and so-called Mobile Phone Hacking
Latest JAN 19 2012
NOVEMBER 24 2006
It is important to understand the way intercepted communications data
should be used in a liberal democracy that needs to maintain the best
possible security for its citizens in a rapidly developing
technological age of globalization. It may well be different for
different countries depending on their size, vulnerability, language,
history, current communications systems and culture.
In the UK, we have sophsticated telephone and data networks, with the
possibility of intercepting all internal communications and a great
many external ones too. There are also continually developing technical
means of eavesdropping on communications without intercepting private
telecommunications. The volume of voice and text communications is such
that although it can be stored electronically and automatically for a
limited period, and can to an increasing extent be scanned and sorted
by machines, human agents in our security services can only examine a
minute fraction of it, and that fraction has to have a good reason to
be selected for that treatment.
Telecommunication intercepts are used for security. Terrorists and
dangerous criminals, whether the danger is from violence or massive
fraud, can be targetted by all sorts of means including direct and
delayed intercepts and other methods. With the qualified and careful
staff that run these facilites, it is hoped that we can stay one step
ahead without any breach of civil liberties or prying into the private
lives of honest citizens, though it should be borne in mind that
sometimes an honest citizen can be put under intolerable pressure
by.criminals or terrorists and be temporarily unable to ask for help.
For the specialised teams who are entrusted with these intercepts to
get routinely involved in the British adversarial legal system as
witnesses would be a huge mistake. If they get involved at all it would
be the first step to increasing routine involvement, leading to a
dangerous expansion and the need to recruit many more staff. It must
also be borne in mind that communications may be intercepted by a great
variety of means, and to reveal which actual means were used in a given
instance would be a fatal mistake as it would prejudice all future
The conclusion of anyone who has seriously examined the options over
the years is that intercepts should be used to guide the police and
other security services so as to enable them prevent disasters and also
arrest potential perpetrators with substantial evidence that will lead
to their conviction. These two requirements are sometimes mutually
contradictory, and that is one of the problems we in this country are
trying to address. It is tempting to say "use the intercepts, which
reveal intentionality and guilt through association, as evidence
to convict in court", but therein lies not only an immediate danger but
the thin end of a very indigestible wedge. It could also result in
convictions which were far less significant and possibly premature in
some cases, and in yet others reveal the identity of individuals whose
lives would be put at risk.
Now it is just possible to imagine a change in the law that could
enable intercept evidence to be used in very special, limited
circumstances, which would take care of the consideations set out
above. But that is another story.
NOVEMBER 29th 2006
On the subject. of 'Phone Tapping' the
following is described as such but as far as I can see it is not. It
simply involves getting into the Voicemall of a known mobile by finding
the PIN (Personal Identification Number). Though illegal without the
permission of the owner, and extremely bad behaviour, it is neither
'tapping' or 'intercepting'. In spite of that these words are used
continually by those commenting on or describing the events. It
is, as one reasonably bright spark tells it below, "something
in", though why it took more than 10 seconds
to work it out I can't imagine. As usual the media assist the Great
British Public in their growing linguistic, perceptive and general
confusion. They seem to have not only decided the public are
limited in their understanding but aim to keep them that way, as it
makes them easier customers and journalists find it easier to write the
editor admits phone tapping
The royal editor of the News of the World has pleaded guilty to
conspiracy to intercept voicemail messages.
Clive Goodman, 48, from London, was arrested after claims by the
Prince of Wales's household of security breaches.
Glenn Mulcaire, 35, admitted the same charge and five counts of
intercepting messages on the mobile phones of the likes of publicist
Sentencing will take place after details of the case are outlined
at an Old Bailey hearing in January.
The other targets of Mulcaire's actions were said to include the
Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes and model Elle Macpherson.
Two other victims were in the sporting world - the chairman of the
Professional Footballers Association, Gordon Taylor, and England
footballer Sol Campbell's agent Sky Andrew.
The case came to light in November 2005 following the publication of
story in the News of the World about Prince William's knee injury.
William began to fear aides' mobile phone voicemail messages were
| He wishes through me to take
the first opportunity to apologise publicly to those affected by his
Clive Goodman's barrister
His suspicions were raised further when an article by Mr Goodman
claimed that the prince had been lent some broadcasting equipment by
ITV's political editor, Tom Bradby.
Mr Bradby said that when he and William met later, "we both looked
at each other and said 'Now, how on earth did that get out?'.
"... the answer we came up with is that it must be something like
breaking into mobile answering machine messages."
Complaints by three staff at Clarence House sparked the police
which was widened to examine whether other public figures had had calls
| Some people, like me, are
resilient enough to take this sort of
behaviour more or less in their stride, but other people are not, and
nobody should have to
Simon Hughes MP
Lib Dem MP Simon Hughes said that tapping or intercepting messages
should only be done with the authority of the law - and in exceptional
cases such as terrorism.
"Intercepting personal voicemail messages is a
completely unacceptable breach of privacy - whether the victim is a
royal prince, a politician, or someone completely out of the public
"People who leave messages and those intended to receive them are
all entitled to have private conversations.
"We live in an age where invasions of privacy are becoming more
frequent. This does not make the practice any more acceptable."
He added: "I have long held the view that courts should be allowed
deprive those responsible for this sort of behaviour of their liberty
because it is a serious offence to interfere with the freedoms of
"Some people, like me, are resilient enough to take
this sort of behaviour more or less in their stride, but other people
are not, and nobody should have to."
Goodman was suspended by the UK's best-selling newspaper after he
was charged in August.
He was responsible for a raft of exclusives in his time and at
2002's Real Press Awards was named Royal Editor of the Year.
After the pleas were entered, Goodman's counsel John Kelsey-Fry said
the journalist wanted to apologise to the members of the Royal Family
"He wishes through me to take the first opportunity to apologise
publicly to those affected by his actions.
"He accepts they were a gross invasion of privacy and Mr Goodman
accepts that this characterisation is correct.
