8 Sep 2010


Should Andy Coulson lose his job?The Conservatives' head of communications, Andy Coulson, says he did not know about widespread phone-hacking when editor of the News of the World, but a report in the New York Times suggests otherwise. Should David Cameron sack him?

(2)Tweet this (21)Comments (94) guardian.co.uk, Friday 3 September 2010 15.40 BST

Andy Coulson said he knew of no illegal activity while editing the newspaper. Photograph: Reuters

Should Andy Coulson be sacked?

89.1% Yes

10.9% No

Puzzling: Why Radio 4s Justin Webb quizzed a tight-lipped Metropolitan Police's John Yates about the phone-tapping scandal is a mystery. Unless they were trying to get under the skin of Rupert Murdoch PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday July 9, 2009. See PA story POLITICS Phones. Photo credit should read: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1309668/Is-BBC-Radio-4s-Today-trying-Rupert-Murdoch.html?ito=feeds-newsxml#ixzz0yw8xw5J9
Key witness will testify on News of the World phone hacking• Ross Hall transcribed hacked voicemail for other journalists

• Police likely to interview Andy Coulson, says Met officer

• New inquiry launched by home affairs select committee

(20)Tweet this (100)Comments (180) David Leigh and Vikram Dodd guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 7 September 2010 21.17 BST Article history

An email sent by Ross Hall from the News of the World to private investigator Glenn Mulcaire

A key witness from inside the News of World newsroom says he will testify on the phone-hacking affair, both to police and an inquiry begun by parliament.

Ross Hall, a former employee who until now has been silent, told the Guardian tonight he was willing to talk to Scotland Yard and to the newly-announced home affairs select committee inquiry by MPs: "If asked, I will tell them what I know." Metropolitan police sources said they planned to interview him.

Hall had been named in a previous MPs' inquiry as the man who transcribed swaths of hacked voicemail messages for other journalists, including the tabloid's chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck.

His emergence came on a day when multiple developments put more pressure on the prime minister's press adviser, Andy Coulson, who has been accused of "actively encouraging" the practice while editing the tabloid.

• Assistant commissioner John Yates told the home affairs committee that, in light of material published last week in the New York Times, police were likely to interview Coulson and "take stock after that".

• Yates faced hostile questioning from MPs over whether the Met had warned potential victims of phone hacking; he declined to say whether owners of 91 mobiles whose PIN numbers were found on a list held by a private detective working for the News of the World were notified.

• Yates also conceded the Met's original phone-hacking inquiry should have questioned Thurlbeck.

Neville Thurlbeck should have been questioned by Met inquiry, said John Yates. Photograph: PA Hall was a central figure behind one of the most explosive items placed before a previous select committee inquiry, which heard how a lengthy email from Hall headed "Transcript for Neville" was never brought to prosecutors' attention by police at the time.

It contained a record of the contents of a sequence of more than 30 voicemail messages from Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, who the paper was interested in. A typical message Hall listened to and transcribed at the time read: "Hiya kid. I'm just ringing to say thank you again." Others were more personal, and all were unmistakeably transcribed from voicemail.

Friends of Hall said that he had made up to 20 such transcripts, on instructions from three different News of the World executives, but was unaware of anything illegal in his work.

Following his return from a round the world trip which made it impossible for him to be summoned to answer the committee's questions, Hall in June found a job with a London PR firm.

He advertised himself on a professional networking website as someone with a "deep understanding of tabloid investigative techniques" gained from his role as "a senior reporter at the country's biggest-selling newspaper".

His friends said that he was unlikely to have had direct knowledge of Coulson's alleged role, because he took instructions from others. But MPs are likely to want to ask about his personal links with NoW management: he is nephew of a former NoW editor, Phil Hall. News International's lawyer, Tom Crone, told the committee Hall was a "junior reporter" of 20, made up from a job as messenger; he did not mention the high-level connection. News International later issued clarifications, conceding Hall was 28 at the time and saying Crone may have become confused by MPs' interruptions.

Hall's website entry says: "Ross currently helps clients facing scrutiny. Using his deep understanding of tabloid investigative techniques, he advises on how to neutralise media attacks."

Hacked voicemail were transcribed for Glenn Mulcaire by Ross Hall. Photograph: PA Police are expected to interview Hall about his knowledge of phone-hacking at the News of the World, who was involved, and whether senior bosses were aware of or condoned the practice. A source with knowledge of Scotland Yard's thinking told the Guardian: "Any new evidence will be studied, any new witness will be talked to."

