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Phone hacking: Tom Crone and Colin Myler raise the stakes

Colin Myler and Tom Crone are, in effect, accusing James Murdoch of being part of the phone-hacking cover-up

By David Leigh and Nick Davies


Thursday 21 July 2011 21.25 BST

Tom Crone and Colin Myler were well aware that the statement they were about to make could prove fatal to James Murdoch.

When the Guardian pointed out in the wake of his parliamentary testimony that Murdoch's son had sought to blame them for concealment, one friend of the two men said: "To contradict James will be as good as coming out and calling him a xxxx."

Myler and Crone, the News of the World's then editor and News International's top newspaper lawyer, both of whom have lost their jobs in the wake of the phone-hacking affair, subsequently spent the day debating what to do.

If their statement of Thursday nightis correct, Rupert's son will have proved to have misled parliament. He will also have destroyed the Murdoch family's last line of defence against the scandal – that they knew nothing, and had been betrayed by those underlings they trusted.

Myler and Crone are, in effect, accusing James Murdoch of being part of the cover-up, one in which the company's executives vainly twisted and turned to conceal the truth about phone hacking and blame it on a single "rogue reporter".

James Murdoch's crucial claim to the committee was that he had personally agreed to a massive payout, of £700,000 to hacking victim Gordon Taylor, in ignorance of the true facts. He said Crone and Myler had told him the payout was legally necessary.

The Labour MP Tom Watson, one of the affair's most persistent investigators, extracted from Murdoch towards the end of the committee session what was to prove an explosive claim.

He claimed that Crone and Myler had concealed from him the crucial piece of evidence in the case – that an email had come to light with a voicemail hacking transcript, marked "for Neville", ie Neville Thurlbeck, the News of the World chief reporter.

The existence of this email, if made public, would explode the "rogue reporter" defence and begin to implicate the rest of the NoW newsroom. It was – and is – the smoking gun in the whole hacking case.

This was the exchange:

Watson: "James – sorry, if I may call you James, to differentiate – when you signed off the Taylor payment, did you see or were you made aware of the full Neville email, the transcript of the hacked voicemail messages?"

James Murdoch: "No, I was not aware of that at the time."

James Murdoch's testimony was no slip of the tongue. When the Guardian queried his version with his office, they provided a written statement repeating it. It said: "In June 2008 James Murdoch had given verbal approval to settle the case, following legal advice. He did this without knowledge of the 'for Neville' email."

John Whittingdale, chairman of the culture sport and media select committee, said, ominously, last night: "We as a committee regarded the 'for Neville' email as one of the most critical pieces of evidence in the whole inquiry. We will be asking James Murdoch to respond and ask him to clarify."

In police inquiries, the most sensitive moment is generally considered to be when those involved start to turn on one another. James Murdoch and the then News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks had turned on Crone and Myler – particularly the long-serving Crone – in their testimony.

James told the MPs that Brooks had removed Crone from his job. Brooks then testified that, in effect, Crone was the only former News of the World employee for whom there would be no new job found, following the sudden closure of the title. By adding that he had personally been kept in ignorance of the "for Neville" email, James was pointing the finger at the two former executives as, in effect, sole architects of a cover-up.

The two had already been put in an exposed position by testifying to one of the Whittingdale committee's earlier hearings that they knew nothing to implicate anyone beyond one "rogue reporter". Myler had protested that 2,500 emails had been rigorously examined, and no evidence of further wrongdoing had been found.

In a scandal where it had seemed that the stakes could scarcely be raised any higher, Crone and Myler's statement has now raised them to new heights. James Murdoch's future has been put into play in the most dramatic fashion.

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Pressure mounts on David Cameron over Andy Coulson's security level

Questions asked about why former News of the World editor, embroiled in phone-hacking scandal, was spared No 10 vetting process undertaken by his successor and former deputy

By Robert Booth, Hélène Mulholland and Vikram Dodd


Thursday 21 July 2011 21.10 BST

Pressure on David Cameron to explain why Andy Coulson was spared tough security and background checks increased as it emerged both his successor as director of communications and his former deputy are being vetted to a higher level than he ever was.

Labour called on the cabinet secretary, Sir Gus O'Donnell, to reveal who inside Downing Street decided not to seek the highest level of security clearance for the former News of the World editor and whether the decision was discussed with the prime minister. Ivan Lewis, the shadow culture secretary, said it was "now a matter of urgency that this information is put into the public domain otherwise it will fuel the belief that there was knowledge about Andy Coulson's involvement in illegal activities before he was employed".

Craig Oliver, a former BBC executive who replaced Coulson when he resigned from Number 10 in February, is undergoing "developed vetting" – a rigorous probe into his background and finances aimed at uncovering anything that could make him vulnerable to blackmail or other compromises. Coulson underwent less stringent checks.

A former senior counter-terrorism official said it was "unthinkable" and "very surprising, that someone would not be vetted to the higher 'DV' level when they are working in No 10, that close to the PM".

He said: "Developed vetting is an intrusive analysis of someone's character. It potentially could have picked up phone hacking. It would look into everything about them, including allegations made publicly, in the media, about them."

The contrast between Coulson's and Oliver's security vetting emerged after 24 hours of refusals by Downing Street to say what Oliver's security status would be. Adding to the impression Coulson was afforded special treatment, Gabby Bertin, Coulson's former assistant who is still Cameron's deputy press secretary, is also undergoing full checks.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said on Thursday night: "Andy Coulson, like all civil servants, was vetted to the level appropriate to the information he has access to, in line with other officials and special advisers."

Downing Street sources claimed security was not a high priority at the start of Cameron's premiership, but became more important with the start of military action in Libya. There was also said to be concern at the £500 cost of the vetting process.

On Thursday, a string of former Downing Street press advisers said they could not understand how Coulson could do his job properly without the fullest security clearance which involves Ministry of Defence investigators gathering details of psychological problems, alcohol and drug histories and mortgages, personal property, and debts. Applicants are also required to give details of any person to whom they have given more than £1,000.

