Rupert Murdoch’s Hacks

How interesting that Rupert Murdoch’s empire was the subject of not one, but two, hacking stories this weekend.

You probably heard how, in the US, someone hacked Fox News’ Twitter account in the middle of the night leading into Fourth of July. Shortly thereafter, that thread posted a series of three tweets reporting that Obama had been assassinated. The Secret Service is investigating that hack.

Good thing this didn’t happen on a news day when markets were open.

Meanwhile, in the UK, the Guardian reported the most heinous detail yet in its years-long investigation into how News of the World has hacked people’s cell phones as a news-gathering tool: they hacked the cell phone voice mail of a 13-year old girl, Milly Dowler, who had been abducted. Because they deleted some of the voice mails on the phone after it had filled up, her family believed that she was still alive. The hack may have confused investigators and destroyed evidence in the case.

Then, with the help of its own full-time private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, the News of the World started illegally intercepting mobile phone messages. Scotland Yard is now investigating evidence that the paper hacked directly into the voicemail of the missing girl’s own phone. As her friends and parents called and left messages imploring Milly to get in touch with them, the News of the World was listening and recording their every private word.

But the journalists at the News of the World then encountered a problem. Milly’s voicemail box filled up and would accept no more messages. Apparently thirsty for more information from more voicemails, the paper intervened – and deleted the messages that had been left in the first few days after her disappearance. According to one source, this had a devastating effect: when her friends and family called again and discovered that her voicemail had been cleared, they concluded that this must have been done by Milly herself and, therefore, that she must still be alive. But she was not. The interference created false hope and extra agony for those who were misled by it.


The deletion of the messages also caused difficulties for the police by confusing the picture when they had few leads to pursue. It also potentially destroyed valuable evidence.

Most damning, though, is that NoW informed the police investigating the kidnapping they had hacked the girl’s cell phone–and possibly their own. But neither the police, nor Scotland Yard in its subsequent investigation of NoW’s hacking, did anything against the tabloid for this hack.

This is interesting not just because it expresses shows how NoW’s hacking had real human consequences on people beyond celebrities. But also because it highlights, again, how inadequate initial investigations of this scandal were–and may remain.

Politicians in the UK are now squabbling over whether this should impact Murdoch’s attempt to acquire the rest of BSkyB.


45 replies
  1. radiofreewill says:

    You break it, you own it – Rupert and his hacks need to make amends for dashing the hopes of Milly’s family and friends all in the name of tabloid ‘journalism.’

    • BoxTurtle says:

      They are felonies. But it appears that British government is as hamstrung regarding MOTU’s in general and Murduch in particular as we are.

      Boxturtle (Nevertheless, we still have the best jusitce system money can buy)

      • harpie says:

        Craig Murray:

        […] But both in terms of sheer sickening behaviour, and in terms of endangering an urgent search, the Milly Dowler business is worse. Ed Miliband is quoted by the Guardian as saying that Rebekah Brooks “should consider her conscience and consider her position”.

        No. Anyone working for Murdoch sold their conscience long ago, and she should have no choice about her position, which should be behind bars, alongside Coulson and sundry Murdochs. News International must be stripped of all its media outlets, as being demonstrably unfit to own any media in this country.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Murray is spot on. Rebekah Brooks long ago sold her soul to Rupert Murdoch. There are strong indications that illegal hacking permeating NoW, reaching to Brooks and other top editors at the time, as well as to other Murdoch publications. When candidates to run Murdoch’s entire organization encourage or allow the widespread practice of such acts on their watch, it is not credible that such practices would be limited to Murdoch’s UK operations.

          It is gobsmacking, even with the Tories running the government, that these revelations of systemic illegal practices have not adversely affected Murdoch’s bid to acquire the portion of cable broadcaster BSkyB’s stock he does not already control.

    • PeasantParty says:


      I’m so sick of everyone in Government and Money/Corps being able to invade our persons, yet nothing is done.

      I wonder how Murdoch and his staffers feel about their private communications being hacked? Well…they sure are hating on any truth tellers.

  2. heycoachb says:

    Who, pray tell, has ‘hacked’ the entire Republican Party.

    The Amygdala Strain: Teabaggery as Psychological Pandemic

    With the ascendency of George W. Bush, a barefaced buffoon, to the apex of right-wing politics some began to suspect that conservatism was not just a political disposition. As Bush’s corporate-Jesus coalition evolved into a throng that could call Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann its own, Republicanism completed its transition from political ideology into psychological disorder.