"He therefore apologises unreservedly to the three members of the
household staff concerned and their principals, Prince William, Prince
Harry and the Prince of Wales."
SEPTEMBER 6th 2010
Anyone with half a brain can work out that Andy Coulson, editor of the
News of the World in the above case, either knew that his journalists
accessed any voicemail they could get their hands on that would give
them a valuable story, or went to extreme lengths to enable him to deny
it while making it clear to his employees that they had to use all
means possible to lead the press-pack in inside information if
they wanted to keep their job. He can't have it both ways.
Pretending he knew nothing about it makes him either a liar or an
I can find it quite understandable that Scotland Yard were, at the
time, not interested in pursuing the matter. In one way it is trivial,
since people who leave their voicemail vulnerable to hacking with
'incriminating material' in it are no different to people leaving
private papers in a dustbin, and reporters spend their lives sorting
through rubbish. The sheer size of the can of trivial worms is such
there is no
point in opening it.
Of course the fuss now being made about Coulson's position as
Government Communications Adviser to the Priome Minister is
'politically motivated', but so it should be. Appointing the man in the
first place was a pretty desperate move by a PM clearly out of his
comfort zone on much of what is going on in the world today. He must
expect to suffer the consequences. Whether Coulson stays or goes is, on
the other hand, probably of little consequence unless it reveals
something about Cameron that nobody suspected that is of consequence in
electoral confidence terms.
SEPTEMBER 9th 2010
We should be extremely grateful to the BBC for allowing Paul McMullan
to speak, uninterrupted but thoughtfully questioned, on the World at
One news programme today. At last some straight talking, instead of the
half-witted posturing that we witness in Parliament where every word
spoken is an attempt to switch the cards so that the simple truth
cannot be spotted.
Listening to someone else's voicemail without their permission was only
made an offence in the year 2000, presumably when some influential
lawyers had belately discovered how to use a mobile phone and realised
that since many people, like them, did not really know how to use them,
anyone who had their phone number could access their voicemail with a
bit of ingenuity unless they protected it. Passing this law was, rather
as I implied earlier, similar to a law making it an offence to look in
someone else's unlocked dustbin.
Reporters at the News of the World, and presumably other papers,
considered it a useful tool to get at news of celebrities, MPs etc as
it gave clues to their appointments and movements in some cases. When
it became technically illegal, there were still reporters who
considered it justified when stopping serious criminality to break this
minor law. When seeking to expose major crime, even the police and the
security services are often restrained by the law to the extent that
without grounds for suspicion and evidence they can put before a judge
or the administrator so charged, permission to 'hack' a phone or
Why Andy Coulson had to continue, at the time he resigned, with the
farcical pretence of denial of all knowledge of what goes on in the
news-room is, as McMullan says, his affair. It would appear to be part
of the tiresome British disease of confusing the proper use of
procedures, standards and traditions to maintain civil order and
respect for our laws, with the proper facing of facts and straight
talking. It is this mealy-mouthed dealing that results in the breeding
of worms in cans, just as Abu Graib and Guantanamo grew under the nose
of Bush. The big mistake the News of the World seems to have made was
that after the practice was made illegal, instead of restricting its
use to exposing serious crime they went after celebrities and sensation
in order to sell newspapers. This is a far cry from McMullan's view
that a reporter can risk his reputation and even his life and liberty
in a good cause. About as far as you can get, actually.
Naturally, all of 'officialdom' would like to leave all this alone
because those at the coalface know only too well that the high-faluting
ideals of politicians are based on a system of ethics and morality that
arise from a basis on which there is no common understanding in our
modern world. We have a lunatic in America who thinks it is morally
essential to make a bonfire of all the editions of the Koran he can get
his hands on, while the American President says that the law forbids
him from taking the said lunatic and locking him up for the protection
of the public from the likely consequences of the reactions of others
to the symbolism of the book-burning. The actual burning of these books
could not, of course, hurt anybody unless they stand too close.
Setting ridiculous standards of freedom and human rights can, in the
final analysis, lead to similar results to ignoring reasonable
standards and sustainable rights.
So, what should Andy Coulson have done and said?
When he resigned, he should have said he had turned a blind eye to some
of the methods used by his journalists.
When taken on by Cameron as Communications Director, it should have
been a frank appointment of poacher turned gamekeeper. Sometimes good
What should Parliament do? Cut down on the hypocrisy and realise that
if you pass laws, criminals will use them for their own protection. If
you then depend on the breaking of these laws in certain cases by
turning a blind eye to allow criminals to be dealt with, this
same blind eye will allow abuse by those whose legitimate operations it
should be monitoring daily. The law must sometimes be broken, but with
open eyes and accountability. However, 100% accountability and 100%
transparency are, as the intelligent reader may have spotted, on
occasions mutually self destructive unless separated by an appropriate
interval in time. Paul McMullan used an old fashioned phrase in
his interview: "The bad guys". It is an oversimplification, of course;
one man's terorist....etc. Nevertheless there are times when it is best
to keep it simple, stupid. The law is designed to guide the wise and
deter and punish the unwise, it sets out the standards expected, but it
is by definition incapable of dealing with those whose threat to and
evolving society it has not anticipated or codified.
If the Murdoch news media was just news and the proper exposure of what
should be exposed, there would not have been so much objection by MPs
to phone hacking; but Murdoch nails his colours to the mast rather too
blatantly for some who feel the targets of his journalists are not
criminals so much as MPs who he targets for political reasons.
NOVEMBER 11th 2010
Yesterday on the BBC's 'Law in Action' the retired director of legal
affairs at GCHQ explained far better than I have done exactly why the
use of intercept material as evidence in court in the UK is not a
realistic proposition. The main reason is the 'level playing field'
that defendents have in the UK compared to mosy other countries and
they way this applies to the freedom of access by all sides to material
that might have any bearing at all on a given case. Selective use of
such information would give an advantage to the prosecution, blanket
release of material would not just endanger security and individuals
but be impractical logistically and legally.
JANUARY 23rd 2011
It really beggars belief that after all this time, when it has been
obvious to the whole world that journalists of the Murdoch press (and
anyone else for that matter, any private freelance) could get into the
voicemail box of anyone careless enough to leave the security cose at
the default setting (in the days before cleverer default settings were
implemented by some service providers), that people should still be
stirring the pot. Coulson has gone, quite rightly, for reasons stated
in my entry of September 9th. But if Gordon Brown left his voicemail
unprotected, and set it to cut in when he was switched off, out of
reach ot (worse still) engaged, he has only himself to blame. I imagine
the police are still reluctant to get involved in tracking down and
prosecuting people based on pay-as-you-go mobile phones that are hard
to attribute beyond reasonable doubt to any user and have by now been
lost, sold or destroyed.
MARCH 30th 2011
"An MP who says his phone was hacked has conceded that legal
advice to police about the criminality of hacking phones may have
Exactly. I should not think it was considered an offence at all in the
early days of mobile phones, when the voicemail facility could well
have been used as a shared message board and the private PIN was then
and still is an option. The distinction between listening to a message
before or after the intended recipient is, on the other hand, a fairly
obscure one, once illegality in principle to accessing a PIN protected
or unprotected number without permission is established in law and made
clear to the general public. If it is now, it certainly wasn't always.
APRIL 6th 2011
I have no sympathy for the two chancers arrested (and now bailed) but
the fact remains that in the past, listening to the unprotected
voicemail of a person in the public eye could scarcely have been
thought of as a crime for a reporter. The big mistake is indulging in
persistent perjury if questioned about it in court. In the instances
where we are dealing with harmless celebrities, reporters and editors
deserve what is coming to them. When it comes to crimnals and material
definitely in the piublic interest, we are in more complicated
territory. I do have some sympathy with the 'hackers' and also with the
Civil liberties are always best protected by the safeguards that can
act in due course, with consideration and more certainty, with the
right level of transparency and discretion, pluralism in surveillance
and judgement that is appropriate and the proper process of appeals.
APRIL 8th 2011
Make of it what you will, for me it's just a mess of sad people, doing
and saying sad things. Celebrities to out-of-it to password their
phones, reporters who choose to live by pestering them, a newspaper
owner and his cronies annoyed and a bit scared of chickens coming home
to roost. Let us not mock the afflicted.
APRIL 14th 2011
And so it goes. If they are going to even attempt to arrest all the
people who ever listened to an un-PIN-coded voicemail, this could get
interesting. No doubt reporters are fair game, but what if they insist
on equal treatment with the rest of the world?
JULY 5th 2011
It is not credible that Rebekah Wade (or Brooks) was unaware of the use
of voicemail access by her reporters. They could have been instructed
never to discuss it with her, of course, so that she could always deny
knowledge in a particular case, but to be actually ignorant of how
information of this kind was being regularly obtained would be
impossible unless she was totally out of touch with the real world.
Anybody who had ever bought an used a mobile phone with a voicemail
facility knows how it can often be accessed by the default code unless
it is changed, before going to any more elaborate tricks. She expected
her reporters to deliver the goods. When they did, she must have either
accepted and condoned such methods, or not. Deleting messages to make
room for more could only have been done by a reporter knowing what she
expected and needed of him.
PIN set by the service
provider as 'hacking' or even criminal. What has upset people was the
deleting of Millie Dowler's messaging, the exploitation of her family,
and all the other hurt that has been caused not by the 'hacking' but by
what use the newspapers in question have been making of the material
they pick up. As Muclair says, he actually
had no idea he was breaking the law!
No, it is the behaviour of the editors that is obnoxious, in their
desperate pursuit of sensation to please the bottom line demanded by
owners and shareholders and tittilate some readers. Personally I have
never bought or read the News Of The World other than in a very brief
moment in the 1960s when it was taken over by owners who tried to make
it an accurate newspaper. I know this, as a lady reporter ring me up to
get the truth on a particular story (an amusing and strange one), which
I gave her and it was printed (without my name, just as news - just the
facts, ma'm). You will not be surprised to learn that the newspaper did
not do well for its conscienscious owners and was then taken over by
JULY 7th 2011
Rather than find the scapegoat as I predicted 2 days ago, the
self-worshipping Murdocs and Wade/Brooks have decided to close the
newspaper and escape, they no doubt believe, to rule the media waves
Murdoch, he took it over in a period when a short-lived new ownership
had tried to make it an accurate newspaper (would you believe that?),
which did not attract enough popular readership or advertising and had
to accept his offer. My view is below
Murdoch senior and junior and Rebekah
intend to escape by throwing NOTW overboard. It is typical Murdoch
ruthless behaviour. Ruthless behaviour is sometimes called for if it
leads to the best outcome, but we in the UK need the Murdochs and
Wade/Brooks like a dose of cyanide. His ruthless behaviour is entirely
The Prime Minister talks of 'getting to the truth' so as to
make sure 'this can never happen again'. I thought he was above
This is how the world works. Reasonable people running a newspaper (or
a whole country) get into trouble. They call in or are replaced by
(often foreign) thugs to sort it out. The thugs get far too big for
their boots and build or allow a corrupt castle of which they are king.
The situation is exposed and the citizen/customers revolt. The thug
brings the castle down with him rather than give himself or his
lieutenants up to the mob. In Murdoch's case he sacrifices a castle to
save his queen, because the queen knows too much - and she knows she
knows too much, and he knows she knows.....
Of course the mob are also to blame. They gorged on the offal fed to
them and wanted ever more. The UK needed Murdoch to bring newspaper
printing into the modern world. Germany needed Hitler at the start, as
even Churchill was the first to say. France needed Napoleon and has
benefited ever since. But Murdoch is not just past his use-by date now,
he and his acolytes are totally unfit to run influential media in this
country of which he is not a citizen and for which he has no esteem or
As for those whose phones were hacked, they should read the
instructions when they buy a phone, a car, a computer or anything else.