Alastair Campbell and Lance Price, press advisers to Tony Blair, said they struggled to understand how Coulson could operate on issues ranging from the British economy, Nato policy, European security policy, Afghanistan and the terror threat to the UK with such low level clearance.

Price said it was "breathtaking" that Coulson would have anything less than full security clearance. "It is very hard to see how you could do the press and strategy job, particularly on foreign affairs, without being fully in the picture."

The disclosure that Coulson had only the basic level of security vetting is understood to have "absolutely shocked" some Whitehall information staff. Security policy for government staff is ultimately the responsibility of the prime minister, who delegates this authority to cabinet members and O'Donnell. The government's security guidelines state that one of the five core principles of government security policy is "the need to employ trustworthy people".

Downing Street declined to say whether Coulson had been consulted on what level of vetting he should undergo, or whether Cameron was notified of the clearance he received.

By the time he entered Downing Street in May 2010, the Guardian had run more than 40 articles about phone-hacking at NoW under Coulson and passed a warning to senior Cameron aides about material it was unable to publish for legal reasons.

Questions were also raised over whether Coulson was allowed to attend meetings relating to national security, counter-terrorism or Afghanistan. Assistant Commissioner John Yates told MPs he had met Coulson to discuss, among other issues, counter-terrorism.

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Former NOTW executive to return from Florida

The Independent

By Cahal Milmo and Martin Hickman

Friday, 22 July 2011

Greg Miskiw, the former News of the World executive named in Parliament as one of several "gatekeepers" on the paper authorised to order phone hacking, said yesterday he will return to Britain from Florida and face questioning by police.

The 61-year-old, who was revealed on Wednesday to have spent recent months living in the resort of Palm Beach, told reporters outside his rented flat that his solicitor had been in contact with Scotland Yard for "some time" and that he expected to fly back to London "momentarily".

Officers from Operation Weeting, the Yard's investigation into the phone-hacking scandal, are understood to have been wanting to speak to Mr Miskiw since shortly after the launch of the new inquiry in January. He left Britain last year and his whereabouts were not publicly known until this week, when he was tracked down in a leafy neighbourhood close to the beach.

Confronted yesterday by reporters, Mr Miskiw declined to answer questions about whether he had authorised hacking prior to leaving the NOTW in 2005 or whether Rebekah Brooks, editor of the paper until 2003, and Andy Coulson, who succeeded Ms Brooks, had knowledge of the practice.

Mr Miskiw told The Daily Telegraph: "I'm returning to the UK momentarily. My solicitors have been talking to the police for some time now so I have in effect been in touch with the police. They know where I am and they know I'm returning. That's all I have to say."

On Tuesday, the Labour MP Paul Farrelly asked James Murdoch at his select committee appearance whether Mr Miskiw, who signed a £105,000-a-year deal with the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire to provide "research and information services", was one of six "gatekeepers" at the NOTW who provided access to eavesdropped phone messages allegedly obtained by the private detective. Mr Murdoch declined to answer for legal reasons.

The former executive has been named in a number of court cases related to alleged phone hacking.

The perjury trial of disgraced MSP Tommy Sheridan heard that notes written by Mr Mulcaire, in which he recorded the politician's mobile-phone number, also had the name "Greg" written in the top corner. The court was told this referred to Mr Miskiw. Pre-trial hearings for a damages claim by the football pundit Andy Gray were also told "Greg" referred to Mr Miskiw.

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Poster's Note: How can David Cameron have been so reckless on an issue dealing with the national security of his people and country? He seems just not to have cared.


Andy Coulson: did they look the other way?I was given top-level vetting for my No 10 job.

I can't understand why David Cameron's former communications chief wasn't tooBy Lance Price


Thursday 21 July 2011 20.22 BST

Some things in life you never forget. And being interviewed on behalf of the security services for a senior job in the same Downing Street department where Andy Coulson would later work, is one of them. The officer came to my home at a prearranged time and asked me a range of questions: about my political affiliations, the state of my finances, whether I drank to excess and what I did for sex. At times he seemed more embarrassed asking the questions than I was answering them.

I had been warned what to expect by colleagues at No 10 who had been through the process. One, a woman, was asked if her glance ever went up to the top-shelf porn mags when she bought a newspaper. I didn't get that one. At the end the officer asked me: "Is there anything else you think we should know?" I racked my brains. "I'm probably a member of Greenpeace," I said, "but I really can't remember." "Don't worry about that," he said. "You'd be surprised how many people are." All he really wanted to know, I suspect, is whether I might be susceptible to blackmail. Once he knew I was solvent and didn't appear to have any guilty secrets, he was satisfied.

Having passed what's called "developed vetting", I was then able to see just about any document inside government, up to and including those marked "top secret". I saw material relating to defence and security issues, sensitive communications concerning the ongoing situation in Northern Ireland and our relations with our allies. I attended cabinet meetings and secure Cobra (Cabinet Office briefing room) discussions about the Kosovo conflict. All of these matters have a communications element to them and without that level of access I would have found it difficult to do my job. My boss, Alastair Campbell, would have laughed at the suggestion that anything was beyond his security clearance as communications director.

Which is why I find it extraordinary, if it's true, that Coulson did not have the same level of vetting as I did in a more junior position. How could he advise the prime minister on handling the media with regard to Afghanistan, Nato, Northern Ireland or mainland terrorism without having access to the full facts?

If he were in the job today, he would need an intimate knowledge of British involvement in Libya, security service assessments of the situation in Syria, the likely developments in Palestine, North Korea and Pakistan. Government communications is a fast-moving business. You can't wait for a crisis to erupt – you need the fullest background detail on all the likely hot spots so you can react quickly and offer the prime minister the best advice when news breaks.

No 10 must have found a way around all this because, by all accounts, Coulson was very effective at what he did. It is simply not credible that a Downing Street communications director didn't have access to everything he needed to see. The more pertinent question, therefore, is why he wasn't vetted at the highest level. If Coulson gave David Cameron all the assurances he needed before the appointment, presumably he could have told the security services what they wanted to hear as well. Except that it's the job of skilled investigators to probe into areas where even prime ministers may not wish to go.

