Though there has been a massive pushback by parts of the British establishment and News Corp's News International over the last two weeks (mainly through the launching of the Sun on Sunday), the Leveson Inquiry has resumed and the police officer in charge of investigating hacking and corruption at News International, Sue Akers, has just made two of the most explosive revelations of the whole affair. (Here's her witness statement with the Sun details)
This is ongoing as we speak, and I'll try to update - but hopefully fellow Fothomers will help me out.
Key revelations are:
1. Senior NI Executives were Informed Hundreds were Hacked in 2006
This is crucial. During the investigation into Mulcaire's notebooks, the police DID discover it was more than a handful of targets and a rogue reporter with his investigator. A detailed email was sent to Andy Coulson by Tom Crone (top legal adviser) about Rebekah Wade/Brook's conversations with the police in September 2006. All these were in direct contact with their boss James Murdoch.
Both Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson were warned as early as 2006 that there was evidence of widespread hacking at the News of the World, according to an email that was submitted in evidence to the Leveson inquiry.Yet before Parliament, in court in Scotland, before the PCC and on its front page, all these senior management figures maintained the 'rogue reporter' defence, and knowingly lied about the extent of hacking. The Guardian has a good list of these mendacious denials.
The internal News International (NI) email shows an unnamed police source told Brooks there were between 100 and 110 "victims" while the News of the World was under criminal investigation for hacking phones in the royal household. She was also told there were records suggesting NI had paid over £1m to Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator employed to carry out the hacking.
The email from NI lawyer Tom Crone, to the then News of the World editor, Andy Coulson, sets out what the police then knew and what steps they were planning to take in their first phone-hacking investigation. It was based on information that Crone says had been passed to him by Rebekah Brooks, then Wade, who was at time the editor of the Sun. She had also been News of the World editor before Coulson.
"They are confident they have Clive and [Mulcaire] bang to rights on the palace interception," says Crone's email to Coulson.
The email told Coulson that police had recovered payment records from News International to Mulcaire: "The only payment records they found were from News International … the News of the World retainer and other invoices. They said that over the period they looked at (going way back) there seemed to be over £1m of payments."
This is devastating for News International. Possibly terminal. And it completely demolishes the 'Stasi line' many of its apologists have levelled at the investigations.
2. There was a 'Network of Corrupt Officials Paid by the Sun
Akers has confirmed that, though they have made a handful of arrests, "there was a network of informants from all works of public life": from the Police, to the Military, to the Health Service, the Prison service who were regularly paid large sums of money for stories. Some of the payments were as high as $160,000 with one journalist paying out $300k in bribes for information. None of the stories identified so far were in the public interest; they were usually salacious tittle tattle, and celebrity invasions of privacy. They were known to be illegal, because senior Sun management used 'tradecraft' to hide the payments.
This is devastating for Newscorp. It is now impossible I would argue for them to avoid FCPA charges for suborning public officials, since it is clearly an endemic in their best selling daily publication. As the Guardian says this 'a clear signal to the Department of Justice'
Akers' reference to the systematic nature of alleged corruption, and its endorsement by senior executives, will be a clear signal to the US department of justice that her allegations, if proved, fall squarely within the ambit of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Rupert Murdoch's US parent company, News Corporation, could face fines of hundreds of millions of dollars unless it can show it has co-operated vigorously with the authorities in rooting out malpractice.I always though that Murdoch's return to the UK, and - against the advice of New York execs - his re-commitment to his Fleet Street tabloid, was nailing his colours to the mast of a sinking ship. It was a sentimental, but precarious act. But it has flushed out the apologists; people like the education minister Michael Gove who claimed last week that the Leveson Inquiry was 'chilling free speech' even though he was a well paid stooge for Murdoch for many years and was collaborating with him to use his education software in schools; like Toby Young who tweeted that Milly Dowler was that 'murdered girl thing' and that 'NoW never hacked her phone' as he took the well paid job of columnist at the Sun on Sunday.
These apologists will have to live with their discredited loyalties for many years ahead, their conflicted statements about a free press in defence given the money they were paid, and their down playing of criminality and conspiracy because it was done by those in power.
More to come while I can update
6:28 AM PT: Former DAC Paddick says Mulcaire has the new identities of people on the witness protection programme - a major breach of security