They did not merit what Wade and the Murdochs did to them but they
deserved to have their voice-mails hacked as much as if they had put
them on the web without a password.
It is pointless and wrong now to prosecute all but the worst abuses of
payment to, and receipt by, the police, because the whole country knew
this went on and expected it. It is completely pointless to
prosecute those who did the accessing of the voice-mails which they did
because they were expected to by their managers and like me considered
it fair game, not that I have ever indulged in it. There is no need for
an enquiry at all, as it would take years to complete and would have no
The closing down of the NOTW has been done because the name is now
toxic in circles Murdoch depends on for advertising revenue. The paper
is probably editorially healthier than it was even before Wade got her
hands on it and let it run wild. The Murdochs intends to stay in power
and sacrifice the staff other than those they intend to re-employ.
There is no reason the government should tolerate this behaviour and
the Murdochs should give up the shares they have in BSkyB, not take
more. Hiding behind the so-called 'law' in this instance is absurd, as
all these laws governing huge operations that affect the national
interest and self-image are invented to make things work the way
governments want in the first place.
Let us stop the absurd pretence. We have done the right thing which is
to STOP newspapers routinely accessing private voice-mail. We have
alerted the public about their careless use of technology. We have told
the police to clean up their act. That this was not done before is
because at the level at which it needed to be authorised we are still
governed (no matter which party you look at) by people more at home in
the 19th century. That is because people who are at home in the 20th or
21st would not touch politics unless driven to it - which some radicals
are, but either they don't reach the front bench or they lose elections
if they do.
Cameron and Milliband are now just playing to the gallery to save their
own position on this. The call for an enquiry should be treated with
the silence it deserves As for getting to "THE TRUTH", I am sorry but
most of today's vocal citizens could not face it, not that it is so
awful, just that it is not what they think it should be, could be or
But if Wade is to survive, who is to be the person who authorised all
this without her knowledge? Coulson took the rap before while denying
all knowledge. Will he take it again, is he really the guilty party, or
will he be very handsomely paid this time for taking it once again?
JULY 9th 2011
It looks like Coulson is taking the rap. If Wade really
didn't know how the information produced for her was obtained, then the
only possibility is the one Ken Livingston has suggested: that she is
just a silly, ambitious woman who was shamelessly used by the senior
staff to be the front-woman, the chaser after results who drove her
minions to get the goods while being kept in the dark, as only a silly
woman can be, on all the technicalities. Yes, dear reader, I know,
there are women who are perfectly capable of being scientists and
astronauts but the fact is that in a great many women (though fewer as
time passes) both epigenetic and environmental effects switch off some
parts of their intelligence and switch on others, leaving them in
blissful ignorance of what is possible and what is not, in the current
state of well known technologies. She must, in that case, have been the
ONLY person at the News of the World who didn't
know voice-mail hacking was common. In her own way, she is then
responsible for what has happened through being incompetent to hold the
position she did.
Why on earth are we bothering with any enquiry now, when all
inappropriate collusion between the police and the press can be stopped
now the state of affairs is known and publicly acknowledged, and all
unauthorised voice-mail access can be prevented by using a PIN as
advised in the instructions for dummies with every mobile phone,
available also on the web? It is a pointless exercise in hypocrisy now
by the press, politicians of all parties, police and the public, at
tax-payers expense. Why parade yourselves as a nation of utter losers?
Forget it and move on, leaving the Murdochs behind. They did a useful
job briefly battling with some equally self-centred people years ago
but they are the very last people you need holding a position of
political influence in a parliamentary democracy, even though they
follow rather than lead, as they tend to drag the country down along
the path of least resistance - because that gets them customers and
money, their only aim.
JULY 11th 2011
I expect today most people will have understood the 'Murdoch Method' -
always take the initiative. As soon as it looks like you are going to
be clobbered, get your retaliation in first. A few days ago he decided
to close the News of the World - the nuclear option - without a care
for history, the employees or the public. He took the decision. He
remains in command of the situation. Today he overtakes OFCOM by telling
what to do!!! By withrawing the concessions he made to get the deal
approved he has forced them to examine his case and get it over with.
He doesn't want to be kept on a string
and forces their hand. He has challenged the country to come to a
judgement, because he thinks his morals are no worse than his readers.
He has in effect called the UK public, government, police and media
hypocrites. He has called their bluff!! He is also an angry man.
While I shall be glad to see him stopped from taking control of all of
BskyB, I also hope he has taught the UK lesson, because in many
ways they are no
better than him and, when it comes to leaving their voice-mail access
unprotected, they deserved what they got. I would like to see the worst
of the abuse of privacy due to police corruption punished because that
went further than listening to unprotected voicemail.
JULY 14th 2011
As parliament goes ballistic over Murdoch's News Corp. he abandons his
bid for the BSkyB shares.
Now, as Rebekah Brooks agrees to appear before the select committee,
Murdoch father and son say they are not available till some time in
August. So thay have been issued an official summons. Not being UK
citizens they don't have to appear but.....
Murdoch plays his usual game. He takes the intiative. While Parliament
wonders if and how its summons can be enforced, he says he is coming
Now that the Murdochs and Ms Wade/Brooks are to
appear before the Media and Culture Select Committee of Parliament it
is time to write clearly about what is going on and what it means,
given that nobody in the media or outside it is able or, if they are,
prepared to do so.
There are separate issues that are in need of clarification.
1. Was information obtained by News International in order to sell
newspapers, to further political aims, or both, obtained illegally?
2. If not illegally, was it obtained by trickery and 'blagging', or by
payment which could be classed as unauthorised or bribery?
3. Was some information, even if made available without any such
underhand action, protected by laws of privacy but published?
4. Was the use of some information, rather than the means by which it
was obtained, unworthy and not in the public interest?
It would seem to me that the Competition Commission was never concerned
with number 4, above. The biggest shit in the country can be approved
as a newspaper owner if he does not break the law, and only the laws of
libel and slander provide redress to those who find the public
discussion of their private lives has been used to sell pulp faction.