The only possible explanation I can find is that sometimes, if you don't want to know the answer, the best policy is not to ask the question. But what does that tell us about the relationship between Downing Street and the security services? It's one thing for politicians to look the other way sometimes, but the men and women who vet those in sensitive positions should never be asked to do the same

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Murdoch's empire is not invincible

Thursday, July 21, 2011 By Peter Boyle The headline on the final issue of Rupert Murdoch's News Of The World, "Thank You & Goodbye", provoked speculation of suitable rejoinders like "Piss Off & Good Riddance!" and more colourful expressions of the same sentiment.

There's a global celebration at the political storm that continues to beset the Murdoch corporate media empire. And there seems no end in sight with former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks arrested for alleged phone hacking and bribery of police officers — even though there is speculation that this arrest is a device to minimise the flack for the British police.

See also:

WikiLeaks vs News Ltd: Jail Murdoch, not Assange

Murdoch scandal: Hypocritical warmongers exposed

Watching Murdoch crisis so much fun

'WikiLeaks ammendment' gives ASIO too much power

Of course, we know that Murdoch's empire is still alive, powerful and malignant. But it is good to know that the empire is not invincible.

In 2010, Forbes listed Rupert Murdoch as the 13th most powerful person in the world. And he certainly behaved like he was, routinely granting audiences to prime ministerial hopefuls from Australia to Britain who believed that he, rather the electors, held the key to winning government.

People like Murdoch really do think they rule the world and there is an objective basis to this because never before in human history has there been such a concentration of wealth and power in the hands of such a small minority.

In their article in the June Monthly Review, "The Internationalization of Monopoly Capital", John Bellamy Foster, Robert W. McChesney and R. Jamil Jonna said: "Inequality, in all its ugliness, is, if anything, deeper and more entrenched.

"Today the richest 2% of adult individuals own more than half of global wealth, with the richest 1% accounting for 40% of total global assets.

"If, in the 'golden age' of monopoly capitalism in the 1960s, the gap in per capita income between the richest and poorest regions of the world fell from 15:1 to 13:1 — by the end of the twentieth century, the gap had widened to 19:1.

"From 1970 to 2009, the per capita GDP of developing countries (excluding China) averaged a mere 6.3% of the per capita GDP of the G8 countries (the United States, Japan, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Canada, and Russia).

"From 2000 to 2006 (just prior to the Great Financial Crisis), this was only slightly higher, at 6.6%. Meanwhile, the average GDP per capita of the fifty-eight or so Least Developed Countries (a UN-designated subset of developing countries) as a share of average G8 GDP per capita declined from 1.8% in 1970, to 1.3% in 2006.


"The opening decade of the twenty-first century has seen waves of food crises, with hundreds of millions of people chronically food-deprived, in an era of rising food prices and widespread speculation."

The Murdoch empire controls a huge 70% of print media in Australia and if Foxtel's $2 billion bid for Austar is successful, it give News Corp a pay-TV monopoly in Australia.

In Britain, even with the closure of the News of the World, Murdoch still controls big circulation newspapers such as The Sun, The Times, The Sunday Times. News Corp still owns 39% of the television network British Sky Broadcasting.

In the US, Murdoch owns Dow Jones, the Wall Street Journal, the rabidly reactionary Fox News Network and the New York Post, among many other smaller media outlets.

With media domination like this it is no wonder that many people believed Murdoch's empire to be invincible. But it is not.

Every one of these corporate empires depends on the workers it employs — and exploits — to get anything done. Without the daily slog of their employers these corporate emperors can do zilch.

We saw a little revolt even from the News of the World staff as they prepared the final issue.

The July 11 Age said: "Sacked News of the World staff appear to have fired a parting shot at their former editor Rebekah Brooks, disguising mocking messages in the crossword of the tabloid's final edition.

"Brooks, now the chief executive of News International, reportedly brought in two loyal proofreaders to sanitise Sunday's final edition of any jibes directed at her following the newspaper's spectacular demise during the phone hacking scandal.

"But they failed to detect the not-so-cryptic clues that appear to savage her in the crosswords on page 47.

"Among the clues in the paper's Quickie puzzle were: 'Brook', 'stink', 'catastrophe' and 'digital protection'.

"The Cryptic Crossword appears to go even further, including the hints 'criminal enterprise', 'mix in prison', 'string of recordings', and 'will fear new security measure'.

"Another clue was 'woman stares wildly at calamity', with suggestions it refers to a photograph of Mrs Brooks as she left the News International HQ in east London on Thursday after staff were told the paper would be shut down."

A small and belated protest, perhaps, but it is a reminder of real potential power of the workers to bring down even the biggest of corporate empires that rule the world today.

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From GLW issue 887

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At the committee hearing on Tuesday, Labour's Tom Watson asked James Murdoch: "When you signed off the Taylor payment, did you see or were you made aware of the full Neville (Thurlbeck) email, the transcript of the hacked voicemail messages?" Mr Murdoch replied: "No, I was not aware of that at the time". He had to say this otherwise he would have been guilty of paying money to cover-up a crime.

Last night, two senior executives at News International, Colin Myler and Tom Crone, issued a statement that said: "Just by way of clarification relating to Tuesday's CMS select committee hearing, we would like to point out that James Murdoch's recollection of what he was told when agreeing to settle the Gordon Taylor litigation was mistaken."

Tom Watson told the BBC: "This is the most significant moment of two years of investigation into phone hacking. If [Colin Myler and Tom Crone's] statement is accurate it shows James Murdoch had knowledge that others were involved in hacking as early as 2008, it shows he failed to act to discipline staff or initiate an internal investigation, which undermines Rupert Murdoch's evidence to our committee that the company had a zero tolerance to wrongdoing... More importantly it shows he not only failed to report a crime to the police but because there was a confidentiality clause involved in the settlement it means that he bought the silence of [chief executive of the Professional Footballers Association] Gordon Taylor and that could mean he is facing investigation for perverting the course of justice."

