Those claims included the assertion that there would be no more illegal information gathering, so no more phone hacking, no more blagging of confidential information, and no more networks like the one run by Steve Whittamore out of his house on the south coast. But this was the same kind of promise as that made by the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre in the wake of Diana, Princess of Wales’ death, not to use paparazzi photos.
In other words, the promise was made, and then, on the quiet, flagrantly broken. Because the Murdoch Sun, as soon as it had an inkling that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry were dating, set an infamous private investigator on her. The results of his inquiries included obtaining her social security number. This was obtained by improper means.
Byline Investigates - doing the journalism that the mainstream press finds inconvenient - has told “The Sun’s US Editor James Beal tasked Los Angeles PI Dan ‘Danno’ Hanks to target Meghan Markle - which he went on to do unlawfully. The Sunday Express rival tabloid broke the story of Prince Harry’s new girlfriend on 30th October 2016, setting off Beal on his hunt for a follow-up. Hanks was immediately contacted by The Sun, producing a same-day 90-page report, packed with private data, which he obtained by deception”.
There is more. “Though The Sun paid for the information, they deny knowing about Hanks’ illegal methods, and deny asking him to break the law”. The BBC, with whom Byline Investigates shared its information (ditto the New York Times), has added “While there is no evidence it happened in this instance, social security numbers in particular could potentially be used to further other intrusive investigation”. So what say The Sun?
“In 2016, the Sun made a legitimate request of Mr Hanks to research contact details and addresses for Meghan Markle and possible relatives using legal databases which he had a license to use. He was paid $250 … Mr Hanks was not tasked to do anything illegal or breach any privacy laws - indeed he was instructed clearly in writing to act lawfully and he signed a legal undertaking that he would do so”. Except for one small problem.
Who might have been News UK CEO at the time Hanks was tasked?
The BBC again: “[Danno Hanks] achieved some notoriety in the 1990s via appearances on daytime television and has been jailed four times, most recently in 2017 for extortion”. The Murdoch mafiosi knew who they were dealing with. They had, themselves, dealt with known criminals in the past. They cannot have been surprised that Hanks broke the law.
Also, Hanks “said the Sun wrote to him after the Leveson Inquiry into press standards and asked him to sign documents, seen by the BBC, committing to act within the law and he repeated this assurance when he billed the Sun for his work. But he claims no-one ever asked where he got his information. ‘They didn't care. They just wanted the information,’ he said”. Byline Investigates has the story. They also have the receipts.
The press is still dealing in illegally obtained information. So no change there, then.
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