Welcome To Zelo Street!

This is a blog of liberal stance and independent mind

Wednesday 4 March 2015

Did Press Misuse Steven Nott’s Story?

You may not have heard of Steven Nott. But he has been acknowledged by Nick Davies, no less, as being the man who first drew attention to the potential of misusing the facilities given to phone users by mobile operators. Specifically, he identified the ease with which voicemail messages could be accessed by, well, anyone who knew the default PIN code. But Vodafone, his phone provider, was not interested in doing anything.
What could he do? Ultimately, Nott decided to take the story to the press, and the Mirror was more than happy to listen. The line the paper appeared ready to take was that this had national security implications. He liaised with “special projects editor” Oonagh Blackman, who “caIled me back 10 minutes after I had spoken to her and confirmed that what I had told was correct as she had tried it on a few numbers she had”.

At first the feedback from the Mirror was encouraging: “She said the story was going to be one of the biggest headlines that decade. I kept in touch with Ms. Blackman daily as I was keen to know what was going on”. But then “After 12 days Ms BIackman said they were not interested anymore. She said that the story probably would not make the paper”. So he took his story to the Sun, where, again, they seemed initially keen.

Journalist Paul Crosbie “was aware of how much an impact such a story would have. He told me that they would probably print the story overnight, or within 48 hours. After this meeting nothing happened and the story was not printed”. Crosbie’s later apologia to Nott is waffle personified. Both papers exhibited the same behaviour: enthusiasm, then silence, and then nothing. But part of what Nott told the Leveson Inquiry gives a clue.

And here it is: “I accused The Daily Mirror of keeping the phone hacking method for their own purposes. Ms Blackman threatened me with court action if I told anyone”. Why would she do that? And why did the paper then send Nott £100? And why, later during the Leveson sessions, did then Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan dismiss Nott’s evidence, attack his character, insult him, and dismiss Ms Blackman as “just a reporter”?

Both News International and Trinity Mirror titles may have indulged in phone hacking before Steven Nott took them his story about Vodafone security - or lack of it. But it is on record that what is being referred to this week as voicemail interception on anindustrial scale” began in mid-1999. Nott met Oonagh Blackman on August 28 of that year.

As David Allen Green later told, Piers Morgan “was present at an award ceremony in May 2002 when he was teased in public by Sun editor Dominic Mohan. Mohan was reported as saying he thanked ‘Vodafone's lack of security’ for the Mirror's showbusiness exclusives”.

So did the Mirror and Sun welcome Steven Nott with open arms, discover the potential for keeping the Vodafone security failings to themselves, decide to do just that, and then shoo him off, in one case using legal threats? You might wish to ask that. I couldn’t possibly comment.

No comments: