For Rupert Murdoch, the past week must have seemed like a slow-motion train wreck.
On Sunday, Rebekah Brooks, who was editor of The News of the World from 2000 to 2003, was arrested under suspicion of phone hacking and paying bribes to police. The News of the World was Murdoch’s largest circulation newspaper in London. He shut it down last week in the futile hope of saving Ms. Brooks’ career. Ms. Brooks was editor of the deceased paper during the time of the murder of Milly Dowler, 13, whose cell phone was hacked into by “reporters” of The News of the World while she was still listed as “missing.”
These reporters then deleted messages when her mailbox was full so they could collect more messages from concerned family members. By doing so, they raised false hopes that the girl was still alive. “Ms. Brooks was arrested under ‘caution,’ meaning that she was read her rights and treated as a suspect” (New York Times).
On Monday, Mr. Neil Wallis, a former The News of the World deputy editor, was arrested, bringing the total number of former and current reporters, editors, and officers of the defunct paper who have been arrested to 13 (so far). Mr. Wallis “was himself suspected of phone hacking” (New York Times). Also, it was reported that Sir Paul Stephenson, the Commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, had resigned the previous day because “the ongoing speculation and accusations relating to the Met’s links with (Murdoch’s) News International at a senior level” had made it difficult for him to do his job (New York Times).
On Tuesday, Murdoch and his son, James (the heir apparent to Murdoch’s media empire), were questioned by members of the House of Commons, where they denied prior knowledge of any phone hacking. Also, it was reported that evidence indicating that The News of the World paid the police for information was not handed over to the authorities for four years.
On Thursday, The New York Times reported that the actor Jude Law had brought a hacking lawsuit against Murdoch’s other London tabloid, The Sun.
On Friday, The New York Times reported that “two former News International executives publicly contradicted James Murdoch’s testimony to a parliamentary committee” saying that “they told him of evidence in 2008 that suggested that phone hacking at the company’s tabloid newspaper was more widespread.”
“The former executives said they informed Mr. Murdoch at the time he was authorizing” the hush money for “an unusually large secret settlement of a lawsuit brought by a hacking victim.” They said he knew when settling the lawsuit “about a crucial piece of evidence that had been turned over to the company: an e-mail marked ‘for Neville’ containing the transcript of a hacked cell phone message, apparently a reference to the paper’s chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck.”
“In fact, we did inform him of the ‘for Neville’ e-mail which had been produced to us by Gordon Taylor’s lawyers, Mr. Myler (a former editor of The News of the World) and Mr. Crone (the former News International legal manager) said in the statement.”
Also, the New York Times reported that “a key figure in Britain’s widening phone hacking scandal who had worked as an editor at The News of the World surfaced in Florida on Thursday, saying he was preparing to return to Britain and was talking to the British police.” “The editor, Greg Miskiw, could provide more details about which executives might have known about the illegal hacking at the Murdoch-owned tabloid and how widespread it was.”
The New York Times reported on Saturday Prime Minister David Cameron, who in the past had socialized extensively with Brooks and had more meetings with Murdoch than with all other publishers combined, continued to try to distance himself from Murdoch. The New York Times reported “Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain said that James Murdoch still ‘had questions to answer’ about the phone hacking scandal swirling around News International, the British arm of the media empire of his father, Rupert Murdoch, a day after the son’s testimony was called into question by two former News International executives.”
Meanwhile, in the United States, the Justice Department has opened an investigation into allegations that U.S. subsidiaries of Murdoch’s media empire hacked into the cell phones of 9-11 victims and their families.
Paul Schwietering is a resident of Union Township.