    The Amygdala Strain

    Examing fear as Right Wing prime motivator.

  3. theloneapple says:

    And what are they going to do about it — this phone hacking? Blame a couple of scapegoats meanwhile protecting the executive class from blame and harm? Color me cynical but I have no expectation that anything but the usual suspects will go down for this.

  4. bonncaruso says:

    I don’t buy it. FOX supposedly did not catch the hacked messages for EIGHT full hours, from 2 am EDT to 10 am EDT. That means that the “getting up in the morning” crowd in 3 time zones had more than enough time to read those tweets.

    It was not hacked. It was an inside job and Ailes is laughing his right wing ass off.

    This is how low the right has sunk.

    • onitgoes says:

      I could certainly believe that. I quite agree that there is no depth to which these entities will not sink, esp the likes of Jabba the Aisles. We’ll never know for certain, of course. The truth will never see the light of day.

      • BoxTurtle says:

        Dunno. If we make the assumption that it was advertising, not hacking then picking a story like Obama killed was the pinnacle of foolishness because that gets the Secret Service involved. I think even Murdoch would be wary of that. If it was advertising, they’d have gone with a story they had no proof of but wanted out anyway. Some anon source reports seeing Obama at an American Communist Party meeting while at university or such.

        While a hacker would try to get Fox in as much hot water as possible, like involving the Secret Service.

        They may have had inside help, but I think it was a hack.

        Boxturtle (And in poor taste. Should have posted something leftish or pornographic)

        • onitgoes says:

          Eh? – You’re probably correct. Albeit I could certainly see the evil empire doing something like this draw attention to themselves, etc. However, something pornographic would be more up their line, ala Breitbart & co.

    • Knox says:

      I heard about this briefly yesterday on CNN. My first thought was, “So, Fox News decided to make themselves the story on the 4th of July weekend.”

      I think their goal was to advance the narrative they love so much:

      Fox News is important. Fox News was attacked. Fox News is a victim. Fox News must fight back. Fox News is very righteous.

    • regulararmyfool says:

      My first thought when the story came up was that the Murdoch minions had done the hack to divert attention from the crimes his minions in England had committed.

      I think it is all Fox and Murdoch. Murdoch got scared that his plans for BSkyB would fall through. I support the conclusion that this is all fake to gin up support for the evil Australian.

  5. onitgoes says:

    FWIW, Vanity Fair recently ran an article examining the Murdoch empire’s hacks of various VIPs in the UK, including the Royal family. I agree with other commenters here: no one in any kind of “higher position” will even get their wrist tapped. Some low-level hack will possibly be made to do a British version of a perp walk, and that’ll be that… back to bidness as usual.

    Sorry for Milly’s family; that’s really outrageous. But we all know very well that Rupert & his evil band of flying monkey minions have no shame and will stoop at nothing to make some buck$$ off of anyone’s misfortune. PTOUI!!!

    • rugger9 says:

      If Rupert targeted the royal family, the British still have the laws on the books regarding treason and so on, in addition to the Official Secrets Act. Rupert would be in serious trouble for that no matter how much money he has, and as a Commonwealth subject, the Queen is his head of state by definition.

      The police also will have issues to pick with the interference with the disappearance of Milly. We were in the UK a couple of weeks ago, and her case was near front-page, and already had several false leads. It is something like the Holloway case stateside.

      While I would agree that a lower level flunkie will be the fall guy, but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see the UK dig deeper because of the royal targeting.

      • chetnolian says:

        They tried the lower level flunky bit already for the royal hacking. A journalist, Clive Goodman, and the PI at the center of the whole mess, Glenn Mulcaire, went to jail, Goodman was described by News Intl. as a rogue journalist and everything seemed to go quiet. I assume Mulcaire and Goodman were rewarded for being good boys and taking the medicine for the firm.

        No-one really believed it but most people, had to pretend to. Then over the months it has all gradually unravelled as all good cover-ops do.

        But while only celebrities and politicians were being targetted, most people really didn’t care. But let me assure you, if you wanted to find a couple of dog whistle issues to foment the masses, the words “Milly Dowler” and “Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman” are the ones. And this was largely, and here is the wonderful bit, because of the Murdoch papers.

