.' The MP Chris Bryant criticised Rupert Murdoch's claim that he was not ultimately responsible for the actions of the News of the World. 'If you're a director of a major listed company, one of your responsibilities is to make sure that the corporate governance in your organisation is so robust that nothing can go wrong. That's when you have to say the buck has to stop at the top.' Lance Price, the former New Labour spin doctor, said that the appearance signified how Rupert Murdoch's 'grip' on MPs had been broken. 'For some MPs this was like getting an ageing war criminal in front of their tribunal. It did not matter as long as they got him there in the end,' he added. According to a very good piece by Jonathan Freedland in the Gruniad: 'Today saw a climax of sorts, albeit with a set-piece scene that seemed to have been written for the stage, rather than TV. Facing an inquisitorial panel of MPs was a media mogul once deemed omnipotent on several continents. That fact alone was dramatic: The Wizard of Oz brought before the munchkins, forced to defend himself from the MPs he had once intimidated and disdained. Before the low – and contemptible – act of pantomime, the attempted foaming, this was a tableau bursting with drama, both public and curiously domestic. So yes, we had a global corporate titan forced to explain himself. But we also had a young wife in a bright pink jacket, nervously watchful and protective of her much older husband. The video of her right hook on the foam-pie assassin was played for laughs in some TV coverage, but it looked like an eruption of tension that had been bottled up for nearly three hours. Wendi Deng won plaudits, even from her husband's most dogged accusers: she was the Tiger Mother, defending her man. More epic still, almost Shakespearean, was the dynamic between father and son: Rupert placing his hand on his son's arm, as he sought to interrupt; James, anxiously watching his father floundering, desperately trying to intervene and take over. Cynics wondered if the whole show was phoney – if old man Rupe was faking semi-senility under Tom Watson's questioning in order to extract sympathy and make credible his claim to have been in the dark about the News of the World's darkest practices. He did rally remarkably as the session went on, remembering circulation figures from the mid-1990s and alive to the legal meaning of the phrase 'wilful blindness.' (One recalled Ernest Saunders, who avoided full punishment for the Guinness affair by an apparent lapse into Alzheimer's disease, from which he miraculously recovered.) The effect of all this was, incredibly, to make Rupert Murdoch – for decades the villain of left-leaning nightmares – a figure of vulnerability, even pity. By the end, the MPs were praising the old man's guts for turning up. But that may not cut much ice with News Corp investors: indeed, what we may have witnessed in the cramped Wilson room of Portcullis House was the last hurrah of Keith Rupert Murdoch and the de facto transition to his son. James, with his transatlantic business patois – all "pro-active", "going forward" and "financial quantum" ie cost – drove journalists mad, but it will have reassured the money men, persuading them that it's time for a generational shift.'

The lack of culture secretary the vile and odious rascal Hunt had - of course - defended David Cameron's judgement in a depressingly sycophantic way, saying that the prime minister has 'taken the necessary decisions to deal with the scandal.' He told BBC Breakfast: 'He's got an independent police inquiry, he's got an independent judge-led inquiry, he's published all the meetings he's had with media owners and said in the future ministers will publish all the meetings that they have with media proprietors.' But then, in an astonishing example of - to the best of this blogger's knowledege - the first time that an invertebrate has ever grown a backbone live on national TV, he said 'News Corp must answer why so much malpractice happened without Rupert Murdoch knowing. What shocked me listening yesterday was the fact that so much wrongdoing seemed to happen without the knowledge of the people at the top.' This is the vile and odious rascal Hunt saying this? Jeremy Hunt? No, surely some mistake?

As the ten back-bench MPs who form the culture, media and sport select committee prepared to question two of the world's most powerful businessmen, they were acutely aware that this was their moment in the spotlight. Watched by an audience of millions as they questioned Rupert Murdoch and his son, James, about the phone hacking scandal, their performances ranged from forensic inquisition to political grandstanding. John Whittingdale, the Conservative chairman of the committee, took a firm stance as the session opened by refusing the Murdochs permission to make opening statements. However he was unable to prevent them both expressing their regret at the failings at the News of the World rather than answering his first question. The next inquisitor was Tom Watson, who had joined the committee after serving as a Labour minister in order to improve his 'quality of life,' but who has since become the most dogged campaigner against News International over phone-hacking. He clearly relished the opportunity to pose the questions he has been pondering for the past two years to the men at the top of the company, and won praise for his calm, authoritative, forensic approach and for not showing any anger or trying to embarrass them. Watson's tactic was to ask about details of News International's legal and editorial operations to the older Murdoch, discovering that he apparently knew little of what was going on in his newsrooms or the journalists he employed. The MP batted away Murdoch junior's attempts to step in and answer on behalf of his eighty year-old father, saying at one stage: 'It's revealing in itself what he doesn't know and what executives chose not to tell him.' The Torygraph's Damien Rees noted: 'The Wilson Room of Portcullis House began to resemble the lounge of a Westminster care home with Tom Watson MP reduced to the role of a reluctant visitor trying to avoid the resident tycoon suffering further disorientation.' Jim Sheridan, Labour, first asked Murdoch senior why he had entered 10 Downing Street by the back door after the general election, with the businessman admitting it was to 'avoid photographers.' But Murdoch went on to say that he had done so several times when Labour was in power, adding in an aside that his decision to support the party had led to his newspapers losing two hundred thousand in circulation. Sheridan extracted the information that Murdoch does not consider himself responsible for the 'fiasco' but failed to ask him an obvious follow-up question about why Les Hinton, a senior executive he said he 'would trust with my life,' had resigned last week. Therese Coffey, who was only elected last year, concentrated her questions on the out-of-court settlements paid to phone-hacking victims. She made one particularly pointed remark about Hillsborough, the football tragedy where malicious and disgusting false claims in the Sun led to a lasting boycott of the paper in Liverpool. Adrian Sanders attempted to rise above the details by asking the Murdochs if they knew the term 'wilful blindness,' which was used in the Enron corporate scandal, but their answers added little to the debate. Philip Davies, the odious right-winger for Shipley, and Labour's Paul Farrelly, a former financial journalist, impressed many by finally establishing that News International had contributed to legal fees for the two men previously jailed for phone-hacking. Alan Keen was rather ineffectual and was mocked for referring to the Murdochs as 'Mr Rupert' and 'Mr James,' whilst Damian Collins became the first to mention Watergate in the context of Hackgate but otherwise elicited little from the witnesses. Shameless self-publicist but usually fascinating to listen to, Louise Bagashite Mensch was asking the questions when Murdoch senior was attacked by a glake. She received some criticism online for praising Murdoch's 'immense courage' as he returned to finish the session. She did, however, press him on why he had not considered resigning over the scandal.

If you want to check out a full transcript of the culture committee session with the Murdochs and Brooks, you can get one here. Sort of like those eight page pull-outs you used to get in the News of the World when something major happened like a new football season starting. That was, of course, before it was closed in shame.

The former News International chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, deflected MPs' questions about the News of the World's payments to private investigators, saying that they were the responsibility of the paper's managing editor. Brooks admitted using private investigators herself during her time as editor of the now-defunct tabloid, which she edited between 2000 and 2003, but said that it was for 'purely legitimate' purposes, such as finding out the whereabouts of convicted paedophiles. But, she claimed, she had never heard of Glenn Mulcaire, the private detective formerly paid by the News of the World to hack into mobile phones, saying that the first time she had heard his name was in 2006 when he was arrested for this activity. 'The News of the World employed private detectives like most papers in Fleet Street,' alleged Brooks. Asked if she had approved payments for the controversial use of private detectives, Brooks said: 'That's not how it works.' Brooks explained that at News International 'the editor's job is to acquire an overall budget from management' and then give this to the managing editor, who allocates it to a paper's department heads. 'Final payments are authorised by the managing editor, unless there is a particularly big item, a set of photographs or something that needs to be discussed on a wider level,' she said. Asked if she had ever discussed individual to payments to private investigators with Stuart Kuttner, the former News of the World managing editor who left the paper in 2009, she claimed: 'Payments to private investigators would have gone through the managing editor's office. I can't remember if we ever discussed individual payments.' Brooks, who did not specifically name Kuttner in her evidence, said that she had never met or authorised payments to Mulcaire. 'I didn't know Glenn Mulcaire was one of the detectives that was used by the News of the World, no. I had never heard the name until 2006, I did not know he was on the payroll. There were other private investigators I did know about, he was not one of them.' Brooks, who resigned from News International on Friday and was arrested and questioned by police for several hours on Sunday, admitted that News International's internal investigation had been 'too slow' and described the hacking of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's mobile phone as 'abhorrent' a word she used several times to describe several different aspects of the scandal. 'The idea that Milly Dowler's phone was accessed by someone being paid for by the News of the World, or worse being authorised by someone at the News of the World, is as abhorrent to me as it is abhorrent to everyone else,' she said. Brooks also claimed that she had never paid a policeman for information despite having previously told the select committee in 2003: 'We have paid the police for information in the past.' 'Straight after my comment about payment to police it was in fact clarified [by News International],' Brooks argued. 'I clarified it again to the home affairs committee at the end of March. I can say I have never paid a policeman myself, I have never knowingly sanctioned a payment to a police officer.' She added: 'In my experience of dealing with the police, the information they give to newspapers comes free of charge.' Brooks tried to convince MPs that she did not have a particularly close relationship with David Cameron. Not very successfully. Brooks denied that she was 'too close' to the prime minister and said she had not recommended Andy Coulson to be his director of communications. 'I have never been horse riding with the prime minister, I don't know what that story came from,' she said. 'The truth is that he is a neighbour and a friend but I deem the relationship to be wholly appropriate and at no time have I had any conversation with the prime minister that you in the room would disapprove of,' she told MPs. Asked if she had recommended Coulson to be Cameron's communications chief, Brooks said: 'The idea came from [chancellor of the exchequer] George Osborne.' Brooks added that the first she had heard that murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's phone had been hacked for a News of the World story was two weeks ago, when the Gruniad broke the story. 'The important thing is we get to the truth as quickly as possible. Those who were culpable of that should face not just opprobrium but also the correct justice of the legal system.' She said that at the time of the publication of the original story in 2002 – she added that it had run in a single column on page nine – a number of checks would have been made by the paper's lawyers, the news editor and the night editor about where the information had come from. 'I would tell you now that it would not have been the case that someone said "that came from illegal voicemail interception,"' Brooks alleged. 'It seems now that it is inconceivable that people didn't know this was the case but at the time it wasn't a practice that was condoned or sanctioned at the News of the World under my editorship.'

Jon Stewart of the US comedy-news programme The Daily Show skewered yesterday's events rather neatly. 'Authorities have arrested poor Mrs Weasley ... no authorities have arrested the guy from Simply Red' he explains.
The recap began with Murdoch's initial statement, one he made after interrupting his son, James, that today was 'the most humble day of my life.' 'Not so humble you couldn't wait for your turn to talk!' Stewart cracked. Then he went to the highlight of the hearings – 'some idiot tried to pie Murdoch,' but not before his wife Wendi's 'lightning reflex and devastating, Chuck Norris-esque handspeed' saved him.

The bone-thick numskull accused of throwing a paper plate of shaving foam at Rupert Murdoch as he gave evidence to MPs has been charged with a public order offence. And, for being a plank, probably. Jonathan May-Bowles, twenty six, of Windsor - posh name, posh gaff - was bailed to appear before City of Westminster Magistrates Court on Friday. He is charged with 'behaviour causing harassment, alarm or distress in a public place under section five of the Public Order Act,' Scotland Yard said. May-Bowles, who goes by the name Jonnie Marbles - daft name, daft plank - was last night suspended from the Labour Party after it confirmed he was a current member, albeit, his subs were overdue! The incident occurred as Rupert Murdoch addressed the Commons culture, media and sport committee. A man who had been sitting at the back of the Wilson Room in Portcullis House in Westminster listening to Murdoch and his son James give evidence, was seen to get up and walk around the left side of the packed room to get to where the billionaire tyrant was sitting. The man threw a paper plate with white foam piled on top at Mr Murdoch's face. The media mogul's wife Wendi Deng leaped to her husband's defence, first pushing the attacker away and then throwing the plate at him as he was led away by police. The incident was condemned by audience members and MPs including the Commons Speaker John Bercow.