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Justice Department Prepares Subpoenas in News Corp. Inquiry


The Wall Street Journal (A Murdoch publication)

July 22, 2011

The U.S. Justice Department is preparing subpoenas as part of preliminary investigations into News Corp. relating to alleged foreign bribery and alleged hacking of voicemail of Sept. 11 victims, according to a government official.

The issuance of such subpoenas, which would broadly seek relevant information from the company, requires approval by senior Justice Department leadership, which hasn't yet happened, the person said.

The issuance of subpoenas would represent an escalation of scrutiny on the New York-based media company. While the company has sought to isolate the legal problems in the U.K., it has been bracing for increased scrutiny from both the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to people familiar with the company's strategy.

The Justice Department has said it is looking into allegations that News Corp.'s now-defunct News of the World weekly in the U.K. paid bribes to British police. It has been unclear whether the Justice Department or the SEC have begun formal probes.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation separately has begun an inquiry into whether News Corp. employees tried to hack into voice mails of Sept. 11 victims, people familiar with the early-stage probe have said.

A person close to News Corp. said the preparation of subpoenas is "a fishing expedition with no evidence to support it."

News Corp. owns The Wall Street Journal.

Commenting on the FBI inquiry, a News Corp. spokeswoman said: "We have not seen any evidence to suggest there was any hacking of 9/11 victim's phones, nor has anybody corroborated what are clearly very serious allegations. The story arose when an unidentified person speculated to the Daily Mirror about whether it happened. That paper printed the anonymous speculation, which has since mushroomed in the broader media with no substantiation."

The spokeswoman also said the company hasn't seen any "indication of a connection or similarity between the events, allegations and practices being investigated in the U.K. and News Corp's U.S. properties."

News Corp. and its recently bolstered legal team expect a possible broad investigation by the Justice Department into whether the alleged bribes paid to British police violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or FCPA, according to the people familiar with the company's strategy. The law is typically used to pursue charges against companies that bribe foreign officials to give them business contracts.

News Corp.'s team also is anticipating a possible FCPA-related investigation by the SEC, the people said. The SEC also could examine News Corp.'s prior disclosures, one of the people said. By law, companies must adequately alert investors to potential litigation or business pitfalls on the horizon.

A spokesman for the SEC declined to comment.

The company's U.K. newspaper unit, News International, has declined to comment on the alleged bribes, citing an ongoing police investigation. Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks said in testimony to Parliament Tuesday that she had "never knowingly sanctioned a payment to a police officer."

U.K. police are conducting two parallel investigations into News Corp.'s now-closed News of the World, which is at the heart of the British scandal. One is related to allegations of illegal voice-mail interception and was opened in January; the other stems from allegations of police bribery. In addition, the company is facing a raft of civil suits. The U.K. government, meanwhile, plans at least two public inquiries.

For the Justice Department and the SEC to pursue News Corp. in the U.S. for allegedly bribing British policemen, the agencies would have to rely on a broad interpretation of the FCPA, legal experts say.

Another possible infraction investigators could examine: whether any payments were improperly accounted for in the company's books and records.

In recent days, News Corp. has hired an expert in the FCPA, Mark Mendelsohn, to advise it, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Mendelsohn, a partner in the Washington office of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, couldn't be reached for comment.

—Vanessa O'Connell, Thomas Catan and Russell Adams contributed to this article.

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How far can legal professional privilege go?

Legal professional privilege meant Harbottle & Lewis had to secure a waiver to discuss Murdoch's claim about phone hacking claims

By Neil Rose


Friday 22 July 2011 13.11

It didn't take long for the name of solicitors Harbottle & Lewis to come up in the Murdochs' evidence to the culture, media and sport select committee, no doubt accompanied by the despairing sound of many heads slapping into hands at the firm's London offices. This kind of thing simply doesn't happen to law firms, particularly smart outfits such as Harbottles.

The firm was unable to defend itself against Rupert Murdoch's allegation it made a major mistake in 2007 when finding there was no evidence that illegal actions at the News of the World went further than those of Clive Goodman, after reviewing 300 internal emails.

Even though it was the firm's client making this claim, Harbottles was still bound by legal professional privilege, a very longstanding common law right that keeps communications between lawyers and their clients confidential unless waived by the client.

It is the bedrock of the lawyer/client relationship and means people can speak freely with their lawyer. Because privilege belongs to the client, in this case it means Harbottles could not discuss the nature of the instruction from News International, which might help explain what happened.

This does not mean that anything you say to a lawyer will be privileged, however. The communication has to be in the context of receiving or providing legal advice, or otherwise in a legal context.

It emerged late on Wednesday that News International – which had previously refused to waive its privilege – had done a volte face to some extent and will allow the solicitors to answer questions from the police and the select committee.

To have refused would have fuelled speculation that the company had something to hide. The committee has now announced plans to call Harbottles to give evidence in October.

Even if News International had not released the firm, according to legal blogger Carl Gardner, Erskine May, the guide to parliamentary practice, says that questions from a select committee override privilege.

As Gardner recalls, this did not stop Robert Maxwell's sons using the common law right not to incriminate themselves as the reason for staying silent before a select committee in 1992. Though sanctions were threatened, none were ever imposed.

Generally, however, privilege is an absolute right and one that puts law firms "in an impossible position", says Colin Passmore, head of litigation at City solicitors Simmons & Simmons and the man who, quite literally, wrote the book on it.

There is simply nothing a lawyer can do if the client will not waive it. In much less high-profile ways, lawyers face this problem all the time, he says – such as when a court wants to make a "wasted costs" order against them over the way in which they have conducted a case.

Often clients will refuse to waive privilege to allow their lawyers to explain themselves and avoid the fine.

Things can be different if the lawyer smells a rat when instructed. Professor Richard Moorhead blogged this week:

"Where a lawyer foresees a significant likelihood of their advice being used for the purposes of providing deniability in a way that is misleading, then there is a plausible case that they should either decline to act or frame their advice so as to prevent the potential for it to be misused."