        And they knew it was coming. My evidence? About four weeks ago, without any real explanation, Rupe called son James back from his job in the UK to the USA. Why would he do that? My guess is they reckon that if anyone finds Jame’s fingerprints on any of this, the UK won’t get their hands on him because the US view of extradition is that it is something they do to foreigners, not something fporeigners do to them.

        Rebekah, hoever, not being family, is expendible and is for the high jump. Couldn’t happen to a nicer person.

  6. harpie says:


    Glenn Carle’s “CAPTUS”: [w/ “little doubt” is]Pacha Wazir

    Scott Horton:

    Tina Foster, a constitutional lawyer who represented Pacha Wazir in habeas proceedings brought in federal court in Washington, noted to me that Carle’s account of his prisoner tallies in every detail with her client’s experiences. “There is little doubt that he is the prisoner Carle is describing,” she said.

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The details are heinous. The illegal hacking, which NoW has admitted in an attempt to pay damages and get everyone to STFU, went on for years. It involved celebrities; top sports figures whose information could have changed the betting odds for major fixtures; top politicians, including a deputy prime minister, whose information could have national security and criminal implications; ad nauseum. NoW obstructed for years, then allowed that two bad apples were involved. Like Abu Ghraib and government-sponsored torture, NoW has since admitted its top managemetn were involved.

    The hacking almost certainly was practiced by other Murdoch media outlets in the UK. Since those involved top outlets and top managers in the Murdoch media universe, it seems unlikely such practices were limited to the UK.

    Equally troubling is Scotland Yard’s initial investigation, now reopened under new management. The Yard claims that it received a now thoroughly discredited, John Yoo-like opinion about the narrow scope of what constituted “illegal hacking”, which allowed it to ignore thousands of leads, conveniently limiting their investigation to a few bad apples. It appears the Yard and its political patrons – who had to know about this affair – were using the same sort of faux legal analysis as George Bush.

    The government continues to investigate, though seemingly at a snail’s pace. Most of the legal action has involved private suits by celebrities for breach of privacy. Available damages are limited, which has allowed NoW of the world to buy its way out of a lot of trouble to date, and thus to bury under confidentiality provisions of settlement agreements much of the damning evidence. That could also limit the availability of these names as witnesses, should the government surprise everyone and pursue criminal proceedings.

    Much more to come. Oddly, one would search in vain for coverage of this event in major American news outlets. It’s obvious why the WSJ and Fox would ignore, but I hadn’t realized that “professional courtesy” in journalism extended to hiding and deodorizing a competitor’s soiled linen.

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Top Murdoch executive, once ranked as a contender for CEO or COO of the global Murdoch media conglomerate, Rebekah Brooks, had this to say about the revelation Marcy reported on:

    News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks said today she was “appalled and shocked” by allegations that a private investigator working for the News of the World hacked into schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s phone after she went missing.

    Ms Brooks, who was editor of the paper at the time, said it was “inconceivable that I knew or worse, sanctioned these appalling allegations”.

    Ms. Brooks may have found the disclosure “inconceivable”, but she does not deny the facts claimed. In addition to pledging her organization’s “full cooperation”, she had this to say:

    “Our lawyers have also written to their solicitor Mark Lewis to ask him to show us any of the evidence he has so we can swiftly take the appropriate action.

    “At the moment we only know what we have read.”

    Her comments seem to deny the allegations without doing so, and they rely on the government’s evidence and that of others involved, not her own organization’s. Ms. Brooks displays all the genuineness of George Bush pledging to find out who leaked Valerie Plame’s name to Bob Novak.

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    At least in the UK, some corporations notice when other corporations are subject to credible claims that they acted badly:

    Car-maker Ford pulled its advertising from the News of the World today following allegations that a private investigator working for the paper hacked into schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s phone when she went missing.

    Other corporations are considering doing the same.

    • harpie says:

      From the first comment [by Stevie] at the Murray post linked above:

      For those wishing to put pressure on NotW regarding this affair, there are a number of campaigns on Twitter, including this link that offers a very easy way of tweeting all the major advertisers at NotW:

      It seems to be working as Channel 4′s Alex Thompson has just tweeted that ‘At least 1 major company says it wil no longer advertise with NOTW’.

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    And there’s this background on the case underlying this incident of alleged hacking:

    Allegations of hacking in the Soham case were first aired by Labour MP Tom Watson.