CNN hosted a feisty exchange between its new pin-up boy, oily sick twat Piers Morgan, and Louise Mensch the Conservative MP who had accused him of knowing about phone hacking during the Commons select-committee hearings. The pair engaged in an extraordinary nine-minute row live on CNN on Tuesday evening, during which Morgan repeatedly demanded an apology and Mensch threatened to walk off set. Morgan accused Mensch - who infamously almost outed Ryan Giggs' alleged injunction during an appearance on Have I Got News For You before having her words bleeped - of cowardice and 'breathtaking gall' over the allegations she had raised under parliamentary privilege. In the course of the hearings, Mensch referred to Morgan's memoir, The Insider, saying that in the book he talked about using a 'little trick of entering a standard four-digit code allows anyone to call that number and hear your messages.' She claimed that Morgan had boasted that the trick had enabled him to win Scoop of the Year for a story about the former England football manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, she alleged. 'So that is a former editor of the Daily Mirror being very open about his personal use of phone hacking.' Actually, the paragraph isn't quite as straightforward as that. Outside parliament, in front of CNN's cameras, Mensch refused to repeat the accusations. 'As Mr Morgan will know, inside parliament I am protected by absolute parliamentary privilege to repeat something, outside parliament doesn't give me that cloak of privilege. Morgan is a very rich man and I'm sure that ferocious investigative journalists at CNN and across the news media throughout the US will take note of what I said in committee and look into it.' The oily Morgan, it's fair to say, wasn't impressed by that argument. 'I call on you to repeat it. Repeat what you said about me. Then go and buy a copy of my book The Insider and see where that claim is in that book. It isn't there.' Morgan's anger was palpable. So, apparently, was his desire to sell copies of his book. He accused Mensch, who grinned back at him, of 'cowardice' adding: 'Show some balls, repeat what you said about me. What she did today was a deliberate and outrageous attempt to smear my name, CNN's name and the Mirror's name,' he said. Yes to the former and the latter, I'm not sure where CNN comes into all of this, however. 'For the record, in my time at the News of the World and the Mirror, I have never hacked a phone, told anyone to hack a phone, or published any stories based on the hacking of a phone.' Moving her face towards the camera, Mensch said firmly: 'I feel no need whatsoever to apologise,' before telling the host, the excellently named Wolf Blitzer: 'If he's going to go on like this I'm going to cut the interview short.' She also told Morgan: 'As for the threats you've just made, they don't faze me in the slightest.' You go, girl!

A legal firm which represents senior members of the Royal family last night accused News International of refusing to release them from a confidentiality clause so they could defend themselves against allegations that they helped cover up the phone hacking scandal. Harbottle & Lewis took possession of hundreds of internal e-mails from the News of the World in 2007 after being hired by News International. The firm indicated in a short letter to News International that the e-mails did not appear to show wider evidence of criminality. News International claim that this document was relied upon by the publisher during parliamentary inquiries in 2009. Yesterday, Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, the former director of public prosecutions, who in May was asked to review the information, told members of the Commons media select committee that evidence of criminality in the files was 'blindingly obvious.' He said that if police had seen the scale of criminality in the file when it was compiled in 2007 they would have opened a corruption inquiry immediately. A spokesman for Harbottle & Lewis, which has represented the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York, expressed 'great regret' that it could not comment until it was released from its 'professional duties of confidentiality' to News International. 'We asked News International to release us from our professional duties of confidentiality in order that we could respond to any inaccurate statements or contentions and to explain events in 2007,' said the spokesman. 'News International declined that request, and so we are still unable to respond in any detail as to our advice or the scope of our instructions in 2007, which is a matter of great regret.' Lord Macdonald was called to review the file of e-mails in May this year by Hickman Rose, a law firm advising News Corporation, owner of News International. The file was uncovered a month earlier in April during a review of the company's handling of the phone hacking scandal. Evidence of phone hacking was removed from Lord Macdonald's review, because he was conflicted in his previous role as DPP. Lord Macdonald only reviewed evidence relating to payments to police. The file contained just 'nine or ten e-mails' he said, which took three minutes to read. Lord Macdonald said: 'I have to tell you that the material that I saw was so blindingly obvious, that anyone trying to argue it should not have been given to the police would have been a difficult task.' Old Macdonald (he had a Crown Prosecution Service, eee-aye, eee-aye, oh) reported his findings to the News Corp board, chaired by Rupert Murdoch, on 20 June. He said: 'They were stunned, they were shocked.' Macdonald recommended that the e-mails be referred immediately to the police. As a result, the Metropolitan Police began Operation Elveden into payments by News International journalists to police officers. Macdonald said: 'If the police had seen that file in 2007, Operation Elveden would have been opened in 2007.' The file was compiled by Harbottle & Lewis in 2007 when Clive Goodman, the News of the World's jailed former royal editor, was bringing unfair dismissal proceedings against the company. Macdonald said: 'Harbottle & Lewis were asked to give an opinion on whether the material that had been gathered as a result of that process was material that supported phone hacking or related criminality. Their view was that the material in that file did not.' A partner at Harbottle & Lewis prepared a letter to that effect to News International Limited, dated 29 May 2007.