However, the Media and Culture Select Committee can legitimately
discuss these matters, which may not fall within the competence or
remit of a court of law. It would seem to me that OFCOM would then be
right to take into account the proceedings of the Select Committee when
deciding how the considerable power available to those it grants
licenses is used.
So question 4 is a moral issue. I therefore expect Murdoch to defend
himself paradoxically on legal, not moral grounds.
Issues 1-3, on the other hand, are legal questions for the law to
decide. I therefore expect Murdoch to defend himself on moral grounds.
He arrived in the UK in the late 1960s to buy some of its ailing
popular press and found a country where a certain amount of collusion
and backhanders between the press and the police was not only tolerated
and accepted but necessary. The police did not have the contacts, the
money or the manpower to run a network of informers, use of criminal
grasses carried its own problems, the newspapers needed sensation to
get their readers. The press and the police needed each other. Murdoch
did not invent the system, so was he supposed, he may ask, to abolish
it as well as saving our newspaper industry again in the 1980s from
self-inflicted collapse through a refusal to move to modern working
Apart from stories of crime, fraud and accidents causing death or
disaster, where could newspapers look in the domestic scene in
peacetime for the material to attract their readers? Drugs and sex and
rock and roll seemed a good line, and if any well known or well-off
person was involved that was legitimate game in their eyes. Then came
the age of the mobile phone and the Internet.
The Internet put a lot of pressure on the established media, while
mobile phones it seems, in the UK at least, put a lot of pressure on
adult users. They never read the instructions. Although they were told
to protect their recorded voice-mail with a 4 digit PIN, many people
did not; sometimes this was because they wrongly thought they would
have to enter it every time they needed to pick up a message, not
realising that was only the case if they were NOT using their own
Unbelievable though it is, this recent page on the web:
actually promulgates this idiotic misunderstanding. in the following
Of course, this is annoying,
as it means you have to enter a PIN every time someone leaves a message
that you legitimately want to hear, but if you’re serious about
protecting your privacy, you have no choice.
Even more annoying, you’ll
need to come up with a random four digit number that you’re unlikely to
remember, as birthdays or special dates can be easily guessed. Just
remember – you’re unlikely to remember it!
Verily we sail in a ship of
not just fools but fools who pose as teachers. Why, Murdoch will say,
should he take the rap for that? As far as his investigating
journalists, or the people they employed to get information were
concerned, an unprotected voice-mail box was the equivalent of
paper-mail left un-shredded in an open dustbin, or a blog on an
unprotected web page. How could it conceivably be a crime, and why for
Pete's sake would they bother him with it? The chairman of the board
does not tell a reporter or investigator how to look in waste-paper
baskets, and they don't discuss their techniques with him.
Rather late in the day, in some countries and now in the UK, we were
told "voice-mail hacking is now illegal". But what is the definition of
'voice-mail hacking'? Would it be obtaining the PIN by blagging, or
guessing the PIN? Would it be listing to a message BEFORE the owner of
the phone? Or would it also be listening to the message AFTER the owner
had listened to it, failed to delete it and left it unprotected by a
PIN? If the latter, then it must be illegal to use the information in a
letter found in a railway carriage as well.
Now, major cellphone companies force users to put in a password, we are
told on this page, equally
Murdoch to say that this issue was legally completely outside his
sphere of influence, command and control - and he would be right, as
any UK teenager could have accessed any unprotected voice-mail and
passed a transcript on to any journalist. The actions are impossible to
count or attribute. When the accusations of hacking were made, he will
say, he made sure his disapproval was made abundantly clear.
So Murdock will defend himself against legal issues on moral
grounds, and moral issues on legal grounds. That is why the Media and
Culture Select Committee, rather than the courts, should be where the
extent of his future control of UK media should lie.
That will no doubt not stop our legal eagles, who wrongly believe in
the rule of law rather than its use for the guidance of the wise and
chastisement of fools, from taking it on themselves to pronounce on
matters of which they know nothing other than what they will be told,
just as they have taken it on themselves to overturn the incontestably
correct verdicts of several inquiries on the accident of a Chinook full
of Intelligence experts lacking the sense not to travel all together is
a single helicopter in conditions which were never at any time
I was never one who complained of the judge who said "Who are The
Beatles?" when they had been referred to in evidence, as His Lordship
was rightly ensuring that the answer to this question was read into the
court record - a matter of relevance and importance. But he was not
being asked to pass judgement on their music. The judge in the
Mull-of-Kintyre (aviation) case was passing judgement on airmanship -
that has only brought him and the law into disrepute. I only hope that
as our parliament and courts take on this job of sorting out the press,
the police and the public they do not just make bigger fools of
JULY 15th 2011
I have spent long time listening to the Home Affairs Select Committee
Keith Vaz, and I find the grilling of Peter Clarke to be almost beyond
belief. The questions asked were good ones. Mr Vaz chaired it very well
indeed. However, the apparent failure to understand the answers is what
worries me. The fact is that although under immense pressure to
deal with terrorism, Peter Clarke took seriously the unauthorised
listening to unprotected voicemails by News of the World and other
reporters and investigators. Not only did he track down Mulcaire and
Goodman who had hacked royal voice-mail, he engaged seriously with the
mobile phone service providers and put in place procedures to assist
those negligent individuals who do not read the manual before using
their mobile phones to make their voicemail secure. As Mr Clarke said,
if instead he had put thousands of man-hours into trying to secretly
track down all unauthorised voicemail access, without taking action
that would have alerted those who could destroy phones, evidence etc,
this would not have helped innocent victims.
That is also the reason he did not engage more staff in analysing
thousands of pages of material supplied by the mobile ISPs. He was
quite right. He had to cut to the heart of the matter. The grilling of
Andy Hayman which followed again made the committee look ignorant. They
demonstrated once again how politicians and lawyers removed from the
real tasks of everyday life are themselves responsible, by the
expectations and impossible tasks they demand from those at the coal
face, for the malfunction of the very best laid plans and systems. No
bloody idea. Insisting that a policeman such as Hayman of never meeting
socially with people who might be under investigation is a recipe for a
hopelessly divided society.