    But the Cambridgeshire police statement is the first time it has been confirmed that the phone hacking inquiry, Operation Weeting, is looking at the Soham case.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      To clarify, the Soham case is distinct from the Millie Dowler case. Both involve alleged hacking by NoW, which gives some indication of how widespread NoW’s alleged hacking was. The Soham case involved murdered schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.

  11. thatvisionthing says:

    More from Craig Murray:

    The most interesting aspect of the story until now had been the collusion within Scotland Yard in covering up the criminal activities of the Murdoch empire. The part played by Andy Hayman looks particularly interesting in this respect, particularly given his role as chief retailer of lies to the Murdoch media about the War of Terror, notably but by no means only over the murder of Jean Charles De Menezes.

    Is Hayman their Judith Miller?

  12. thatvisionthing says:

    edit: reply to @24

    From wikipedia:

    Death of Jean Charles de Menezes

    Jean Charles de Menezes (pronounced [ʒeˈɐ̃ ˈʃahlis dʒi meˈnezis] in Brazilian Portuguese; 7 January 1978 – 22 July 2005) was a Brazilian man shot in the head seven times at Stockwell tube station on the London Underground by the London Metropolitan police, after he was misidentified as one of the fugitives involved in the previous day’s failed bombing attempts. These events took place two weeks after the London bombings of 7 July 2005, in which 56 people died.

    The shooting became particularly controversial because contemporaneous and later police and media accounts contradicted each other, specifically regarding Menezes’s manner and clothing as he entered the station, and whether there had been any police warnings before the firing. The death sparked an intense public debate over an apparent change in police policy, in which a shoot to kill practice known as Operation Kratos had been introduced to deal with terrorist threats. Because of the controversy the codename “Operation Kratos” was dropped in 2007.

    two inquiries, Stockwell 1 and Stockwell 2 — says Hayman involved in Stockwell 2

    The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) launched two investigations, Stockwell 1 and Stockwell 2. Stockwell 1, the findings of which were initially kept secret, concluded that none of the officers would face disciplinary charges. Stockwell 2 strongly criticised the police command structure and communications to the public, bringing pressure on the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair to resign. In July 2006, the Crown Prosecution Service said there was insufficient evidence to prosecute any of the officers, although a corporate criminal prosecution of the Metropolitan Police was brought under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. This alleged that the police service had failed in its duty of care to Menezes. After lodging a not guilty plea, on 1 November 2007 the service was found guilty and was fined, although the jury added that the operational commander on the day, Cressida Dick, bore “no personal culpability”. On 22 September 2008 an inquest was opened. The coroner, Sir Michael Wright, told the jury that they could not return a verdict of unlawful killing based on the evidence, and on 12 December 2008, they returned an open verdict.[1]

    I still need dots connected — Hayman working with Scotland Yard, Hayman shapes British opinion, Hayman ?provides bad ID info on Menzes to SY (??) — and a coroner can stop a jury from deciding unlawful killing based on evidence of corpse with seven bullets in the head fired point blank? This is a story worth understanding, and I don’t.

    • thatvisionthing says:

      More dots ??

      searching fdl — from September 2009, eoh comment on Hayman in ew post Cheney’s Sabotage of Counter-Terrorism that quotes from Hayman article in the Times, Why I suspect jittery Americans nearly ruined efforts to foil plot — in this light, Hayman seems to be a trustworthy source?

      earlofhuntingdon September 8th, 2009 at 10:35 pm

      The author of the backgrounder published by the Times in London, Andy Hayman, was Assistant Commissioner Specialist Operations in the Metropolitan Police in 2006. He was a senior member of the Met, a top cop, not a member of the legal staff of the Crown Prosecution Service. (The only officers above him in rank would be the commissioner and deputy commissioner. The fictional Chief Inspector Morse would have been five ranks below him, the local constable eight ranks.)

      The Bush “trap snapping” interfered with his year-long investigation shortly before it was ready. By intentionally not telling the Brits the US nearly ruined their investigation. The arrest in Pakistan might have disrupted the plotters planned, but it could have as easily triggered explosive inventive responses, which could have killed a lot of people. …

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        I don’t think that establishes Hayman’s trustworthiness, only that his role was complicated and contradictory. One should expect that an opinion piece in the Times presents Hayman and any role he played in the best possible light. I would defer to Craig Murray’s description of Hayman and his relationship with Murdoch’s empire.

