The phone-hacking scandal no-one wants to talk about


5:06 pm - July 10th 2009

by Sunny Hundal    


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If there was ever the evidence needed that much of our press operate in a world where different rules apply, and how other national institutions cooperate in that process, then the phone-hacking scandal is a brilliant example.

Let’s go over some facts again here.

A couple of years ago one of NotW’s journalists, the royal family correspondent Clive Goodman, was caught intercepting messages. He was sentenced to four months in jail. Then editor Andy Coulson resigned because the buck stopped with him. At the time, News International executives went in front of the House of Commons and this was the exchange:

Q95 Chairman: You carried out a full, rigorous internal inquiry, and you are absolutely convinced that Clive Goodman was the only person who knew what was going on?

Mr Hinton: Yes, we have and I believe he was the only person, but that investigation, under the new editor, continues.

So for a start that turned out to be false. The Guardian found that up to 31 journalists at the News of the World were involved in phone “blagging” and this was confirmed by the Information Commissioner. Not only that, this was known by people at Scotland Yard and quite possibly the Press Complaints Commission. And yet none of these organisations thought it was worth making a big deal about the fact that tens of journalists at a national newspaper were bugging and quite possibly illegally tracking thousands of powerful and well-known people around the country.

I’ll tell you why that is: it’s because in all likelihood they’ve been leaned on by some very powerful people who said that this wasn’t just going on at News International but in fact across the entire media industry. Who is willing to bet against me the Daily Mail isn’t doing something similar to further its own political agenda? Yesterday evening I was shown a chart which listed requests made by various media organisations to private investigators who carried out work on their behalf. That work definitely involved going through records and private information that we have laws against.

This is deep-seated corruption and collusion at the highest levels and it seems that no one wants to open this can of worms. The police have come back and said there’s nothing new to investigate – but Nick Davies rightly points out how they’re trying to muddy the waters and avoid going down that route. Well done to the Libdems for not letting them get away so easily.

It’s even worse that the BBC, which should be using its significant journalistic resources to find out more, has already pushed the story down the agenda. It’s a terrible day for the British media and our institutions.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Media ,Our democracy

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Reader comments


The phone-hacking scandal no-one wants to talk about http://bit.ly/Ey7DY

Article: The phone-hacking scandal no-one wants to talk about http://bit.ly/Ey7DY

murdoch himself doesn’t want to talk about it either. he was interviewed on fox news about it http://tr.im/rL0K

Yes indeed: it is quite likely that a lot of leaning went on and is probably going on right now. Techniques like bugging and paying for confidential information are an integral part of the business model of some parts of the press. They would be in serious difficulty if it were stopped, so they’re not going to sit back and do nothing about it. Much of our political class has adapted itself to the pressures from these sections of the press, so for the time being they’re going to try to avoid doing anything.

However a tipping point might be reached, where doing nothing is no longer an option. The Guardian articles used the word “illegal” repeatedly, which sugests that the paper has some good evidence. The core story is that many illegal things hapened but our institutions didn’t act after a one-off payment was made to one person. That core story isn’t likely to go away.

5. Alisdair Cameron

They (and I’d include q. a few labour voices in this) don’t want an investigation to go too deep. Labour want Coulson to go and Cameron to be embarrassed, but really don’t want to get the wrong side of Murdoch or to have the Met exposed as compromised/complicit by deliberate omission.
Furthermore, Labour can’t cry foul too loudly on this, lest they look ridiculous as they still advocate intrusive surveillance of ordinary citizens. They want the cheap party political advantage, but not any wholesale examination of surveillance and privacy.

6. Denim Justice

So, a brief list of institutions the public cannot trust:

– Parliament (cash for questions; cash for peerages; expenses scandal)
– Police (deaths in custody; institutional racism; repression at demonstrations)
– Press (lies; distortions; hacking into phones)

Welcome to GREAT Britain!

7. Denim Justice

Why are the Police and the Press Complaints Commission so scared of News International?

Are the cops scared that NOTW and The Sun will start actually covering the extent of police abuse of power and corruption?

For starters the Police and politicians don’t want too much discussion of how easy it was for journalists to get access to so-called secure databases.

This is just a cosy cover up by the British establishment. Non of the other tabloids want to touch this story because they are all up to their necks in similar criminality. Much nicer to attack everyone else and spout off about morals. The Police and judiciary are a joke, and want no part of going after the tabloid press. They make too many backhanders leaking information to the tabloids to want to bite the hand that feeds them. And the politicians are terrified of the tabloid press and have been for the last 30 years.

The only hope is that many of the people effected will sue the ass of the Murdoch press and force the politicians hand.

The PCC should be re named The Prince Charles complaints commission. Because they only act when the idiot Royals have been affected.

Murdoch has most of his power in countries where they have a first past the post election system. Winner takes all. It enables him to play off one party against the other. UK, America, Australia.

And he’s has done that very successfully for the last 30 years. Playing one group off against the other with promises of support if the they do his bidding. It always make me smile when politicians try to pretend the media has no effect in elections. If that is the case why to they always take his short term success? Because the are scared shitless of him.

12. Charlieman

The emphasis on illegal access of mobile phone voice mail boxes may be misplaced. Those acts were undertaken by agents employed by NOTW (and other newspapers), probably without assistance of employees of the mobile phone networks. Access was obtained by sloppy security or by social engineering.

At the same time, NOTW and others have been accused of employing agents to obtain information from police and DVLA databases. You would assume that the only way for those agents to source information was by corrupting a civil servant or police employee. However an employee of a registered car parking extortion racket can also obtain access to DVLA records. Does anyone know definitively whether this is one way access (eg obtain name and address of owner from licence number), or can it be used for fishing?

Thus we have two bigger problems. Newspapers have paid agents £500 per month for information, a small proportion of which money has been passed to trusted employees of state bodies. The fact that illegal access to DVLA and police records costs so little, say £100, is very disturbing.

The second is that the government permits easy access to central databases. My life is made easier when applying for a tax disk because data held by my insurer can be accessed by the DVLA (with my consent? — I don’t recall signing anything). But I am much more concerned about information being transferred to third parties by the DVLA.

Re: leanings on, tipping points etc.

It seems to me that the foundations of the corrupt and undemocratic establishment are looking very shaky. No wonder the Conservatives are flavour of the month to paper over the cracks in their own facade.

So, a brief list of institutions the public cannot trust:

– Parliament (cash for questions; cash for peerages; expenses scandal)
– Police (deaths in custody; institutional racism; repression at demonstrations)
– Press (lies; distortions; hacking into phones)

Welcome to GREAT Britain!

Yep. Although all that’s happened now is we can point to actual evidence that your average person in the street would be aware of to prove what we’ve long suspected/believed to be the case…

who needs secret police when you have journalists?

My deeply entrenched cyber-ignorance means I have no idea how that “pingback” thing works, but this article has been mentioned at Hagley Road to Ladywood.

So, a brief list of institutions the public cannot trust:

– Parliament (cash for questions; cash for peerages; expenses scandal)
– Police (deaths in custody; institutional racism; repression at demonstrations)
– Press (lies; distortions; hacking into phones)

Welcome to GREAT Britain!

Well, at least we can trust the bankers in these difficult times…

Oh, and not to mention, we can’t trust the government and our intelligence services not to torture people:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/jul/08/david-davis-torture-statement

The question is:

Who’s next? Royal family? Who? We’re running out of groups who can commit scandals against our democracy!


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  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Article: The phone-hacking scandal no-one wants to talk about http://bit.ly/Ey7DY





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