The Murdoch phone-hacking scandal got that much closer to U.S. shores today. James Desborough -- one of Murdoch's favorite lapdog reporters who covered "showbiz gossip" for the poisoned tabloid The News Of The World -- was arrested in London today on "suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications". In plain language: "phone-hacking".
What makes his arrest especially nerve-wracking for Murdoch, his pretty wife Wendi Deng (who courageously didn't allow his multi-billionaire status preclude her falling in love with a married man 38 years her senior) and their News Corp. cronies is the fact that shortly after the activities that Desborough was arrested for took place in England, Desborough moved to Los Angeles to become U.S. Editor for that same Murdoch newspaper. He worked in that capacity from April 2009 to the paper's closure in July 2011. Twenty-seven long months.
Desborough worked for Murdoch in the UK from 2005 to 2009. Four years. It's for his alleged phone-hacking in those four years that he's been arrested. If Desborough engaged in phone-hacking in those four years (during which he published numerous showbiz scoops that are suspected of having arisen from confidential sources) -- and then very suddenly and miraculously abandoned his phone-hacking modus operandi the moment he arrived in the USA -- then Murdoch's US operation has nothing to fear.
But if this tabloid reporter continued the tried and trusted News Of The World method of phone-hacking to get stories during his two years and three months while on U.S. soil -- then it's a different story.
U.S. Congressional investigators will undoubtedly now be called upon to study every single news story in the News Of The World filed by Desborough in the twenty-seven month period between April 2009 and July 2011. As will the attorneys of every U.S.-based celebrity featured in his just-so news stories who determine that confidential information was cited or quoted by Desborough.
If it transpires that Desborough even just once did on U.S. soil what today's arrest warrant says he did repeatedly in the UK for four years -- then Rupert Murdoch had better invest even further in his lavish lobbying of Congressional members and gold-plated lawyers to smooth-talk the committee that supervises FCC licenses. And buy even more paper-shredders and hard-drive obliteration software for News Corp businesses.
And who exactly is James Desborough?
I can confirm from personal knowledge and with full evidence to support the charge -- he is a scoundrel, a blaggard and a proven liar with all the ethics of a semi-house-trained polecat.
Exactly ten years ago, in August 2001, I exposed him as a venal liar in an exposé published in Salon. In a diabolical fabrication that shocked even cynical UK media watchdogs, Desborough fabricated out of thin air a quote that he attributed to Beatles producer Sir George Martin (a man he'd never even met) in which Sir George had ostensibly stated that George Harrison knew he was imminently (as in a few days) facing his death.
Of course Sir George had said no such thing. George Harrison was not a few days away from his death. He lived for nearly five months more. Despite the intense distress caused to him and his family by Desborough's outright fabrication.
And when in the course of my investigating this journalistic travesty, I confronted Desborough with his lies -- he flat-out lied to me about his lies.
Within hours of my exposé being published on Salon, his then employers at a respected news agency wisely and speedily encouraged his "resignation" as it was reported at the time. In reality he was summarily dismissed. The CEO of that company today confirmed to me that "we unceremoniously kicked him out".
Desborough eventually went to ply his unscrupulous trade in the gutter of the Murdoch tabloids. As today's charge against him claims -- he broke the law for Murdoch for four years in the UK. He also worked for Murdoch in the USA, where his actions may now lead to belated scrutiny into the dirty little secrets of Murdoch's U.S. empire.
And what would the late George Harrison make of today's developments -- in which a tabloid reporter who exploited George's cancer to sell newspapers got arrested for illegal activities on behalf of Rupert Murdoch? Well George already commented on that in 1968:
Have you seen the little piggies
Crawling in the dirt
And for all those little piggies
Life is getting worse...