The select committee seems to have no idea how the police are
circumscribed by the law, and how there was not the slightest
possibility of making charges stick retrospectively unless phones had
actually been tampered with in voice-mail access before a certain date.
The committee accuses Hayman of being part of a procedure and a report
that has resulted in a disaster. What disaster are they referring to?
There have been some individuals who have been hurt by thoughtless
actions of those seeking sensational material to publish. I would be
the first to rejoice there may now be less of this. But it was the use
of the material that did the damage, not the fact that voice-mails were
hacked. As Hayman himself said, he did not know if his own phone had
been hacked and he did not particuarly worry if it had been!
Sue Akers, Deputy Assistant Commissioner in charge of Operation Weeting,
to investigate because the
pressure has completely gone, time-wise. I was overjoyed when Akers, as
politely as she could, explained that it was lawyers who had made it
impossible for Peter Clarke and Yates to get any information out of
News International. The Select Committee is stuffed with lawyers. Akers
had to explain to them that civil actions could get access and
disclosure where the police could not go, but few would take on News
International unless very wealthy indeed. (Akers did not use these
words - I paraphrase to cut the crap).
16th JULY 2011
The Murdoch 'sackings' are now at level 2 as he fights to save himself:
He is cannily reserving his 'defence' for later. Like or loath him,
this man is just a lot smarter than the people he is up against. Or,
looked at another way, they are not that bright?
17th JULY 2011
The Met have arrested Rebekah on charges of alleged corruption and
phone-hacking, which frankly stinks a bit in my book when it come to
the timing. The arrest was prearranged. That will stop the Commons
committee from getting the answers to any question she can say her
lawyers now advise here not to answer due to their impingement on the
police investigation. Why this should be the case is entirely due to
our cockeyed legal system and traditions, which in its adversarial form
assumes bad faith equally on the part of prosecution and defence. The
revenge now being taken against Murdoch may well be justified but also
backfire, as he is probably the least hypocritical player compared to
the vocalists amongst Politicians, the Police, the Press and the
Public. Reminds one of so many of today's attempts to justify the
imposition of justice on the global and regional levels. Images of
grass houses and the stowing of thrones sweep through the mind. But
it's a great learning process!!!
Now the head of the Met has resigned. That is in nobody's interest, but
if we are going to completely remove an ancient culture of police/press
association, what else can he do? Personally I think this is all folly.
It is not what you do, it's the way that you do it that counts. It's
not who you know or meet, it is how you behave that matters. Maybe Paul
Stephenson accepted a gift when recovering from cancer that he
shouldn't have from a man who was a
friend from earlier days. But he was a good policeman.
18th JULY 2011
If anyone is wondering why Assistant Commissioner Yates agreed with
Peter Clarke not to go through the many thousands of pages of records
that might have revealed that other phones had been 'hacked', I would
have thought it was obvious. So many voice-mails of people who didn't
protect them with a PIN have been 'hacked' over the years, not just by
journalists but by thousands of other people, that it would have taken
either a year+ of time or hundreds of police better employed elsewhere
and completely confused the job in hand - namely to stop voice-mail
hacking and bring to book those who had used the hacking for dangerous,
unworthy or disreputable purposes. Furthermore it would in many cases
be impossible to identify the hacker. At the time in question it would
have been an utterly absurd task to undertake. But no doubt the usual
army of the uninformed will ensure we accuse this man as well of
negligence, incompetence and bad faith, interfering with his job. Yates
had no idea that he was having information deliberately withheld from
him by News International/NotW.
5pm BST: Yates resigns after being asked to stand down.
London mayor Boris Johnson said it had been right for both men to stand
importanrt and have to be done.
The NoW journalist who said phone hacking was endemic, and that Andy
Coulson had asked him to hack phones, is found dead.
No doubt conspiracy theories will contest
any suicide verdict and put it down to MI6...
19th JULY 2011
So now, with the 2012 Olympics coming up, we have managed to utterly
dismember the top of the Metropolitan Police and lose its most
experienced people. The cause of all this chaos is not voice-mail
hacking per se (which anyone can do if they have the mobile number of
any user too stupid and lazy to set a PIN code) but the gratuitous use
of hacked voice-mail by some newspapers to sell copy on sensational
grounds, and sometimes to try to damage political players not to Mr
Murdoch's fancy. There is also the charge of cooperation between press
and police which again can only be wrong when it is abused, as the
police and the press have always been mutually dependent for perfectly
obvious reasons. Now I have always liked John Prescott, and personally
I find his language very easy to understand and his treatment by the
press over the years both silly and unhelpful, but getting so
overexcited that we start dismembering our police force for working
with the media and failing to set out to prosecute every case where an
exposed voice-mail has been accessed is just ridiculous.
Met Press Relations chief Dick Fedorcio appeared today before the Home
Affairs Select Committee and made complete sense. He said "if Mr Yates
had raised a scintilla of concern about the employment of Wallis, he
would not have got the contract".
When Yates gave evidence minutes later he explained that at the time he
did not have 'a scintilla of concern'. Keith Vaz and the committee did
not seem to understand that. I have been studying the faces and
demeanour of the Home Affairs Select Committee and I have to say I do
not like what I see. I quite like Vaz, but the rest of them look as
though they would not have any friends on this planet. They most have
serious personal problems which become evident the more they expose
themselves. The questions they pose are good. They do not appear to
understand the answers. But then they don't understand mobile phones or
voicemail or the utter triviality of what they over-egg by the name of
'hacking', as opposed to the seriousness of the behaviour of the press
in the use of
[As I suspected when I wrote the
above, the next day the committee publishes their opinion of all these
policemen. They write them off as unfit for their jobs. If only it was
as simple as that! http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14212485]
NOW we come to the evidence of James and Rupert Murdoch to the Media
and Culture Select Committee.
James Murdoch's defence of the giving of false information to the
Committee on earlier hearings is that he relied on the police for the
knowledge of what went on in the News of the World.
