We were told that phone hacking was the work of “One rogue reporter”. Then, when that was shown to be untrue, the story was that the exposure of this practice was a dastardly Labour plot to get revenge for Damian McBride. After the shameful conduct of the Murdoch mafiosi was laid bare, Rupert Murdoch himself told that he was experiencing “the most humble day of my life”. It was empty, it was dishonest, and it was deliberate.
We now know that phone hacking went far beyond the late and not at all lamented Screws, to the Sun. We now know about the activities of Mazher Mahmood, “a criminal with an NUJ card”. We now know about the bullying and sexual misbehaviour at Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse). And now we have the admission from the Murdochs that another strand of criminality can be added to the list.
The Murdoch empire has been caught computer hacking - and been forced to admit it. Worse for both the Murdochs and the Metropolitan Police, the latest revelation merely confirms what all those involved in the various inquiries into the murder of private investigator Daniel Morgan had known for decades - that the Met and the Murdoch mafiosi were close to one another - so close as to suggest a corrupt relationship.
As the Guardian has reported, “In a hearing at the high court on Friday, News Group admitted that a private investigations firm had hacked the computer of Ian Hurst and that its boss, Jonathan Rees, had then sent intercepted information to the newspaper publisher”. Hurst is a former Army intelligence officer.
How bad is that? The Guardian report spells it out: Hurst “used to serve in the Intelligence Corps and the Force Research Unit in Northern Ireland and his emails included correspondence with members of the Irish republican movement, people in the security services, members of the Northern Ireland police and former members of the armed forces who had infiltrated the IRA”. Anyone who whined about Edward Snowden out there? Where are the howls of protest about compromising national security now?
And the problem for the Met? “The court heard that Rees instructed Philip Smith, who was known for his expertise in computer hacking, to target Hurst. Smith used spyware called e-Blaster … Hurst was told by the Metropolitan police that e-Blaster was operational on his computer from May to October 2006”. But then we learn “Hurst only found out about the hacking when he was contacted by BBC Panorama, which was investigating the activities of Southern Investigations, the firm run by Rees”. The Met sat on the news for years.
The Met’s inactivity, apparently because it was too close to the Murdoch empire, was well known to those advocating for a proper inquiry into the Daniel Morgan case. It was a major component of their frustration at the continued fobbing-off they received from the Blair Government, whose own closeness to the Murdochs we now know all too well.
Jonathan Rees was one of those named recently, along with the Vian brothers, as prime suspects in the Morgan murder case. We are now able to know the Police case was that Jonathan Rees, Morgan’s business partner at the time, paid for the hit, and that his brother-in-law Glenn Vian wielded the axe, the head of which was discovered still embedded in Morgan’s head. Rees and the Murdochs did a lot of business together.
Response to this latest revelation has been as swift as it has been furious. After noting that “The settlement comes shortly after the Competition and Markets Authority started its investigation into the Murdochs’ bid for full control of Sky”, campaigning group Hacked Off, via director Evan Harris, has stated plainly why this is Bad News for the mafiosi.
“This public admission, for the first time, that senior News International executives had conspired with known criminals to hack into the computer of a former intelligence officer to try and expose the identity of a protected police informant, is astonishing … The fact that News UK should attempt to bury this admission in a corner courtroom on a Friday afternoon, more than six years after the allegations were made, demonstrates that the cover-up of criminality at News Corporation has continued since the hacking scandal”.
And his conclusion? “This is a clear indication that Leveson part two (which was scheduled to look into the extent of this illegality and how it was covered up) should now take place as promised to the victims of criminal intrusion … The Murdochs have claimed in the process of trying to obtain full ownership of Sky, that all their skeletons are out of the corporate cupboard and they are transparent and honest in the way their businesses work. But the admissions News UK have made today suggest that only a fraction of the criminality and cover-up at News International has reached the public domain”.
For Labour, deputy leader Tom Watson has echoed the call for Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry to be commenced, and asked the $64,000 question. “We can now add computer hacking to the long list of criminal activities undertaken by Murdoch’s operatives. We know from experience of phone hacking that there won’t just be a single victim. So my question to Rupert Murdoch and his subordinates is this: Who else was hacked?”
Are we to believe this was a one-off? Like the phone hacking of the Royal Family? There were hundreds, if not thousands, of phone hacking victims resulting from the activities of the Screws, and later the Sun. There are likely to be more computer hacking ones.
All of which effectively means Game Over for the Sky bid. That is, unless the Murdoch mafiosi can somehow stop the Competition and Markets Authority investigation. How desperate are the Murdochs to get that prize? Very desperate is the answer.
To find out how desperate, you only need to look at what is happening right now at the top of the Tory Party. Is Murdoch involved in the speculation surrounding Theresa May’s leadership? You bet he is. After all, if you’re prepared to see hundreds have their phone hacked, approved the hacking of computers to gain access to military secrets, and interfere in a murder investigation, engineering a change in Prime Minister is child’s play.
You think I jest? Stay tuned.