News Corp.’s behavior in the UK hacking scandal has all the hallmarks of a coverup.
We’ve got the scapegoat (Clive Goodman), the pro forma internal investigation saying the problem was contained to said scapegoat, the scramble to hide or destroy evidence, the stonewalling “I don’t recalls” from executives like Dow Jones CEO Les Hinton, the large payments to key witnesses, the police who bent over backwards to avoid pushing an obviously widespread criminal case, the lead police investigator now on Murdoch’s payroll—what am I leaving out? That’s just what we know from some of the (excellent) press coverage thus far, which has been dominated by The Guardian and now The New York Times.
Let’s take these one by one.
— The scapegoat
The Guardian reports today that former News of the World senior editor Paul McMullan says ex-editor Andy Coulson, now the prime minister’s spin doctor, is lying when he says he didn’t know about the illegal phone tapping that was rampant under his regime:
Paul McMullan, a former features executive and then member of the newspaper’s investigations team, says that he personally commissioned private investigators to commit several hundred acts which could be regarded as unlawful, that the use of illegal techniques was no secret at the paper and that senior editors, including Coulson, were aware that this was going on.
“How can Coulson possibly say he didn’t know what was going on with the private investigators?” he said…
McMullan is one of six former News of the World journalists who have independently told the Guardian that Coulson, who was deputy editor from 2000 and editor from January 2003 to January 2007, knew that his reporters were engaging in unlawful acts.
— The pro forma internal investigation
News Corp. says it investigated the matter fully and concluded that Goodman was the only journalist involved in illegal hacking. The fact that the Guardian can round up six people who say otherwise—and the NYT can find some, too—shows pretty clearly that this wasn’t a serious investigation.
— The scramble to hide or destroy evidence
This from last week’s Times Magazine piece, which reports that the coverup started immediately (emphasis mine):
ON THE MORNING of Aug. 8, 2006, Scotland Yard detectives arrived with a search warrant at News of the World. For six months, officials had tracked Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire as they hacked into the voice mail of the royal household, according to people with knowledge of the investigation. One royal aide’s voice mail was called 433 times, records show. In the newspaper’s lobby, detectives faced resistance from executives and lawyers for the paper over searching the newsroom, former police officials said. As word of the detectives’ arrival ricocheted around the office, two veteran reporters stuffed reams of documents into trash bags, one reporter recalled, and hauled them away.
— The stonewalling “I don’t recalls” of executives called to testify
You really have to read the testimony of Les Hinton to the House of Commons to get the full flavor of this, but the Times Mag had a nice summary:
During a recent interview, the committee chairman reread portions of that testimony, pausing to laugh at Hinton’s repeated “I do not recall” or “I do not know” responses. “This was just a masterful performance by Les Hinton,” Whittingdale said. “We all sat in awe.”
And here’s a longer excerpt, where an MP has a devil of a time getting Hinton to answer a basic question on whether News Corp. paid for Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire’s high-priced lawyers:
Q2117 Philip Davies: I want to focus on the payments that you have made to Clive Goodman and Mulcaire specifically since their conviction, or certainly after they were arrested and charged. First of all, did you in any way pay for any of the legal fees for Clive Goodman or Glenn Mulcaire?
Mr Hinton: I absolutely do not know. I do not know whether we did or not. There were certainly some payments made afterwards but on the matter of legal fees I honestly do not know.
Q2118 Philip Davies: The problem I have here is that whenever we have questioned anybody who was involved at the News of the World or News International, even including very senior people such as yourself, everybody has always said they do not know and they have also been able to further add that they have no idea who would know. This is all becoming rather incredible that some of the most senior people involved in News International either did not know or did not know who would know. Stuart Kuttner said that he did not know and he said that he did not know who would know. Now you are saying you do not know. Who on earth would know these things?