Phone Hacking Scandal Widens: News International Targeted Gordon Brown, BSkyB Bid Delayed (LIVE UPDATES)
The hacking scandal surrounding Rupert Murdoch's British media empire widened dramatically on Monday, as new reports emerged that papers beyond the News of the World were also involved in serious criminal behavior. In addition, Murdoch's $12 billion bid to take over BSkyB, the satellite broadcaster, looked to be in serious peril as the government delayed it from going forward. The delay of the deal is a crushing setback for Murdoch, who wants full control of the highly lucrative company.
According to The Guardian, The Independent and the BBC, investigators working for the News of the World, The Sun and The Sunday Times obtained information about Brown's family, his legal, his financial and his medical records. This marks the first time that any allegations about News International have targeted papers outside the News of the World.
Among the details that were reportedly obtained:
The Sun allegedly uncovered details about Brown's son, Fraser, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, when he was an infant, and wrote exclusive stories about his then-unknown illness.
According to The Guardian, Rebekah Brooks, then the editor of The Sun and currently the head of News International, phoned Brown in October 2006, telling him that her paper knew his son had cystic fibrosis. The paper then published the exclusive details.
The paper later touted its scoop, saying that it was evidence of The Sun having "set the news agenda."
In response to the allegations, News International said it was "comfortable" that the stories were obtained from legitimate sources rather than illegal activity, according to Sky News.
The Sunday Times allegedly posed as Brown to obtain his personal financial records. His bank, Abbey National, wrote to The Sunday Times charging that "someone from the Sunday Times or acting on its behalf has masqueraded as Mr Brown for the purpose of obtaining information from Abbey National by deception," according to the BBC.
The Guardian posted audio of what it said was a man who worked for the Sunday Times named Barry Beardall. In the audio, Beardall cons a woman into giving him information about the sale price of Gordon Brown's flat. "You've helped me enormously," Beardall tells her.
A spokesperson for Gordon Brown issued this statement: "Gordon Brown has now been informed of the scale of intrusion into his family's life. The family has been shocked by the level of criminality and the unethical means by which personal details have been obtained. The matter is in police hands. The police have confirmed Mr Brown is on [jailed private investigator] Glenn Mulcaire's list. And some time ago Mr Brown passed all relevant evidence he had to the police."
Brown's wife, Sarah, also spoke out on Twitter, saying, "So sad to learn all I am about my family's privacy - it is very personal and really hurtful if all true."
Click here for a timeline of the scandal.
News Corp. gave in to public pressure as well, issuing a statement asking for its bid to take over BSkyB to be referred to the Competition Commission and dropping its agreement to sell off Sky News as part of the bid. This means that any takeover will, at the very least, be delayed as regulators examine the "fitness" of News Corp to take over BSkyB.
Jeremy Hunt, the minister responsible for the handling of the bid, announced in the House of Commons on Monday that he will agree to this request. It marks a swift turnabout for a deal that looked set to sail through just a week ago.
Shares of News Corp. also fell by 7% on Monday as investors reacted to the worsening controversy.
All in all, the scandal surrounding Murdoch's British media empire has not lessened, even after the paper at the center of the controversy was closed for good.
In addition to all of the revelations on Monday, Murdoch and his empire were attacked from all sides of the political spectrum. The Deputy Prime Minister, Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg, called on News Corp. to "do the decent and sensible thing" and drop its bid for the full takeover of BSkyB. (Murdoch already owns 39 percent of the company.) Clegg's intervention makes him the most senior figure in government so far to explicitly oppose the deal, which looked set to sail through until the phone hacking scandal at the News of the World escalated last week.
Ed Miliband, the leader of the opposition Labour party, also ramped up his attacks on Murdoch. Speaking at a press conference, he called the BSkyB bid "untenable." Miliband is trying to force a vote on the takeover in the House of Commons.
In addition, new revelations about the criminal behavior inside the News of the World continued to be unearthed. Among the latest details:
The BBC reported that emails written in 2007 show that the News Of The World was paying police guarding the royal family for information--but that nobody was alerted about this evidence of corruption. BBC reporter Robert Peston uncovered emails from then-royal reporter Clive Goodman (who was the first person to be jailed over phone hacking) to then-editor Andy Coulson (who went on to become Prime Minister David Cameron's top communications aide) asking for money to pay police officers for huge amounts of personal information about the royal family.
The Guardian reported Monday morning that Prince Charles and his wife Camilla were recently warned by the police that their phones may have been hacked.
The Daily Mirror also floated allegations that News of the World journalists tried to hack into the phones of victims of the 9/11 attacks. A source told the Mirror that a then-New York City police officer (now a private investigator) was approached and offered money if he would hack into the victims' voicemail. The officer reportedly declined the offer.
Watch a video about the scandal:
John Whittingdale, the Culture Committee chairman, now says it is not clear whether the Murdochs and Rebekah Brooks will attend the Committee next Tuesday. They were issued written invitations to attend this morning.Whittingdale commented:
We need to know who authorised the activities that have now been uncovered at News International. Of the three, we can only compel Rebekah Brooks to attend as she is a UK citizen.
Sky News: Keith Vaz's interrogation of John Yates was 'disrespectful and unnecessary' says an indignant John O'Connor, former Scotland Yard Commander. I can understand why the phone hacking was indeed a 'low priority with all the terror going on'.