The precise nature of News International's waiver here means Harbottles will still not be able to go around declaring its innocence; it will have to wait until asked questions by the police or parliament.

However, there is one exception to the privilege rule: if the lawyer is used, knowingly or unknowingly, to commit or cover up a crime or serious fraud, then he can disclose what he knows.

So if it turned out, hypothetically, that News International deliberately withheld information so that Harbottles came to the conclusion it did, allowing News International to trumpet that finding in a bid to mislead investigators about the extent of wrongdoing at the company, then the privilege could be broken. There is no suggestion, of course, that the company did do this.

But lawyer regulation expert Tony Guise says deciding the exception applies is a tricky judgment to make.

"If I was in that situation, I'd rather err on the side of professional caution and not risk having the Solicitors Regulation Authority come down on me," he says.

Privilege is a hugely powerful concept, and indeed a compelling reason to use lawyers.

The supreme court will soon rule on whether it can be extended to tax advice given by accountants, a move strongly resisted by the legal profession.

Ultimately privilege is there to protect the client, not the lawyer, however painful that can be for the latter – just ask Harbottle & Lewis.

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MP refers Murdoch to Met over email

The Independent

By Gavin Cordon

Friday, 22 July 2011


(View video)

Claims that James Murdoch knew three years ago that phone hacking at the News of the World was not confined to a single "rogue" reporter have been referred to the police.

Labour MP Tom Watson said he was contacting Scotland Yard after two former senior executives at the paper publicly challenged Mr Murdoch's evidence to the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee earlier this week.

Prime Minister David Cameron said Mr Murdoch clearly had "questions to answer in Parliament" following the intervention of former editor Colin Myler and former legal manager Tom Crone.

In his evidence to the committee on Tuesday, Mr Murdoch said he was unaware of an email suggesting hacking at the paper was more widespread when he agreed a reported £700,000 out-of-court settlement with Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, in 2008.

But in a statement last night, Mr Myler and Mr Crone said Mr Murdoch was "mistaken" and they had informed him of the email, which had been obtained by Mr Taylor's lawyers.

Mr Murdoch, News Corporation's deputy chief operating officer, responded by saying that he stood by his original evidence.

Mr Watson, a member of the committee and a leading critic of the Murdochs, said the police on the Operation Weeting inquiry into phone hacking now needed to investigate what happened as a matter of urgency.

"I think this is the most significant moment of two years of investigation into phone hacking," he told the BBC.

He said that if Mr Myler and Mr Crone were correct, Mr Murdoch had "bought the silence" of Mr Taylor.

"It shows that he not only failed to report a crime to the police, but because there was a confidentiality clause involved in the settlement, it means that he bought the silence of Gordon Taylor and that could mean that he is facing investigation for perverting the course of justice," he said.

Scotland Yard confirmed that it had received Mr Watson's letter, which was "being considered".

Meanwhile, Mr Cameron, speaking on a visit to Warwickshire, said News International - News Corp's UK newspaper publishing arm - needed to clear up the "mess" that had been created.

"Clearly, James Murdoch has got questions to answer in Parliament and I am sure that he will do that. And clearly, News International has got some big issues to deal with and a mess to clear up," he said.

"That has to be done by the management of that company. In the end, the management of a company must be an issue for the shareholders of that company."

Labour MP Chris Bryant, who is taking legal action over claims that his phone was hacked, sought to step up the pressure on the company with a call for the suspension of Rupert and James Murdoch from their roles in News Corp.

In a letter to the non-executive directors, he said there had been a "complete failure to tackle the original criminality at the company" and "the lackadaisical approach to such matters would suggest that there is no proper corporate governance within the company".

The email at the centre of the latest controversy - known as the "For Neville" email, apparently in reference to the paper's then chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck - contained transcripts of hacked phone messages.

Critics of News International say it shows that, at the time of the settlement with Mr Taylor in 2008, it was known within the company that the practice was not confined to former royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who had been jailed the previous year.

"Taylor was the victim of a crime," Mr Watson said. "Far from reporting the crime to the police or putting the matter right within his own company, what Myler's statement shows - if it is true - (is) that James Murdoch knowingly bought the silence of Taylor, thereby covering up a crime.

"In the UK, that is called conspiring to pervert the course of justice and it is a very serious matter."

He added: "It is remarkable that this week, with the global media pantomime of Rupert and James Murdoch coming to Parliament, broadcast live on every news channel around the world, and then 48 hours later a senior editor and a lawyer are saying Parliament was once again misled.

"I have never known anything like it in all my time in politics."

Speaking during a visit to the Disasters Emergency Committee London offices to back its East Africa Crisis Appeal, Labour leader Ed Miliband said: "I think that people will want to look at the comments that were made and want to resolve the different versions of events that we've seen.

"In the end, this is going to be a matter for the police, but I think the chair of the Culture Select Committee John Whittingdale is right to now inquire of James Murdoch to try and reconcile this discrepancy."

Mr Miliband added that there were also "still serious questions" for Mr Cameron to answer, including about the failure to provide a high level of vetting security clearance for Andy Coulson.

He said: "People are going to be asking questions - well, why wasn't that security clearance done for him? Were people worried that he wasn't going to pass that security clearance?"

The Law Society said today that solicitors had been warned by police that their phones might have been hacked by the News of the World.

Chief executive Des Hudson said he would write to Lord Leveson, the judge who will lead an inquiry into phone hacking, asking him to investigate the allegations.

He said: "Hacking into solicitors' phones would be very serious indeed, and we urge the police to carry out a full investigation.

"If hacking was carried out with the intention of undermining court action, it might well constitute an attempt to pervert the course of justice, which is a serious criminal offence."

Edited by Douglas Caddy
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Is the fear that the truth about 9/11 might come out, based on Murdoch's wiretapping of calls made by victims of that tragedy at the time, a major factor in

scandal that is emerging? Joseph Farrell believes it is.

Edited by Douglas Caddy
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Poster's note: This article links Justice Leveson, who has been appointed to investigate the scandal, to the Murdochs.