News International has been found by a parliamentary committee to have 'deliberately' tried to block a Scotland Yard criminal investigation into phone hacking at the News of the World. The report from MPs on the all-party home affairs committee will be released on Wednesday morning and its publication has been moved forward in time for today's statement by prime minister, David Cameron, on the ongoing scandal. The home affairs committee report is a damning judgment on News International's actions. It finds the company 'deliberately' tried to 'thwart' the 2005-6 Metropolitan police investigation into phone hacking carried out by the News of the World. The police investigation came at a time when Andy Coulson was the newspaper's editor. Coulson went in to be chosen by Cameron to be his director of communications, before resigning in January this year. Among the report's findings are: That police failed to examine a vast amount of material which could have identified - at a much earlier stage - others involved in the phone hacking conspiracy and victims. John Yates made a 'serious misjudgement' in deciding in July 2009 that the Met's criminal investigation should not be reopened. The new phone hacking investigation should receive more money, from government if necessary, so that it can contact potential victims more speedily. Only a fraction have been contacted so far. The Information Commissioner should be given new powers to deal with phone hacking and blagging. The central conclusion about NI's hampering of the police investigation comes after the home affairs committee heard evidence from senior Met officers who were involved in the case that News International obstructed justice. Last week the man who oversaw the first Metropolitan police investigation into phone hacking, Peter Clarke, damned News International: 'If at any time News International had offered some meaningful co-operation instead of prevarication and what we now know to be lies, we would not be here today.' The first police inquiry led to the conviction in January 2007 of one journalist, Clive Goodman, and the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire. But subsequent developments, and the handing over of documents by News International, are alleged to have clearly shown that the practice of phone hacking was much more widespread than the company ever admitted until relatively recently. NI claimed for four years that it was the work of 'one rogue reporter,' a defence which the company has now - albeit reluctantly - abandoned, at least in part because of a Gruniad investigation, which eventually led to the Met to reopen their inquiry. The committee heard on Tuesday that 'blindingly obvious' evidence of corrupt payments to police officers was found by the former director of public prosecutions, Lord Macdonald, when he inspected News of the World e-mails. Macdonald claimed that when he inspected the messages from NI, it took him between 'three to five minutes' to decide that the material had to be passed to police. The e-mails and other material has been in the possession of NI or their lawyers for years. MacDonald said: 'The material I saw was so blindingly obvious that trying to argue that it should not be given to the police would have been a hard task. It was evidence of serious criminal offences.' Ed Llewellyn, David Cameron's chief of staff, was also dragged into the phone-hacking scandal on Tuesday when two of the country's most senior police officers revealed that he had 'urged' them not to brief the prime minister on developments. Llewellyn sought to stop information about the scandal being passed on to the prime minister in September, just days after the New York Times ran an article which claimed Coulson had been aware of the use of the illegal practice when he edited the News of the World. Former Metropolitan police commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson and former assistant commissioner John Yates told the committee that they believed Llewellyn was keen to avoid 'compromising' the prime minister. Yates told the committee he was offering to discuss only police protocol – not operational matters. Committee chair the Right Hon Keith Vaz MP said: 'There has been a catalogue of failures by the Metropolitan Police, and deliberate attempts by News International to thwart the various investigations. Police and prosecutors have been arguing over the interpretation of the law. The new inquiry requires additional resources and if these are not forthcoming, it will take years to inform all the potential victims. The victims of hacking should have come first and I am shocked that this has not happened.'