The inquiry will be markedly different to the one in 2006, which ended with the jailing of a single reporter and one private investigator. Stung by criticism that police missed the systemic nature of wide scale phone-hacking, detectives will this time be directed to concentrate on the "senior level" at the News of the World and their "awareness" of phone hacking.

The investigation's starting point will be the former reporter Sean Hoare, who has given media interviews contradicting Coulson's account that, despite being editor of the News of the World, he knew nothing of the practice.

Police and the Crown Prosecution Service will have to decide whether Hoare is interviewed as a witness, or under criminal caution as a potential suspect. After his interview and its contents are discussed with the CPS, Coulson will be interviewed. It is expected he will be questioned as a witness, but strong testimony from Hoare could mean the prime minister's top media aide is questioned as a criminal suspect.

The source said detectives would be hoping Hoare is able to name others who can corroborate that phone-hacking took place and senior executives knew about it. "The investigation will not go for the troops, unless there is strong evidence. It is looking for evidence of complicity at the senior level, and with corroboration …. evidence there was a conspiracy at the News of the World to hack phones."

Detectives will be told the investigation must be thorough, as the Yard's reputation has suffered because of criticism of its first investigation, and officers are described as "geared up for it". Police expect the home affairs committee inquiry will be postponed until detectives finish inquiries and the CPS has made a decision.


viv said...

What the officer and the minister said about hacking ... and what they didn'tJohn Yates and Theresa May made detailed comments on the phone-hacking affair. Nick Davies analyses them
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Nick Davies guardian.co.uk, Monday 6 September 2010 22.04 BST Article historyStatements by John Yates
Asked if there would be another investigation: "We have always said that if any new material, new evidence, was produced, we would consider it."

This precisely misses the point, which is that since 2006, Scotland Yard has been sitting on a mass of evidence which it has not investigated and not disclosed. It needs no new evidence to reopen an inquiry which was never completed in the first place.

Asked if the only reporter he talked to at the News of the World about the hacking allegations was the royal correspondent: "No. That is not the case."

This looks misleading. All of the available information confirms that Scotland Yard failed to interview any reporter or editor or manager from the News of the World other than the royal correspondent, Clive Goodman. And that includes failing to interview reporters who were explicitly identified in evidence as having handled intercepted voicemail messages.

Asked if the Met had talked to Sean Hoare, the former News of the World reporter who has said that Andy Coulson was aware of widespread hacking at the tabloid during the original investigation: "This is the first time we have heard of Mr Hoare or anything he's had to say. He wasn't part of the inquiry … We are surprised that the New York Times did not avail us of this information earlier than they did."

Hoare is one of a dozen reporters who spoke to the New York Times about phone hacking under Andy Coulson. A dozen have also spoken to the Guardian. It is not clear why Scotland Yard detectives would need American reporters to introduce them to journalists in London. As stated above, they have chosen not to approach any serving or former reporters other than Clive Goodman.

Asked why the Met had not told people that their phones were targeted despite the fact that a police memo suggested that a "vast number" of mobile numbers had been hacked or potentially hacked: "I think there is a misunderstanding here, that just because your name features in a private investigator's files, that your phone has been hacked."

This misrepresents the memo, disclosed by the Guardian, in which, during the original inquiry, the Metropolitan Police told the Crown Prosecution Service unequivocally: "A vast number of unique voicemail numbers belonging to high-profile individuals (politicians, celebrities) have been identified as being accessed without authority."

It also fails to reflect the underlying failure by police to stick to their agreement with the director of public prosecutions to approach and warn "all potential victims". They warned a small number during the original inquiry, and a small number more after the Guardian revived the story last July. The mass of those whose names and/or personal details showed up in the police investigation have never been told.

Asked if John Prescott's phone was hacked: "I believe that there is no evidence that his phone was hacked. I made that very clear on a number of occasions."

This misses the point. Scotland Yard has no evidence on this matter, because it failed to investigate it. In August 2006, it seized material which showed that four months earlier, the deputy prime minister had been targeted by a man who specialised in intercepting voicemail. They could have warned Prescott and asked if he had noticed interference with his messages. They didn't. They could have gone to his mobile phone company for data that would have identified any caller who had attempted to access Prescott's voicemail. They didn't. That data is held for only 12 months, and has now been destroyed.

viv said...

Statements by Theresa May

"That investigation has already been reviewed by the Metropolitan Police."

This is misleading. On the morning of 9 July last year, when the Guardian published its first major story on the affair, the Metropolitan commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, asked John Yates "to establish the facts". Less than 12 hours later, Yates announced that there was no basis for reopening the inquiry. Yates himself has repeatedly denied that what he conducted was a review.