        It would be useful to remember that Murdoch has owned the Times and Sunday Times in London for three decades. He used it, among other tasks, to break the print unions in London, assisted ably by Margaret Thatcher’s government. A 2007 story on its acquisition is here; a CJR survey of News Corporation’s global holdings is here.

        The first story should be read, however, with caution; it comes from Ad Age, which has multiple exposure to Murdoch’s displeasure. It cites, for example, with little critical commentary Murdoch’s pledge not to interfere in the Times and Sunday Times editorial control, a pledge dismally unfulfilled. He made the same pledge when he bought the WSJ, with a similar result.

        • dakine01 says:

          He made the same pledge when he bought the WSJ, with a similar result.

          Actually, I don’t think he had any problem with maintaining WSJ “editorial control” as the editorial pages of the WSJ have been far right and in line with Murdoch all along.

          Unfortunately, it is the news pages of the WSJ that he has had the biggest impact and has pushed them away from being remotely reasonable.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Hayman, as an Assistant Commissioner, was one of the Metropolitan Police’s most senior officers. He would have had considerable authority and access to some of the most sensitive information in the kingdom.

      The shooting of Menezes was ugly. Allegations of a cover-up regarding the facts surrounding the incident, the existence and terms of standing orders then in place, and the investigation itself surfaced immediately. The investigation was extraordinarily politicized, as it threatened to put quite a damper on the Met’s and the government’s handling of anti-terror practices. This was more problematic in the UK than here, in part because then and now the judiciary has been less in thrall to the executive and its claim to be able to do anything without liability. Again, I would defer to Murray on this story.

      • thatvisionthing says:

        Right, but see @24, Murray doesn’t say much! I would love to read a whole post on this as you understand it, if you would care to write it. From wikipedia, it looks like all Menezes investigations stopped once money was paid to the plaintiffs.

        Also, there’s a perfect Rupert-the-puppeteer picture in the LA Times: Phone hacking scandal involving kidnapped girl roils Britain

        …and just following the comments on Craig Murray’s page, there’s a running tally of e-mails to stop the Murdoch buy of Sky — latest count is up to 50,000.

      • thatvisionthing says:

        Hayman, as an Assistant Commissioner, was one of the Metropolitan Police’s most senior officers. He would have had considerable authority and access to some of the most sensitive information in the kingdom.

        So Hayman is not a journalist at all — not their Judith Miller — he’s the one feeding stories to Rupert’s journalists?

  13. radiofreewill says:

    If the police can’t get Brooks to roll on Murdoch, it’s only because they don’t want her to…once her claim that it’s “inconceivable” that she knew about or condoned the Dowler hack is disproved, she’s flippable.

  14. 4jkb4ia says:

    Reporting that I have just hauled in the newspaper and “Scandal Grows Over Hacking of Girl’s Cell” is on the front page. Not surprising because the NYT credits themselves with kickstarting the hacking story again with a magazine story. Also too, “Florida Mother Is Found Not Guilty of Murder”, with a picture. The apocalypse is here.

    (Pleased to hear about the new MyFDL hire. The person seems to have the kind of breadth that is necessary to talk about a new left-wing movement, and that seems to be what’s demanded by the commenters.)

  15. harpie says:

    Craig Murray today:

    […] The most astonishing fact to emerge so far is that it is now six months since News International emails were given over listing tens of thousands of pounds of corrupt payments they made to police. Yet nobody – bent policeman or Murdoch slime – is in handcuffs for this yet. Is there any possible innocent explanation for this?

    • harpie says:

      Also [another post]:

      Last week the Murdoch phone hacking empire hired the palatial rooms of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for their summer party. There Rebekah Brooks and Murdoch junior sumptuously entertained their bought politicians from all the major parties, who turned up in droves, tongues dragging on the bespoke axminster, from Cameron down. […]

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Imperial indeed. The old Foreign and Commonwealth offices near Trafalgar is home to once luxuriant space that hatched many an imperial plot. That it is Murdoch’s minions acting as host and not a Foreign Secretary or PM just means that the heads have changed, and the focus of the plots, not the plotting and not the urge for empire.

  16. fatster says:

    The BBC has an article up about this now. (Apologies if somebody already picked this up.)

    Dead soldiers’ families ‘hacked by newspaper’


  17. fatster says:

    This thing is “hotting” up as they say:

    Journalists, executives brace for arrest over phone-hacking scandal


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