MP calls for police to investigate Murdoch son over crucial email

The Evening Standard

Nicholas Cecil and The Londoner

22 Jul 2011

James Murdoch was today facing the possibility of being investigated by police after two former senior News International executives challenged the evidence he gave to Parliament.

Labour MP Tom Watson said he would formally ask Scotland Yard to look into Mr Murdoch's claim that he did not know about a vital email, which suggested the News of the World hacking went beyond one rogue reporter.

Prime Minister David Cameron, on a visit to the Midlands, said: "Clearly James Murdoch has got questions to answer in Parliament and I am sure that he will do that." The development came as the Standard revealed links between the judge put in charge of the hacking inquiry and the Murdoch family.

Lord Justice Leveson has attended two evening events at the London home of PR boss Matthew Freud - who is married to Rupert Murdoch's daughter Elisabeth - as well as having another dinner with him.

The revelations raised questions over why the judge had been chosen to carry out the landmark inquiry into the media, police and politicians.

But it was James Murdoch who was under the greatest scrutiny today, after former NoW editor Colin Myler and ex-News International top lawyer Tom Crone claimed he had been "informed" about the crucial "for Neville" email.

The email sent to investigator Glenn Mulcaire included the phrase "for Neville", which has been seen as referring to the Sunday tabloid's former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck and suggesting phone hacking was not limited to the royal reporter Clive Goodman.

In his evidence to the Commons culture committee, Mr Murdoch said he had been unaware of the email when he agreed an out-of-court settlement, reportedly of at least £700,000, with football chief Gordon Taylor.

However, in a statement issued last night, Mr Myler and Mr Crone said his account was "mistaken" and they had informed him about the email.

Mr Murdoch, News Corp's deputy chief operating officer, responded by saying he stood by his evidence to the committee.

But Mr Watson, who has campaigned to lift the lid on the hacking scandal, claimed that if Mr Myler and Mr Crone were correct, Mr Murdoch had "bought the silence" of Mr Taylor with a confidentiality clause on the settlement.

He added: "So this morning I am going to refer the matter to Sue Akers, the head of Operation Weeting at the Metropolitan Police. I think this is the most significant moment of two years of investigation."

In addition, John Whittingdale, the Conservative chairman of the culture committee, is to ask James Murdoch to clarify his comments.

But questions were also being asked about the decision to appoint Lord Justice Leveson to lead the hacking inquiry after The Standard revealed that he has had dealings with Rupert Murdoch's son-in-law, Matthew Freud.

A spokesman for the judge said he met the boss of Freud Communications "by chance" at a dinner in February last year.

Mr Freud then offered to help the Sentencing Council on how to promote public confidence in the criminal justice system.

"To that end, in his capacity as Chairman of the Sentencing Council, and with the knowledge of the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Justice Leveson attended two large evening events at Mr Freud's London home: these were on 29 July 2010 and 25 January 2011," the spokesman added.

Prior to his appointment to the inquiry, Lord Justice Leveson told the Government about the links.

Downing Street said Lord Leveson had been appointed on the recommendation of the Lord Chief Justice "in line with the procedure of the Inquiries Act 2005." He was the only proposed candidate.

"He has been entirely open about attending these events," a spokesman added.

A spokeswoman for Freud Communications declined to comment saying they were private events.

As the hacking row continued, Mr Cameron said that News Corp shareholders may have to intervene.

"In the end the management of a company must be an issue for the shareholders of that company," he said.

A Met spokesman said: "We have received a letter from Tom Watson and it is being considered."

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Andy Coulson investigated for perjury while working at No 10

Sources say police will examine Coulson's denial of any knowledge of phone hacking at Tommy Sheridan trial

By Vikram Dodd and Ben Dowell


Friday 22 July 2011 20.18 BST

Andy Coulson, the prime minister's former director of communications, is being investigated by police for allegedly committing perjury while working for David Cameron in Downing Street.

The development renews pressure on the prime minister over his judgment in hiring the former News of the World editor and represents the third criminal investigation Coulson faces, adding to allegations that he knew of phone hacking while in charge of the tabloid and authorised bribes to police officers.

Strathclyde detectives confirmed that they had opened a perjury inquiry centred on evidence Coulson gave in court last year that led to a man being jailed.

Coulson was a major witness in a trial involving Tommy Sheridan, the former MSP who was accused of lying in court when winning a libel action against the News of the World. Coulson had been the editor of the Sunday tabloid when it ran a story accusing Sheridan of being an adulterer who visited swingers' clubs.

Sources say police will examine Coulson's denial of any knowledge of phone hacking and payments to police officers at the Sheridan trial against the evidence held by the Scotland Yard investigation.

At the trial Coulson also denied knowing that the paper paid corrupt police officers for tip-offs, which contradicts recent disclosures that News International has uncovered emails showing payments were made to the police during his editorship.

Coulson, who was called as a witness in December 2010, told the court that he had no knowledge of illegal activities by reporters while he was editor of the newspaper.

He also claimed: "I don't accept there was a culture of phone hacking at the News of the World."

Sheridan was jailed for three years in January after being found guilty of perjury during his 2006 defamation action against the NoW. He had successfully sued the newspaper over its claims.

Also giving testimony alongside Coulson were Bob Bird, the News of the World's Scottish editor, and Douglas Wight, the Scottish edition's former news editor.

Bird denied being part of a "culture of phone tapping" and Wight, who is now the paper's books editor, told the court he was not aware of any payment for illegal activities.

Strathclyde police's assistant chief constable, George Hamilton, said: "Following our discussions with the crown, we have now been instructed to carry out a full investigation into allegations that witnesses gave perjured evidence in the trial of Tommy Sheridan and into alleged breaches of data protection and phone hacking.

"We will also be looking to see if we can uncover any evidence of corruption in the police service or any other organisation related to these inquiries.

"However, I must stress that no specific allegations regarding corruption have been presented to us at this time.

"We will be working with the Metropolitan police and with the other Scottish forces as we progress with the investigation.