Statements from News InternationalThe Sun:
We're able to assure the Brown family that we did not access the medical records of their son medical records, nor did we commission anyone to do so. The story came from a member of the public. The member of the public has provided a written affidavit confirming this. We are not aware of Mr Brown or his family making a complaint at the time.Sunday Times:
We had 'reasonable grounds' to investigate the purchase of Mr Brown's property 'in the public interest'. They deny that they broke any law in investigating the purchase of the flat.
Met. Police Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, offers 'full support' to John Yates in statement.
James Forsyth in The Spectator:
Government support for Labour’s motion tomorrow is a victory for Ed Miliband — and it is a sign that whatever hold Murdoch had over British politics has been thoroughly broken by this scandal.
Assistant Commissioner John Yates to resign. She will ask Boris Johnson to support her call for his resignation at Mayor's Question Time on Wednesday.
Baroness Doocey commented:
“It is shameful that John Yates found time to have five lunches with News International, but after just a few hours decided there was no additional evidence to justify a further investigation into phone hacking. Yates has failed literally hundreds of victims.
While he remains in post as Assistant Commissioner of the Met, its reputation will not recover.He must take responsibility for this pitiful review and accept that he has lost all credibility.”
'The Home Secretary, who has remained very silent on this, should be talking to senior police officers across the country about how to take this forward to respond to public concerns, and make sure this could never happen again'.
“It is welcome news that the Government says it will support our motion. It is now for Rupert Murdoch to recognise the strength of public feeling, and the will of all the major parties.”
|@ paulwaugh : Jeremy Hunt can't back the Lab motion, No.10 says. If PM ducks out of facing EdM+ Hunt has legal role, who will reply for Govt? Cable? AG?|
Downing Street: Government will vote with Labour tomorrow to request that Rupert Murdoch withdraw his bid for BSkyB. Cameron, Clegg and Miliband to hold talks on hacking this evening
|@ GuidoFawkes : Stand by folks, story coming detailing @PiersMorgan's complicity in phone hacking. We're naming names and places. #CircularFiringSquad|
"If the House of Commons expresses a clear view about what is in the public interest for the bid to be withdrawn then that will help in making the right call.
"Mr Hunt said very clearly that everybody in the House of Commons apart from him because he's in a particular role, could express a view about whether Mr Murdoch should withdraw the bid. He said that in the House of Commons yesterday.
"That's why I hope as many people right across the House of Commons will support this motion as possible because I think what the public want us to do as a House of Commons, is to stand up and say it's not conceivable that Rupert Murdoch could expand his reach in the British media, while the issues that happeend at News International, while the issues of criminality are still being investigated and while there's so much that seems to be coming out day by day, and I think this is a moment when the House of Commons can rise to the occasion and can be a united House of Commons."
Lib Dems are expected to support Ed Miliband's motion, a source has told the Huffington Post.
"I hope the Government will support the motion, because I think it is in the interests of the country... the public will be saying to us 'this is an opportunity for politics to rise to the occasion'".
He says he hopes if the House of Commons comes to a consensus, then Mr Murdoch will listen to them.
"As for the position of Mr Yates [Assistant Met Commissioner John Yates], bluntly I find his position quite simply untenable. You can take this on three levels: we don’t know the full detail yet, so we don’t know whether darker elements are involved in this. There is always a question of corruption in the police and we don’t know the extent of that at the moment."
|@ SkyNewsBreak : Ed Miliband to hold talks with David Cameron and Nick Clegg on phone hacking scandal this evening|
'Please if you have anything that would support my investigation, now would be a good time to get it on the table. I've been in touch with Mr Watson, not yet Mr Bryant. From the amount of media coverage, it seems a lot of media outlets have information'.
A: "We'll always, we'll always be accused of that... With absolute confidence, because I know what's been there - for instance when there was speculation around victims of the 7/7 bombings, we did not know that they were contained within our material."
Initially it was difficult. I held a meeting at which for the first time 2 news int. executives came along. We discussed with them properly what 'full co-operation' means. After that things were much better. Will Lewis and Simon Greenberg were the people I spoke to.
"There must be people sitting on a lot of material"
|@ ChrisBryantMP : If brooks or murdochs refuse to attend dcms committee sergeant at arms can be empowered to force them.|
'only limited amount public inquiry can do whilst i'm still conducting my inquiry. i can tell you that for the 8 arrests already made, charges will not be made til October'
She says: "There's nothing to stop the Prime Minister naming the head of the Judge led inquiry" and indicates no charges until October
“There are times when the House of Commons has got to rise to the occasion and speak for the public.
“We have said that the purchase of BSkyB should not proceed until after criminal inquiries are complete.
“The simplest way to achieve this is for Rupert Murdoch to recognise the feelings of the public and the will of the House of Commons and withdraw this bid.
“I am calling on Parliament to show its will tomorrow.”
This House believes that it is in the public interest for Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation to withdraw their bid for BSkyB
500 people have written to ask if they had been hacked, of those 70 have been, Sue Akers says
Sue Akers, head of Operation Weeting (which is investigating phone hacking) tells the Committee of the process and ambitions of the inquiry will be:
We should note that we have been talking today with reference to a document published by the Guardian, which may contain inaccuracies. We have 45 full-time officers currently working on it, we can add more if necessary.
A vast number of people feel they have had their privacy violated. We have a commitment to inform people that they have been hacked. There are nearly 4000 names in the original Glenn Mulcaire documentation. We have undertaken to personally inform those affected. The mobile phone companies are helping us to compile a comprehensive list. We will be going round to see these affected people
|@ benfenton : News Corp has just announced a 5bn dollar share buyback. it does not necessarily mean they cannot buy BskyB by any means but v significant|
Then they will inform all the victims.