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Thursday, September 02, 2010

The phone hacking story they all forgot

The publication of Tony Blair's memoirs and the quite disgraceful pursuit of stories about William Hague's private life have somehow managed to push a far more important story off the front pages.

From what I can see only the New York Times and The Guardian are reporting on allegations that the prime minister's media adviser, Andy Coulson, freely discussed the use of unlawful news-gathering techniques while editor of the News of the World and "actively encouraged" a named reporter to engage in the illegal interception of voicemail messages.

Coulson has always insisted that he had no knowledge of illegal activity when he edited the paper or at any time as a journalist. He told a Commons select committee last year: "I have never had any involvement in it at all." The American paper has been carrying out their own investigation:

The New York Times, which has had an investigative team at work on the story since March, is citing two former News of the World journalists who specifically claim that Coulson was directly aware of his reporters' use of illegal techniques.

An unnamed former editor is quoted as claiming that Coulson talked freely about illegal news-gathering techniques, including phone-hacking, and that he personally had been at "dozens, if not hundreds" of meetings with Coulson where the subject came up. "The editor added that when Coulson would ask where a story came from, editors would reply 'We've pulled the phone records' or 'I've listened to the phone messages'."

In addition, Sean Hoare, a former reporter who used to be a close friend of Coulson, is quoted as saying that when he worked with Coulson at the Sun, he personally played recordings of hacked voicemail messages for him and that later, when he worked for Coulson at the News of the World, he "continued to inform Coulson of his pursuits. Coulson 'actively encouraged me to do it', Hoare said".

Hoare, who was sacked from the paper at a time when he had drink and drug problems, says he personally listened to the voicemail messages of celebrities such as David and Victoria Beckham and that he has spoken out now because he believes it was unfair for Goodman to get all the blame.

Coulson told the Commons media committee last year that he had never even heard Mulcaire's name and that Goodman had been the only reporter involved: "I am absolutely sure that Clive's case was a very unfortunate rogue case."

Mr. Coulson is quoted as absolutely denying all these allegations. However, it is clear that they are not going to go away. Surely it is time that all the police files on this case were made available so that we can see for ourselves the extent of their investigation and whether it was cut short as alleged.

Perhaps also we need a fuller investigation at a Parliamentary or Governmental level so that, one way or another, we can remove the taint of these allegations from the Prime Minister's office once and for all.
Actually it is the Guardian reporting a story in the NY Times which doesn't name any names. All rather predictable.
Agree with you about the investigation, and about the strange priorities of the media on this. Somehow the BBC seem to think inconsequential innuendo about William Hague is more of a story. Can't quite understand why Hague's advisers didn't tell him to give tittle-tattle the (lack of) respect it deserves and just put out a one-liner calling it rubbish, rather than building the story with a response it didn't merit, but anyhow, what do I know? Either way, I can't comprehend how it is more important than the Coulson story.

After a six month investigation by a reputable paper, former employees seem to be claiming Coulson knew about and 'actively encouraged' illegal phone hacking - indicating amongst other things that he lied to a Select Committee and others. But perhaps more damagingly still, it is alleged that the police investigation was cut short amid talk of pressure from press officers and after evidence had allegedly been withheld. And this man is now Head of Comms for the PM. How is that not a top story???
Matt, the most predictable,interesting and worrying thing is that no other media outlet is willing to run the story.

Why so cynical? What axe have *you* to grind?

It must be exposed. Democracy has suffered enough.
Very good Points, but ...

"The New York Times, which has had an investigative team..."

That's an oxymoron.

The NYT has an investigation team?

That's a laugh.

Skullduggeries and NYT are synonymous.

At least one of their journalists made up ‘investigative’ stories – the only reason he was fired was because he started to stay home and submitted copies of news articles from other newspapers (and submitted them to his NYT editor as his own work) otherwise his misreporting would have continued!

It could be said that the swath of misreporting misdeeds by the NYT could sink the world’s largest cruise liner.

The NYT is running out of money – its readership took several hits, the White House under Obama has hinted it would bail out the NYT!

I am surprised Peter you are relying on the NYT!
In what way is questioning the appointment of a SPAD a "quite disgraceful pursuit" of someone's private life?

I am taking care not to personalise this as I think WH has shown poor judgement but been badly treated. It's still an interesting question though.

As a matter of principle, if politicians are banned from employing spouses and family members then surely other relationships with people they do appoint become relevant?

Surely it would be wrong if a politician who was banned from employing his wife/husband or son/daughter could claim the questioning of the employment of his or her lover was a "quite disgraceful pursuit"?
"… and the quite disgraceful pursuit of stories about William Hague's private life".

I agreed ... initially, but when I learnt that Hague had also appointed Christopher Myer to a highly paid consultant position on his (Hague's) team on the public purse - I'm sorry, but this makes it a public matter.

More specifically, since public money is involved this matter is immediately a public matter that deserves public attention.

On reflection, Hague is a prize idiot to use public money to appoint Christopher Myer to a consultant position.

I couldn't care less if Hague is gay or not gay, but what a fool to elevate a driver who he shared a hotel room to a high position on his (Hague’s) team paid for on the tax payers’ dime.

Hague has shown crass stupidity/very poor judgment.

I am already receiving feedback from sources in the Washington DC metro area – where the British Embassy in the USA is located.

Around these parts Hague's stupidity smacks of shenanigans of old wherein a famous politician (now deceased) who allegedly gave his mistress a secretarial position on the public’s dime.

In Hague’s case there is no direct proof that Christopher Myer was his lover, but appointing a driver, with whom you shared hotel rooms during an election campaign, to a highly paid consultant position on his (Hague’s) team on the tax payer’s dime – well how stupid was that?
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