"I have put in place a structure that will allow us to work effectively together, but also to ensure that any member of the public who has a concern regarding the safety and security of their private data and information is able to register that concern and to have it properly investigated.

"By its very nature, this investigation will require us to allocate varying levels of resources to it. There is a huge amount of material to consider and, potentially, a large number of people to contact.

"This will mean that the investigation is likely to be a lengthy one. However, you have my absolute assurance that it will be a thorough one. We will do everything we can to find out the facts and to report all examples of wrongdoing."

Sheridan's lawyer, Aamer Anwar, said: "Over two weeks ago we provided a detailed dossier of allegations of perjury, phone hacking and breach of data to Strathclyde police and called for a robust investigation.

"Over £2m was spent by the police on investigating Mr and Mrs Sheridan and we were told it was in the public interest. I expect now to see a similar ruthlessness and determination in dealing with the News of the World."

A News International spokeswoman said: "We can confirm that we have been contacted by police on this matter. We can't say anything else."

Earlier this month it emerged that Coulson had hired one of Scotland's top QCs, Paul McBride.

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The 'For Neville' email: two words that could bring down an empire

James Murdoch now stands accused of complicity in an attempted coverup of crimes within his company

By David Leigh and Nick Davies


Friday 22 July 2011 19.49 BST

Many angry victims of the News of the World's journalism used to try their hand at suing, and the paper's battle-hardened lawyers were good at seeing them off. Still they regularly paid out £1.2m a year on a variety of libel claims.

But in May 2008, Tom Crone, the paper's veteran head of legal, got a nasty shock. His opponents in one lawsuit against the paper suddenly appeared to have got hold of a smoking gun.

It was a piece of evidence that seemed to guarantee that the complainant in question, Gordon Taylor of the Professional Footballers' Association, could virtually write his own cheque in privacy damages and blow a major hole in the tabloid's budget.

Worse, much worse, was the fact that this single document, later christened the "For Neville" email, was capable of wrecking all the previous NoW efforts to cover up its hacking scandal. In the end, this piece of evidence would not only cost Crone his own job, but also help destroy the entire newspaper for which he worked, the flagship of Rupert Murdoch's British fleet.

News of the "For Neville" email originally arrived on Crone's desk at Wapping, in the form of an "amended particulars of claim" from Taylor's lawyers, dated 12 May 2008. It used dry legal language, but Crone immediately saw its force.

It detailed the contents of one of the documents seized in the raid on Glenn Mulcaire, the News of the World's private detective who had recently been jailed for phone hacking along with "rogue reporter" Clive Goodman. What it revealed was the way senior staff at the NoW had been involved in systematic hacking – the very thing the paper had been strenuously denying all along, not only to Taylor's lawyers, but to its readers, parliament and public. The legal pleadings said: "Prior to 29th June 2005, Mr Ross Hindley acquired a transcript of 15 messages from the claimant's mobile phone voicemail and a transcript of 17 messages left by the claimant on Ms Armstrong's [a business associate of Taylor] mobile phone voicemail. At all material times, Mr Hindley was a journalist employed by NGN working for the News of the World."

"By email dated 29th June 2005, Mr Ross Hindley emailed Mr Mulcaire a transcript of the aforesaid 15 messages from the claimant's mobile phone voicemail and 17 messages left by the claimant on Ms Armstrong's mobile phone voicemail. The transcript is titled 'Transcript for Neville' and the document attached to the email was called 'Transcript for Neville'. It is inferred from the references to Neville that the transcript was provided to, or was intended to be provided to, Neville Thurlbeck. Mr Thurlbeck was at all material times employed by NGN as the News of the World's chief reporter."

Taylor's lawyers had obtained a copy of the "For Neville" email, with its lists of carefully transcribed hacked private messages, from the police under a court order. It was one of the 11,000 files seized from Mulcaire that were mouldering in bin bags since Scotland Yard had been persuaded to drop their pursuit of a case so potentially embarrassing to their tabloid journalist friends. Crone must have been shocked to realise the incriminating nature of the information the Metropolitan police possessed which could be used in future against his own employers.

Faced with such a crisis, Crone decided he had to consult his new boss, who was to authorise a huge, secret payout which buried the "Neville" dossier. He went to see the abrasive and self-confident younger son of the proprietor, 36-year-old James Murdoch.

Rupert's offspring had arrived in December 2007 as chief executive of News International, the company that controls all four Murdoch UK papers, the NoW, the Sun, the Times and Sunday Times. He had not been around when the original hacking affair erupted the previous year with the jailing of two employees, and presumably knew little of its history. At this week's parliamentary hearing, his octogenarian father hastened to protect James when the subject came up, saying his son had only been in charge of the papers for "a very few weeks".

But the truth about who said what in the subsequent conversation with James now threatens to derail not just one paper, but the whole of Rupert Murdoch's dynastic ambitions.

Neither side disputes that James, without telling his father, agreed to hand over almost £1m of the company's money for a settlement that was to be kept totally confidential: £300,000 charged by their own outside lawyers, another £220,000 for the fees of Gordon Taylor's lawyers, and a monster payoff of £425,000 in personal damages to Taylor. This was a sum almost twice the £250,000 that, according to James, outside counsel had advised was the likely damages Taylor could get if he won at trial. On the face of it, the deal made little commercial sense.

James, previously regarded as the heir apparent, now stands accused of complicity in an attempted coverup of crimes within his company. If that turns out to be true, it will be fatal for James' ambition, and also open him to a raft of legal dangers, as lawsuits proliferate against the Murdoch empire.

For the contents of the "For Neville" email are so obviously toxic that James, a reluctant witness, last week emphatically testified to MPs on the culture, media and sport committee and that he was never told about its existence.

Crone, with all his authority as the tabloid group's most long-serving and senior consigliere, at once publicly contradicted him. Crucially, Crone has the support of the third man at the crucial meeting. This was Colin Myler, the then editor of the NoW, who issued a formal statement jointly with Crone on Thursday, backing the lawyer's version of events.