Now since we have heard from Yates that the police could not not
discover what was going on in News Corps because the company's lawyers
had so much legal power, ways and means to prevent their
investigations, this defence is meaningless. He is saying "we could
only possibly admit to facts that the police had already discovered, as
they were our source of information". But we had
already learned from Yates elsewhere that the police were held back by
a legal stone-wall put in place by News Corp.
Mr Farrely (sp?) was the committee member who spotted this almost two
hours later in the questioning.
Under questioning, Rupert Murdoch explains his ignorance of News of the
World matters in that it represents 1% of of News Corps business and
staff, all of which reports to him. It is clear that the UK as a whole
is just part of the English speaking World which is his work place. He
takes very seriously the loss of trust with his readers, as a
newspaper-man, but he does not take that seriously the political
culture of any culture. He does take seriously what has gone wrong, but
he regards the errors such as been made as endemic in the culture of
the countries where his papers operate rather than in his newspapers.
The truth is that he made the most of these flaws and allowed them to
flourish at arms length. He says he trusted his managers and they
trusted their staff. Therefore in his mind he is not guilty as they
were all trust-worthy. What we are looking at here is quite simply the
usual collapse of an overgrown and prideful enterprise, pricked by the
rebellion of people it was hurting through negligence when managers and
staff were allowed a free hand.
After a scuffle by an intruder, Louise Mensch put the final questions
very well indeed: would James Murdoch consider suing lawyers Harbottle
and Lewis (he wouldn't say) and would Rupert consider resigning (answer
no, he thought he was the man to put things right). He was let down, he
says. As I said in my analysis of what his defence would be on July
14th, he defends himself morally against the legal issues, and will
defend himself as legally absolved from moral culpability.
On the subject of Harbottle and Lewis it has to be said that this is
the mess we find ourselves in due to the 'rule of law' instead of the
rule of decent and frank behaviour which should exceed legal
requirements by a million miles, but which lawyers always prevent.
Now for Rebekah Brooks
As far as I can see, I write at 5:55pm, her only defence can be utter
incompetence, unless she just says 'they all did it, we all knew, the
police knew, who was I to stop it'.
However in her very first sentences it is clear she is using the James
Murdoch defence. She equates her knowledge of hacking with what was
publicly exposed and admitted to, at the time it was exposed and
admitted to. So her defence is basically idiocy. What makes all
that hair grow?
Is she saying: "I am just a woman, I had no idea how these wicked men
knew how to listen to anyone's voice mail, even though any fool can do
it if there is no PIN protection". I was a silly woman with big hair
put in charge so that things could go on while I was editor and I could
deny them all, as they were beyond my comprehension. So is this true? I
leave it to you, dear reader, to make up your own mind. Either way it
says something about the state of affairs in the UK today.
Brooks' idea of investigating her own company when she became CEO was
to ask the police if they had the goods on anyone. If they said no, she
breathed a sigh of relief and was prepared to tell Parliament and the
world that there was nothing wrong.
I was very pleased, however, when a committee member tried to paint
Rupert Murdoch as 'humiliated' rather than 'humble' that she was
corrected. Humiliation has become a word too often used in the media,
even by the BBC when we lose a cricket match. Humiliation is in the
brain of the sufferer. An observer may decide that an individual or
group has been humiliated, but they can really have no idea if it
is the case unless it is vouchsafed by the people concerned. The
Murdochs were indeed humble, but they obviously did not feel
humiliated. They felt seriously reproved by a parliamentary authority,
if not for malfeasance then for negligence.
Rebekah, it has to be said, put up a very polished performance. But
that rather rules out the defence of being a silly woman with big hair,
if Sarah's Law, which she still sees as her crowning glory, was
Unlike the Home Affairs Select Committee which looked like a group of
ghouls round a guillotine, I thought the Media, Culture and Sport bunch
were great. They posed the right questions, they understood the
answers, and though don't accept them at all really they were not
hypocritical. They don't accept them as the committee understands
perfectly well that the News of the World passed the parcel to the
police the moment they saw there was trouble at t'mill, while the
police were then 'legally' obstructed by News International and News
Corp's lawyers. In the end, the Murdoch competence to own and run so
much press and TV media has been shown to be untenable, destroyed by
their own use of ignorance as a defence.
20th JULY 2011
Cameron addressed the commons on the issues now the subject of a full
inquiry, an inquiry I have dismissed previously as impossible and a
waste of time but now I can see is inevitable. It will take months and
probably years, and I accept that some good might come out of it if it
leads to a wider type of intake to the Metropolitan Police, to give
them a bigger pool of talent, experience and ideas to draw on; and good
can come out of some better regulation of the press and other media.
The real difficulty in all this is the absurd pretence that has to be
maintained of ignorance of voice-mail hacking, when anyone with a
brain, whether they worked for a newspaper or not, knew that
journalists hacked voice-mails ever since they had been invented, and
nobody even considered it illegal until recently.
Draft Terms of the Leveson Inquiry: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14141365
Compared with other matters that should be getting the government's
attention, the phone hacking problem which is now subject of this
inquiry is utterly trivial.
AUGUST 1st 2011
Here we go into another month of lunacy. Piers Morgan has denied any
knowledge of phone hacking when he was editing tabloids. How stupid.
Before 2006 when I believe accessing a voicemail was officially made
illegal, any reporter under pressure to come up with the goods would
not have been doing the job if they had not explored unprotected
voicemail records of those they were tasked by their editors with
After 2006, fair enough it was a criminal offence. But the issue is WHY
WERE THEY INVESTIGATING IN THE FIRST PLACE and WHAT USE DID THEY MAKE
OF THE MATERIAL and WAS IT IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST or just the interest
of the proprietors of the newspapers?
