Ah, good morning, good morning. Time to kill your faith in the world a bit more.
So, you’re all familiar with Rupert Murdoch, yes? That near-mummified Australian who controls more media in the world than just about anyone else? And how he has a penchant for twisting news to one side or the other for monetary gain?
Well, it looks like the crusty old kangaroo spore has outdone himself.
LONDON, July 9 (Reuters) – Britain’s most senior policeman ordered an inquiry on Thursday into reports that journalists at Rupert Murdoch’s bestselling British newspaper conspired to hack into the phones of celebrities, legislators and public figures.
London police chief Paul Stephenson said a senior officer will investigate allegations in the Guardian newspaper that News of the World reporters worked with private investigators to access “two or three thousand” private mobile phones.
Former British deputy prime minister John Prescott, U.S. actress Gwyneth Paltrow and Australian model Elle Macpherson were among those targeted by reporters seeking exclusive stories for the tabloid, according to the report.
Elle Macpherson? She’s a retired model. What the hell were you looking for with her? The most extreme thing she does is drop her kids off at school on her driver’s off day.
The Guardian said private investigators working for the News of the World intercepted voicemail messages and gained access to personal data such as itemised phone bills and bank statements.
“This included material that showed that 31 journalists working for The News of the World and The Sun had acquired people’s personal information through ‘blagging’,” the Assistant Information Commissioner Mick Gorrill said in a statement.
“Blagging” is a form of deception where a person pretends to be someone else in an attempt to obtain information from sources such banks or telephone companies, the watchdog said.
Blagging is a terrible world. Phishing or Social Engineering is what we call it on this side of the pond, you tea-swilling crumpets.
But, that’s just the overview from Reuters. The Guardian’s got even more dirt to spill. They’ve some how gotten a hold of legal documents that were sealed after the head of a football team sued News International for illegally accessing his cellphone. The man was paid to keep his yap shut, and the documents were sealed, even the police reports that showed the full extent of the phishing scheme. The bizarre and tantalizing part about this is that none of the police agencies decided to pursue action against News International staff, even after the scope of all of this was revealed. It’s as if the biggest new corruption case in the history of their agencies just wasn’t enough to get them up. I mean, it wasn’t like they had all of the paper work from the private investigator News International was hiring to do all of this, right?
In suppressing Taylor’s legal action, News Group buried not only the Scotland Yard evidence but also paperwork that had been seized by the Information Commission from a Hampshire private investigator, Steve Whittamore, who had been running a network of sources who specialised in the illegal extraction of information from police computers, British Telecom, the DVLA, Inland Revenue and others. Whittamore subsequently pleaded guilty to criminal offences, although the newspapers who hired him were never prosecuted.
It’s those documents that the Guardian got their hands on. Among them is a full laundry list of what Whittamore was doing. You know, stuff like….
Among those whose privacy apparently was illegally violated when British Telecom was conned into handing over their addresses and/or ex-directory numbers are Nigella Lawson (four times); Patsy Kensit; Jude Law and Sadie Frost; Lisa Snowdon (three times); Anne Robinson and her former partner; Carol Caplin; Lenny Henry; Vanessa Feltz; Lord Mountbatten’s grandson; and witnesses to the murder of Jill Dando, thus potentially interfering with the course of a live police inquiry.
When the actress Charlotte Coleman died after an asthma attack, the News of the World paid for BT to be conned into handing over the itemised Friends and Family list from her bereaved parents’ phone bill. When the TV presenter Linda Barker moved house, they hired Whittamore to get her new home address from the supposedly confidential social security database.
Working on instructions from the News of the World, Whittamore and his network also conned the criminal records database of the police, which is a specific criminal offence; the Inland Revenue, also a specific criminal offence; a cab company used by Ken Livingstone; a Paris hotel used by Jason Donovan; the actors union, Equity, for the addresses of actors; Granada TV, for information on a Coronation Street actor; and on numerous occasions the DVLA for the home details of people whose car numbers they had spotted.
Oh, Fourth Estate, look at you. You’ve grown up so much. Back when you started out, you were this muck raking hellion, determined to shine the light of truth into the darkest corners of The System and save the working poor from the injustices of corruption. Now you’re all big and tall, chasing people around with telephoto lenses on your cameras and tapping their phones with sophisticated listening devices. You keep it up at this rate, and the world’ll never need another Secret Police. Won’t that make your mommy, proud?
Ehrrr. Ahem. Anyway.
One might wonder in what diseased brain any of this sounds like a good idea in the first place. This is fraud on a base level, right? Well, not so much in England. Turns out gaining access to people’s information through subterfuge in England is COMPLETELY FUCKING LEGAL provided the end result is “for the public good.” That’s right. In England, I can go rooting through all of your personal information provided at some point I turn up some kind of criminal activity on your part.
So, quick round up before I let you get back on with your day, now feeling a bit more paranoid and shitty.
News International owns newspapers in England. Said newspapers hire private investigator to gain access to privileged information. News International gets caught, but with a wise legal play, manages to seal the records and give justice the middle finger. Law enforcement agencies in England, who have apparently gone soft now that the IRA is nothing more than a bunch of doddering old Irish drunkards in Belfast, can’t be assed to actually prosecuted the case that is handed to them and only the PI goes to jail (Don’t worry, he got money for News International to stay quiet). Jump forward a few months and some how the Guardian gets their hands on the court papers and proceeds to publicly flay News International. Now we sit back, get some pop corn, pour some whiskey and watch English news agencies rip each other’s bits off.
EDIT: Fixed a few inconsistencies with my use of News Corp’s subsidiary companies.