News Corporation faces a global investigation of all its businesses to ascertain whether they engaged in the same acts of bribery revealed to have taken place in the UK between News of the World reporters and police. With pressure mounting in the US for the launch of a full-blooded inquiry into News Corporation under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the daunting consequences of such a move are becoming evident. Mike Koehler, a law professor at Butler University who is an expert in the act, said that a costly and expensive worldwide investigation into possible bribery activities on the part of the company's subsidiaries in America, Australia, Europe, India and China was now 'almost inevitable. Once the US authorities have started investigating the UK phone scandal, their next question is where else?' he said. A full-scale FCPA investigation could also see News Corporation forced to hand over to US authorities its most sensitive legal documents, even those covered by lawyer-client privilege. US investigators have the right to call for a waiver to the privilege in order to obtain key documents including witness statements and all legal advice given to the company. The US attorney general, Eric Holder, has confirmed that a preliminary investigation is under way into News Corporation's activities. Several members of Congress have called on the justice department to launch investigations under the FCPA and anti-phone-hacking legislation, and Holder said he was 'progressing in that regard using the appropriate federal agencies in the United States.' It is too early in the proceedings to know precisely in which direction the justice department will take its investigation, or possibly multiple investigations. A justice department spokesman said: 'Any time we see evidence of wrongdoing, we take appropriate action. The department has received letters from several members of Congress regarding allegations related to News Corp and we are reviewing those.' Experts in US company law believe it is increasingly likely that an FCPA inquiry will now follow. The law was introduced in the 1970s to penalise US-based companies from profiting from the spoils of bribery and corruption in other countries. Brad Simon, a white-collar defence lawyer with Simon and Partners who has represented several FCPA defendants, said the spate of resignations in the UK would boost the case for an full-blown investigation. 'The US justice department traditionally responds to fast-breaking news developments and the fact that there have been resignations and arrests in the UK make it more likely than not that the US authorities will pursue this matter,' he said. In anticipation of any legal action, Rupert Murdoch is alleged to hvae begun assembling 'a crack legal team' to represent him before the US authorities, suggesting that he is circling the wagons and readying himself for a bitter legal battle in America as a result of the phone-hacking scandal. At the centre of the team is Brendan Sullivan, one of America's most experienced lawyers, who during forty years in litigation has acquired a reputation for taking on difficult and sensitive cases. He represented Oliver North, the US marine corps officer, in congressional hearings over the Iran-Contra affair. At the time of the hearings in 1987, Sullivan was described by the Washington Post as 'the legal equivalent of nuclear war.' A fellow lawyer said: 'He asks no quarter and gives no quarter.' Koehler said a full investigation would be likely to last for up to four years and cost News Corporation tens of millions of dollars. 'The Department of Justice has a very sharp stick at its disposal,' he said. The US authorities can bring criminal charges against a firm they believe is not co-operating. Criminal charges were brought against accountant Arthur Andersen after the collapse of the energy firm Enron. The case in effect killed the accountancy firm. Speculation has also focused on whether News Corporation employees have engaged in any phone hacking within the US. A US liberal campaigning group,, has put up a sum of one hundred thousand pounds as a reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of 'News Corp employees who hacked the phones of American citizens in the US, or bribed officials or others for information about Americans.' The group promised to pass any hard evidence it receives as a result of Copper's Narking for profit to the FBI.

