A Guido co-conspirator, Jon Dell, spotted this line in an old copy of Campaign!: Selling of the Prime Minister by Rodney Tyler published back in 1987. Bugging Thatcher of course wouldn’t have bothered the Guardian, it would have been “in the public interest”. As they define it…
Currently The Guardian’s David Leigh is on his high horse with Guido, claiming we’re spreading “malicious lies“ about him. So just to reiterate, last month in a telephone interview (July, 6) Guido asked Leigh a number of questions about phone hacking, specifically related to his teaching course at City University. The day we spoke with him was the day of the News International debate in parliament. We intended to run the story on that day, which would no doubt have proved a little embarrassing for Leigh, as a counterpoint. He gave an absolute denial as to ever discussing phone hacking with his students, we didn’t run our story despite having two sources, because of the vehemence of his denial. A denial which turned out to be misleading.
In the days following Leigh attacked us on Twitter and his Guardian byline was on a made up claim, a “malicious lie” even, that we had got the Smeargate emails from News International. We were convinced we were right and Guido discussed with Guardian sources (a) our story (b) his denials. Guido also alluded to Leigh in a widely reported debate held by Polis at the LSE. Within a month evidence in Leigh’s own words emerged to completely contradict his previous blanket denial to us. The only way he could justify his denial to us is if it was an honest mistake and he had simply forgotten telling his students about phone hacking.
Instead he warns Guido by email “you’ll be sorry”, something we hear all the time. The Guardian has issued a statement,
‘The Guardian does not and has not authorised phone hacking.’
Are they claiming then that David Leigh is the lone rogue reporter, like news International said of Clive Goodman? Because Leigh admits:
I’ve used some of those questionable methods myself over the years. I, too, once listened to the mobile phone messages of a corrupt arms company executive – the crime similar to that for which Goodman now faces the prospect of jail. The trick was a simple one: the businessman in question had inadvertently left his pin code on a print-out and all that was needed was to dial straight into his voicemail.
There is certainly a voyeuristic thrill in hearing another person’s private messages… when I try to explain newspaper methods to my current university journalism students, and some of whom are rather shocked. There are other techniques I have used, along with the rest of Fleet Street. I did not turn up my nose when the notorious Benjy the Binman emptied a bag of stinking rubbish on to my carpet.
Leigh freely admits to using “deceptions, lies and stings” and that it was “hard to keep on the right side of legality on all occasions”, quite. Questions arise:
- Should we be teaching the next generation of journalism students about phone hacking?
- Is it right to make them aware of illegal methods to procure information?
- Is the Guardian really in a position to be the self-appointed arbiter of media wrong doings?
Data from the Information Commissioner’s “Operation Motorman” shows that the Guardian Media Group paid tens of thousands of pounds to private detectives to illegally procure private information. The very same private detectives employed by News International…
UPDATE: According to m’learned friends there is no public interest defence for phone hacking, it is punishable with two years jail time.