"The Crown Prosecution Service had full access to all the evidence gathered."

The Guardian discovered that Scotland Yard failed to pass the Crown Prosecution Service an email, which they had found in Glenn Mulcaire's property, and which clearly identified two News of the World reporters handling voicemail that had been intercepted from the phone of Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association.

Scotland Yard has dismissed this accusation by insisting that the barrister who presented the case for the CPS "had access to all the material". What it does not say is that it took its own officers three months to go through it all; and moreover, the barrister himself has said that he does not remember seeing the crucial email.

"The police have made clear that during the investigation, there was early and regular consultation with the CPS, so that the lines of inquiry followed were likely to produce the best evidence."

That is not the story told by paperwork from the CPS, which shows the police persuading prosecutors to "ring-fence" evidence in order to conceal the identities of "sensitive" victims of the hacking.

"At the time the investigation took place, the Metropolitan Police made it clear that those who they believed had been intercepted were contacted by members of the Metropolitan Police."

This is incorrect. The police failed, for example, to contact Taylor's legal adviser, even though they had transcripts of voicemail taken from her phone; or Coulson himself, who had been hacked by his own private investigator, and in relation to whom the evidence was sufficiently clear that Scotland Yard contacted him within 24 hours of the story being revived last year. Scotland Yard still refuses to say how many it warned in 2006/7, how many it warned after the Guardian story, and how many others remain unwarned.

viv said...

Disgraced investigator was taped instructing journalist

By Ian Burrell, Media Editor


News International is employing a sports journalist who can be heard on a tape recording, broadcast on the website of The New York Times, being coached by the disgraced private investigator Glenn Mulcaire in hacking mobile phone voicemail messages.

The sports journalist, who now works for The Times, can be heard asking for advice on how to access the voicemail of Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association. The Times said it had instructed the newspaper's managing editor, Anoushka Healy, to conduct a "thorough review" of the matter. The reporter was not working for The Times at the time of the recording and there is no suggestion that phone hacking has ever been done by the paper.

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But the tape might be seen as further undermining the claims to MPs by News International senior executives that Mulcaire and Clive Goodman, the royal editor of the News of the World (a sister paper of The Times), were "rogue" operators hacking in isolation. It now appears Mulcaire worked with other journalists.

On the The New York Times tape, seized by police from Mulcaire's home, he says: "You put his number in. It asks you for the pin. Then put his number back in and there's three messages on there from Tottenham, all right?" The journalist replies: "Fantastic. Thanks very much."

He later told The New York Times he had not obtained any story by hacking phones. The Independent's calls to the journalist were not returned. When the recording was first published, News International issued a statement saying the journalist concerned "is not and was not connected to the News of the World".

At the time the recording was made, he is believed to have been on the London Evening Standard. That paper, then owned by Associated Newspapers, has since been bought by the Lebedev family, which also owns The Independent. There is no suggestion that the Standard was aware that he had spoken to Mulcaire.

The Times said the journalist started work for them in August 2009, adding: "Since he joined the paper, he has been highly regarded for his professionalism and performance. We note that there has been no allegation of any wrongdoing related to his employment at The Times."

How it's done: Tapping tips from a rogue operator

GM: 'Allo mate, just a very quick one. Voicemail reset on Gordon Taylor and it's got Tottenham related issues on there.

Reporter: Great stuff. It's the same numbers?

GM: Same number. Do not delete anything. You've got the number haven't you?

Reporter: Can you just give me... what... you just put his own phone number in again?

GM: Correct, yeah.

Reporter: And what's the main number again, the Orange one?

GM: Yeah, you need to dial 07973.

Reporter: 07973?

GM: 100.

Reporter: sorry 100?

GM: 123.

Reporter: 100123?

GM: Correct. You put his number in. It asks you for the pin. Then put his number back in and there's three messages on there from Tottenham, all right?

Reporter: Fantastic. Thanks very much.

GM: All right, cheers. Just give me a text, make sure it works yeah?

Reporter: Will do.

GM: All right bye.

viv said...

It seems to me that Rupert Murdoch's News International with titles including The Sun The News of the World and The Times, and flunkeys who also help the McCanns, Andy Coulson and Clarence Mitchell were operating a right wing conspiracy to get the conservatives elected.

I hope that all the high ranking members of the Labour Party keep the pedal on the gas. They deserve nothing less, London Met got some explaining to do also, now why would they want the tories in I wonder?