The Australian arm of News Corporation will have to answer 'hard questions' in the country following the growing phone-hacking scandal in the UK, the Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, has said. Gillard said that Australians had been 'disturbed' by events in Britain, where Murdoch and his son James defended at a parliamentary hearing on Tuesday their handing of events that have shaken the family's grip on their media empire. 'When there has been a major discussion overseas, when people have seen telephones hacked into, when people have seen individuals grieving have to deal with all of this, then I do think that causes them to ask some questions here in our country, some questions about News Limited here,' Gillard told reporters in New South Wales on Wednesday. 'Obviously News Ltd has got a responsibility to answer those questions when they're asked,' she said. The influential Greens, who control the balance of power in Australia's upper house Senate, have called for a parliamentary inquiry into media laws in the wake of events in Britain, with Gillard agreeing to discuss a review. Gillard said Australians generally had hard questions they wanted answered by executives, but cautioned that she was not jumping to any conclusions about the company's conduct and newsgathering practices at home. Senior Australian ministers have for months accused News Ltd of 'biased treatment' targeting the minority Labor government, with the communications minister, Stephen Conroy, this week accusing the company of campaigning for 'regime change.' News Ltd, the Australian arm of News Corp, controls seventy per cent of Australia's newspaper readership market. MPs will decide whether to support a review when parliament resumes in August, after the winter break. News Ltd's chief executive, John Hartigan, denied last week that there was any widespread campaign against Labor, defending the company's newspaper coverage as 'aggressive but fair.' The group's woes have been front-page fodder in Australia and coincide with a decision by Gillard's government to reopen a bitterly fought tender involving Murdoch's part-owned Sky News for the country's taxpayer-funded overseas TV service. An independent panel set up to decide the two hundred and twenty three million dollar Australia Network tender unanimously backed Sky over the incumbent ABC, but was reportedly overruled by the government that decided to impose a new 'national interest' hurdle. The scandal has also knocked shares in a News Corp takeover target, Australian pay-TV company Austar, which has agreed a two billion dollar plus takeover offer from its bigger rival Foxtel, which is owned by News Corp's News Ltd division, billionaire James Packer's Consolidated Media Holdings, and telecom company Telstra.

Chris Bryant MP, with Tom Watson one of the two main parliamentarians who have been pursuing the hacking scandal for - quite literally - years, claims that 'very senior people at Buckingham Palace' expressed concern about the PM employing Andy Coulson at Downing Street, according to the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg. She also reports that Downing Street 'sources' have said Bryant's claims are 'complete rubbish.'

A postmortem into the death of the News of the World whistleblower Sean Hoare found no evidence of third-party involvement and confirmed that his death was 'non suspicious,' the police have said. No specific cause of death was given by the police, who said they were waiting for the results of toxicology tests and were continuing to examine 'health problems' identified during the autopsy. Hertfordshire police said the results were 'inconclusive,' but detectives could not rule out suicide until they knew the results of the tests, which could take some weeks. 'There was no suicide note found at the scene,' the spokesperson said. 'We cannot categorically say one way or another whether this was suicide, as we have not got the toxicology results.' Hoare was the first named journalist to allege that the former News of the World editor Andy Coulson was 'aware' of phone hacking carried out by his staff. Hoare worked for the Sun and the News of the World with Coulson, before being dismissed for drink and drugs problems. He had spoken openly to a number of news organisations about the practice of phone hacking. Hertfordshire police had previously said they were treating the death of forty seven-year-old Hoare as 'unexplained but not thought to be suspicious.' In a statement released on Tuesday, the force said of the postmortem: 'There is no evidence of third-party involvement and the death is non suspicious there is an ongoing examination of health problems identified at the post mortem.' The postmortem was conducted by a Home Office-accredited forensic pathologist and it began at 2pm on Tuesday. The examination was a section twenty autopsy, which would ordinarily be used in suspicious death cases. Hertfordshire police said this was 'just a precaution.' 'Because of the circumstances surrounding the case and the high-profile nature of the person believed to be involved, a decision was taken for a Home Office postmortem to take place to thoroughly investigate the matter,' a spokesman said. The former tabloid journalist is understood to have lived in a first-floor flat in Watford with his wife, Joanne. Hertfordshire police, which asked its major crime unit to investigate the death, also answered questions concerning their approach after the discovery of Hoare's body on Monday. He was found dead in the flat at 10.40am. Neighbours said that police and an ambulance were at the site until about 3pm. It was not until after 9pm, however, two hours after TV and website reports of Hoare's death, that more uniformed and plainclothes police, including scientific officers, arrived at Hoare's flat. Police said the 'log detailing response activity in relation to the incident shows clearly that the initial response to this incident was correct.' They added: 'Throughout the day the tragic incident was treated as an unexplained but non suspicious death. As an additional measure, following a routine review of the incident and in light of a clearer understanding of the former position of the person, officers returned to the property to make routine follow-up inquiries, which are now ongoing. The incident continues to be treated as non suspicious.' Hoare returned to the spotlight last Tuesday after he told the New York Times that reporters at the News of the World were able to use police technology to locate people via mobile phone signals, in exchange for payments to officers. He claimed that journalists were able to buy mobile-phone tracking data from police for three hundred pounds. That evening Hoare had dinner with two New York Times journalists involved in the story – Don Van Natta Jr and Jo Becker. Van Natta Jr, via a web tweet on Monday night, said: 'RIP Sean Hoare. Jo Becker and I had dinner with him last Tuesday night. He was ailing but defiant and funny. And no regrets. All-courage.' Hoare had given further details about so-called 'pinging' to Gruniad journalists last Tuesday and Wednesday. He described how reporters would ask a news desk executive to get the location of a person. 'Within fifteen to thirty minutes someone on the news desk would come back and say "right, that's where they are."' He added: 'You'd just go to the news desk and they'd come back to you. You don't ask any questions. You'd consider it a job done.' Hoare repeatedly expressed the hope that the hacking scandal would lead to journalism 'being cleaned up,' and said that he had decided to blow the whistle on the activities of some of his former colleagues with that aim in mind.