Harbottle and Lewis will now have to admit they were used as cover by
the Murdochs. Unwilling and to some extent unwittingly because H &
L, rather like Cameron and at some stages the Police, trusted the
editors and CEOs of the tabloid press to have some discreton on their
use of material offered up by investigators, even if they did not stand
over them as they emptied dustbins and could scarcely be held
responsible for their every action. Murdoch's staff wanted a clean-bill
of health after offering up a sacrificial lamb or two. Both H & L
and, no doubt, the police considered that the public sacrifice plus
action by Mobile Service Providers and now-alerted users would stop all
hacking, and the retrospective hunting of many thousands of possible
hackings by largely unidentifable people over past years was utterly
Pursuing all these leads to the end has even at this stage has ended by
the revolution devouring its own. The good to come of it has been the
humbling of the Murdochs and their lesser ilk, and some other good may
yet come but in
the end, 'no man living is justifed' as the good old book reminds us.
Consider the following paradoxical news items.
to give more evidence on phone hacking.
Murdoch accuses it of
making a 'massive mistake'
AUGUST 3rd 2011
The NoW Managing Editor who would have 'signed off' Mulcaire's expenses
is now with the Police answering questions. If he tells it straight,
which recommend, they should soon have the information that
anyone with a brain could have worked out many moons ago.
NOVEMBER 10th 2011
James Murdoch appeared again before the Commons Culture Committee and
repeated is weird claim that he knew nothing about anything that was
going on. The absurdity of this is so extraodinary because he bases his
defense on the contention that if, by some chance he did see an email
he claims not to have seen, that the significance of it was never
pointed out to him. J M has to depict himself as the most clueless
director of a newspaper in history to back up this story, given that
anyone with a brain would expect tabloid hacks to indulge in serious
voicemail hacking till it was forbidden specifically by law and they
were told it was illegal and forbidden to do it. After that point they
would presumably pay for unsolicited transcripts from independent
sources, until the shit hit the fan.
DECEMBER 3rd 2011
LONDON – Hacking into celebrity phones was just the tip of the
Britain's media ethics inquiry, set up in response to illegal
eavesdropping by a Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid, has turned out to be a
masterclass in skullduggery that has exposed the murky practices of the
U.K.'s muckraking press.
The Leveson Enquiry pursues its course. Piers Morgan, from the safety
of the USA, tried to fend of questions about what he said preciously
many times to the effect that all newspapers hacked phones all the
time. Morgan claimed at one point that an editor only knew 5% of the
time what any of his reporters were up to.
Exactly. Editors made sure their empoyees hacked phones and be sure
they never talked about it to their editors. To what extent Morgan
himself countenanced or ordered phone-hacking is not obvious. He just
wanted the stories and didn't want to know how they were obtained.
JANUARY 4th 2012
parts of Scotland Yard and the media has
caused "serious harm", a report says.
Filkin says information had previously been given
pointed out over a year ago that the tradition in this country and some
others was that investigative reporters always had close relations with
the police for the simple reason that the press can fund their
investigations through publishing the results and an overstretched
underfunded police force needs to work with them. It is simple
economics, particularly when people will talk knowingly or unknowingly
to reporters when they might not to a policeman. However, if by
'inappropriate' Elizabeth Filkin really does mean inappropriate, when
information is traded in return for favours that affect the enforcement
of the law, for the mutual benefit of either party, or if the
relationship is abused by bribery or tongues loosened through social
drinking, then she is right. The power of the Murdoch press and TV
media certainly led to an unhealthy situation.
JANUARY 9th 2012
Strange to find myself agreeing with Kelvin McKenzie that not all phone
hacking is by definition wrong, bad or without merit. I have always
though it was up to individuals not to leave their private
correspondence, written or verbal, lying around for anyone to dig
through, and if we were only to rely on the police to bring harmful
crime to light I rather doubt if so much of it would. And since
McKenzie admits without a qualm that he was (and presumably still is)
the totally unethical pile of ignorance that he has been accused of
being, I have to agree with him there too. What a marvellous defence:
"Guilty as charged, m'lud, along with all our readers. And of course
Rupert never had to tell us who to 'go after', ever, not in a million
years. We knew who he would want to see done. If we didn't we wouldn't
have lasted long would we?"
His successor at The Sun told the enquiry how ethics were now at the
top of the News Corp priority list. He also suggested that
McKenzie had been tamed by the end of his reign. Well, publicly rebuked
he had been, but as far as phone-hacking was concerned he was no more
dissociated from it than Piers Morgan or others of the ilk.
Don't let's take any of these people too seriously. And remember,
in the words of that wonderful slogan of the 1950s: "Ve are all guilty!"
JANUARY 19th 2012
Neville Thurlbeck. Bravo. He is starting to tell the world what
all the world with a brain has known all along but which neither the
press nor the police could mention. The simple truth I pointed out ages
ago that the press and the police worked together for the simple reason
that the press had funds and income and investigators and were not
bound by the same rules as the police, while the police were
underfunded, overstretched and under pressure to deal with
dangerous and violent crime when it broke into areas deemed 'innocent'
and 'vulnerable'. The police and the investigative press needed each
other. Frankly, if we are now going to prise them apart, we will have
to re-organise and re-fund then both once we have decided what their
respective jobs are. Their collusion had both good and bad effects. The
good will now be seriously missed.
Thurlbeck claimed that knowledge of phone hacking "went to the top" of
the newspaper "but no further" in the media group. Currently on bail,
Mr Thurlbeck is embroiled at the heart of the scandal as the Neville
referred to in the infamous "For Neville" email, which it has been
suggested proves News Corporation Chairman James Murdoch knew phone
hacking went beyond a single reporter.
has admitted that he didn't always go to his superiors to
voice his disquiet. We all know this is because he knew he would have
been told 'this is the
world we live in, get on with it'. After a bit, particularly since he
knew the politicians were so scared of the media they could not
discipline it and the courts would always buy the official line fed to
them by people in the right clothes or wigs making the right noises,
what was he supposed to do? He says he was a coward. I don't think so.
Let's face it, no TV channel would dare to give me the chance even now
to address the nation as I choose, and I am not ready to do it yet
either. There is a time and a place for everything.