More Skeletons in the News Corp. Closet

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Rupert Murdoch and his confidante, former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks are at the centre of the phone hacking scandal that has rocked the world of journalism and politics in the UK, US and Australia. Photo - Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

Reports coming from investigations into News Corporations News of the World, closed down after the hacking scandal broke out, reveal that tabloids journalists not only hacked mobile phones, but also personal computers.

Police and parliament initially focused their investigations on how journalists from News Corp. illegally accessed the voice mails of celebrities, politicians, and crime victims, and who were involved in it.

Tom Watson, a Labour Party lawmaker, said more revelations will come out from the ongoing investigation. My own concerns are that this will lead to other forms of covert surveillance and I think the next scandal will be computer hacking. Were going to be living with this for weeks and months to come.

Watson is also a member of theCulture, Media and Sport Committee, that is investigating the phone hacking allegations. The opposition MP made the comments after the committee published additional statements from News Corp.

Londons Metropolitan Police has started a third investigation called Operation Tuleta which will look into News of the World’s reporting tactics and focuses on computer hacking while not specifically targeting News Corp. This new probe is based on a number of allegations regarding breach of privacy and computer hacking that the police obtained in January, a police source added.

Tuleta began following allegations by Ian Hurst, a former British Army intelligence officer who sued News Group, owned by media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, on August 1st. He claimed that a computer expert was hired by the group to hack into his email.

The hacker is assumed to have used an e-mail virus, and according to Hurs, the was hired by News of the Worlds Dublin office, back in 2006. News International said, when making statements to the Parliament, We recognize the seriousness of materials disclosed to the police and parliament and are committed to working in a constructive and open way with all the relevant authorities. Allegations of computer hacking by News Corp. have surfaced before.

Charlotte Harris, the lawyer of about 70 clients who were potential victims of the phone-hacking scandal, revealed that in the evidence sheet she studied there seems to be proof of possible computer hacking in some cases.

sienna miller paprazzi ambush
Leading British actress Sienna Miller confronting paparazzis outside a London bar. Photo - Rex Features

Sienna Miller, leading British actress, received 100,000 pounds ($165,000) from News Corp. in June to end a lawsuit which she filed against the company for accessing her voice mails. Hugh Tomlinson, Miller’s lawyer, believes her emails were also hacked into although the actress has made no such claims in her lawsuit.

Niri Shan, head of media law at Taylor Wessing LLP in London, believes that if the hacking was carried out then it would have been through a private investigator rather than a journalist on job. Its a criminal offense to listen to someones voicemail, she said in a statement.

In 2009, News of the World was sued by lawmakerNigel Griffiths for allegedly hacking into his computer in order to gain access to photos taken by the members of Parliament during a sexual liaison in his office with a woman. His lawyers could not figure out how the photos were obtained and believe that the retriever may have obtained them in an extremely covert way. The court filings in the matter have not been publicized yet.

NET WIDENING

In the US, Manhattan federal prosecutors have joined the inquiry into allegations that News Corp.s American marketing department hacked a password-protected website at Floorgraphics Inc. William Isaacson, the lawyer who represented the latter at a 2009 civil trial against News America Marketing In-Store Services, said two Manhattan prosecutors participated in his July 18 interview by the FBI. The company claimed the hacking took place in 2003 and 2004.

Glenn Mulcaire, the investigator who is at the heart of Britain’s phone hacking scandal, has been ordered by the court to reveal who instructed him to illegally access voicemails. He was sent to jail for 6 months, 4 years ago for intercepting messages on royal aides’ phones. Now he has been given time until August 31 to provide the information.

“Mr. Mulcaire is due to provide the answers by the end of the month and we await his answers with interest,” a statement released by a media law firm called Schillings reiterated.

ARRESTS

A U.S.-based News of the World editor was arrested and questioned in south London last week. Another suspect, a police detective from the London Metropolitan Police, was arrested last Friday. He is suspected of having leaked details about its phone-hacking investigation.

Based on reports, it is assumed that the detective leaked information to the Guardian, the London-based newspaper that has uncovered majority of the revelations of the hacking scandal.

Scotland Yard has also arrested a 35-year old man believed to be Dan Evans, the former News of the World reporter, suspected of phone hacking.

Altogether 15 individuals have been arrested so far as part of the Operation Weeting which began on January 26th this year.

Sources: Business Daily, Reuters, Bloomberg

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