There's an utterly fascinating think-piece by media analyst Steve Hewlett on the BBC's immediate future in the Gruniad.

This week saw a beautiful forties-style episode of Leverage - The Van Gogh Job - featuring dear old Danny Glover from Lethal Weapon and giving Aldis Hodge and Beth Riesgraf the opportunity to act their little cotton socks off. One of Nate's old IYS colleagues comes to him with a story about a Van Gogh painting which went missing during World War II. The investigator believes that the painting is now in the custody of an old m,an Charles Lawson (played by Glover), and wants Nate and his team to find it before some nastier types do. For a particular reason, Lawson decides to confide in Parker, plunging the team back into the 1940's, complete with Hardison playing a younger version of Glover and Parker as the woman he loved. Excellent stuff, very reminiscent of Moonlighting in places.

Alyson Hannigan has said that she is excited about the developments her How I Met Your Mother character Lily and on-screen husband Marshall (Jason Segel) will experience next season. The actress told Parade that she loves working with Segel and is sure that their characters will go through plenty of changes as they prepare for their first child. Hannigan said: 'I'm really excited about what the writers have in store for Lily and Marshall. I'm sure the pregnancy will be hilarious. It won't be a smooth, easy transition. They'll have lots of blunders along the road. I love when they give us relationship stuff and I adore working with Jason. I love them as a couple, and it's just a lot of fun to play. I'm really happy we get to have that as a storyline this season. Martin Short is also going to have a recurring role. Every season we just get more and more guest stars, and it's always really exciting when somebody comes on.' Hannigan also praised the How I Met Your Mother cast, saying that she enjoys coming to work every day because of the positive atmosphere on set. 'I love everyone and it just really is such a nice environment to work in and everyone is just so supportive of family. It's great to go to your job every day and just laugh. We sit there and try to make each other laugh all day long,' she explained.

Channel Five seems to be pulling out all the stops for its eagerly awaited run of Celebrity Big Brother. The Daily Lies reports that Richard Desmond is keen to sign up perhaps its biggest star yet, Steve Strange. Yes, eighties glam queen Steve Strange. The fifty two-year-old Visage star was last seen making a cameo appearance on Ashes to Ashes (playing himself, singing 'Fade to Grey') and hairdresser reality show Celebrity Scissorhands. Unmissable.

A fugitive in Shenyang, China has been caught by police after being recognised on a dating show. Wu Gang, thirty nine, appeared on television under the name Liu Hao and was successful, starting a romance with a female contestant. One viewer, however, thought that he looked familiar and rang the local police, according to Xinhua. Wu is a suspect of a 1998 murder case where a twenty four-year-old man was killed, and although he has aged since then, the viewer said that his 'soft features' were recognisable. Wu was arrested in front of a hotel on 9 June. He has been using his false name for thirteen years in Shenyang since fleeing the province of Jilin where the crime took place. 'I have been accustomed to using my false identity of Liu Hao,' he said.

The latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day doesn't have anything to do with anything, particularly, I just happen to like it. Here's the guv'nor himself, Edwyn Collins.
'Whether by accident or whether by design, in the balmy sky, the sun will shine on both the ridiculous and the sublime.' You tell 'em, Eddie!

No comments: