James Murdoch’s ‘Neville’ Email, Tom Crone’s Letter And Who Trained Derek Webb To Spy So Well?
The latest story centres on a private detective doing surveillance work as asked.
Derek Webb, a former police detective, says he was paid to follow high-profile people and their families, like Prince William, former attorney general Lord Goldsmith, Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe’s parents, Boris Johnson, Angelina Jolie, Simon Cowell, Sir Paul McCartney, Charles Kennedy, David Miliband, Elle MacPherson, Heather Mills and Gary Lineker.
Says Webb on the BBC’s Newsnight show:
“I was working for them extensively on many jobs throughout that time. I never knew when I was going to be required. They phone me up by the day or by the night … it could be anywhere in the country.”
“Basically I would write down what they were wearing at the time, what car they were in, who they met, the location they met, the times – the times were very important – and I would keep that. And then I would transfer part of it into my diary, but not the actual log itself. Just the names of the people.”
Webb says he followed about 90 people for the paper over a period of eight years.
Sections of the media not in favour of Murdoch’s empire are upset and outraged. But Mr Webb broke no laws. Indeed, the key fact is what we have been asking all along: who trained the spooks? Who trained convicted phone hacker Glen Mulcaire?
He never tapped phones. He only hacked into voicemails. But given the nature of the spying game, why weren’t landline phones tapped? Are we jumping the gun? Is this the next revelation, that those interested in the lives of others listened into phone calls?
Tomorrow, James Murdoch is up before the Commons Select Committee. The New York Times reports:
Now, he will be faced with defending himself against mounting evidence that top executives at News International, the company’s British newspaper arm, knew a full three years ago that hacking was pervasive at The News of the World, the tabloid newspaper that the company shut down in July, and that the executives discussed it with Mr. Murdoch at the time.
“Obviously, there are things which the committee wishes to raise with him, particularly in relation to some of the evidence we have received since he testified,” said John Whittingdale, a Conservative member of Parliament and chairman of the committee holding the hearings, the select committee on culture, media and sport.
Recently released News of the World documents, some of them obtained by the parliamentary committee from News International’s former lawyers, Farrer & Company, show that on June 3, 2008, a lawyer warned company executives in a memo that there was “a powerful case that there is (or was) a culture of illegal information access” at the paper.
The lawyer, Michael Silverleaf, also said there was “overwhelming evidence of the involvement of a number of senior journalists” in the paper’s attempts to illegally obtain information about Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association.
Mr. Silverleaf’s memo was written at a time when top News International executives, including James Murdoch, were mulling over how to respond to Mr. Taylor’s claim that his voice mail messages had been repeatedly hacked by the News of the World. Mr. Silverleaf counseled them to handle the case privately. “To have this paraded at a public trial would, I imagine, be extremely damaging” to the company, he said.
Even more potentially worrying for Mr. Murdoch is the growing body of evidence that other executives discussed newly discovered details of phone hacking at the paper with him around the same time.
For example, a May 27 note by Julian Pike, a Farrer & Company lawyer, says that Colin Myler, the editor of The News of the World, spoke to Mr. Murdoch about Mr. Taylor’s claims and that the two men decided to refer it to outside counsel. Another note two weeks later — after Mr. Silverleaf wrote his damning conclusions — says that after meeting Tom Crone, who was the legal manager of News International at the time, Mr. Murdoch “said he wanted to think through options” about how to proceed in the case.
Several days later, Mr. Murdoch authorized News International to pay Mr. Taylor more than £450,000 ($725,000) and legal fees exceeding $322,000. Mr. Pike has said that Mr. Murdoch personally authorized the amount, in exchange for a pledge of confidentiality, to keep the matter from being made public.