John Whittingdale, the committee chairman, is demanding to know whether his committee has, yet again, been misled, and Tom Watson, the Labour MP who extracted James Murdoch's disputed testimony, has notified the police.

The gauntlet has been thrown down to Rupert Murdoch and his son this weekend, in the most melodramatic fashion yet.

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Hacking was endemic at the 'Mirror', says former reporter

The Independent

By James Moore and Ian Burrell

Saturday, 23 July 2011

The phone-hacking story took a new and dramatic turn yesterday as a former journalist on the Daily Mirror claimed that the practice was "endemic" at the newspaper during his time there and that he would be willing to testify to investigating authorities.

James Hipwell, 45, told The Independent that hacking at the Daily Mirror was widespread and "seen as a bit of a wheeze". He said he would give evidence to a public inquiry into hacking ordered by David Cameron and headed by Lord Justice Brian Leveson.

Until now the hacking scandal has been confined to the News of the World, recently closed by News International, but there have been widespread claims similar activities were carried out in other media organisations.

Hipwell worked at the Mirror under the editorship of Piers Morgan, now a presenter with CNN. He was made aware of the hacking because the paper's City desk, on which he worked, was next to the showbiz desk. "You know what people around you are doing", he said. "They would call a celebrity with one phone and when it was answered they would then hang up. By that stage the other phone would be into their [the celebrity's] voicemail and they would key in the code, 9999 or 0000. I saw that a lot."

He also alleged that hacking took place on other newspapers within the Trinity Mirror group, including The People, where Sean Hoare was working before moving to the News of the World. "It was endemic. Sean didn't suddenly move from one tabloid where it didn't happen to another where it did. But at the time it wasn't illegal."

Trinity Mirror, the publisher of the Daily Mirror, denied Hipwell's claims. "Our position is clear," said a spokesman. "Our journalists work within the criminal law and the Press Complaints Commission code of conduct."

Hipwell was fired from the Mirror in 2000 over the "City Slickers" scandal in which he was accused of buying shares before tipping them in the paper. He was convicted of market manipulation and served 59 days in jail. Morgan was found to have spent £67,000 on shares tipped by the column but said this was coincidental and was not charged.

Earlier this week, Morgan was involved in an on-air row with the Conservative MP Louise Mensch after she used parliamentary privilege to claim he had admitted the Mirror was involved in hacking. Morgan furiously denied the claim and challenged Mensch to repeat the accusation outside of Westminster, which she refused to do.

In an interview in GQ magazine in 2007, Morgan discussed hacking with the model Naomi Campbell and said: "Loads of newspaper journalists were doing it. Clive Goodman, the News of the World reporter, has been made the scapegoat for a widespread practice."

Hipwell told The Independent: "Piers was extremely hands-on as an editor. He was on the [newsroom] floor every day, walking up and down behind journalists, looking over their shoulders. I can't say 100 per cent that he knew about it. But it was inconceivable he didn't."

He continued: "It was seen as a bit of a wheeze, slightly underhand but something many of them did – what a laugh. After they'd hacked into someone's mobile they'd delete the message so another paper couldn't get the story."

He said the death of Mr Hoare had been a "game-changer" in his decision to speak out. "He was a good bloke and I thought he was treated disgracefully. He is the only one who has had the balls to say that this was going on. I take the view he was right. I know he was flawed, but he was treated very badly and now he's dead. I'm sick of all the lies."

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Leading article: The police must treat the cover-up as seriously as the crime

The Independent

Saturday, 23 July 2011

James Murdoch has a great deal of explaining to do.

The former head of News International told the Commons media committee this week that the first inkling he had that phone hacking at the News of the World went further than a single rogue reporter was in December 2010. Mr Murdoch claims that when he authorised out-of-court payments to a high-profile hacking victim in 2008, he was kept in the dark by subordinates about the full scale of the illegality that had been taking place at the newspaper.

But this week, two of those executives took issue with that narrative. On Thursday, the former News of the World editor, Colin Myler, and the newspaper's legal manager, Tom Crone, released a statement saying that in 2008 they drew Mr Murdoch's attention to an email that blew a large hole in News International's claims about hacking being the work of one rogue reporter.

So who is telling the truth? Colin Myler and Tom Crone? Or James Murdoch? If it turns out to be Mr Murdoch who is dissembling, then he is in serious trouble. For that would imply that he has lied to the public, misled Parliament, knowingly covered up gross illegality at News International and perhaps even obstructed the course of justice.

It will have wider implications too. The News Corp chairman and chief executive, Rupert Murdoch, told the Commons media committee this week that his company takes a zero tolerance approach to wrongdoing. Yet the possibility now arises that the former head of News Corp's British subsidiary was prepared to sweep serious wrongdoing under the carpet. And, of course, James Murdoch has since been promoted to a senior position in News Corp (and is often spoken of as the successor to his father as head of the company). If this is what has happened, can News Corp, under its present management, seriously be considered "fit and proper" to own media organisations in the UK?

Two things must now happen. The committee's chairman, John Whittingdale, says Mr Murdoch has agreed to write to him to explain his testimony further. But this discrepancy demands more than an exchange of letters. Mr Murdoch, along with Mr Crone and Mr Myler, must be called to testify again before the committee to get to the truth. This should happen within weeks, despite the fact that the summer recess has begun.

Mr Murdoch also needs to be questioned by the police about his testimony. The focus of the Metropolitan Police's Operation Weeting has apparently been on the narrow issue of phone hacking. And that is a big enough job. According to Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers, who is leading the investigation, only 170 out of some 4,000 phone-hacking targets have so far been contacted. Yet as well as pushing on with that, the police must not neglect to probe this suspected cover-up.

From the start, the phone-hacking affair has been as much a scandal of the apparent immunity of the Murdoch empire as it has been about illegal eavesdropping. For a long time it looked as if one newspaper group was, in effect, above the law thanks to its connections at the very top of politics and policing. That any institution or individual should be in such a position is incompatible with democracy. This is why it is now so vital that the police investigate with the utmost seriousness the possibility that James Murdoch has broken the law.

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