Mirror, Mirror on the Fall

As speculation matures into full-blown witness statements and accusations, Trinity Mirror have called in the law firm Herbert Smith and launched an investigation into phone-hacking across its titles. Until now there have been only present tense denials of such actions.

One shareholder told the FT they expected “nothing less” than an investigation, but it hasn’t come in time to stop the company’s share price going into free fall, with a 9.8% plummet on Monday since Guido, swiftly followed by the BBC, and grudgingly some other papers, began lifting the lid. He’s not sure a mere review is going to do much to reassure investors…

Growing Concern for David Rose's Mental Health

Guido understands the Indy team used every card in the book to secure a delay in the announcement that Johann Hari has been stripped of the 2008 Orwell Prize. The words “delicate” and “state” keep coming up. Sources for the prosecution seem to be outraged at how the Indy are conducting themselves during this humiliating time. While many are concerned at what a fall from grace might do to someone who already claims to be unstable, using a threat of their suicide as emotional blackmail to avoid professional embarrassment has been seen as a step too far. Johann Hari’s accomplice and loyal defender, David Rose, is said to be on suicide watch…

Sunday Mirror's Tina Weaver Isn't "Fit and Proper" for the PCC

Those of you following Guido on Twitter will know that for weeks Guido has been using the hashtag #CircularFiringSquad to drip out names of journalists from other newspaper groups, in particular the Mirror group, who are as guilty as those arrested at the News of the World. Illegal hacking and blagging, with no public interest defence, has been endemic at Mirror titles. Last night on BBC Newsnight they produced testimony from former employees that at the Sunday Mirror

  • they hired a voiceover artist to imitate celebrities to blag information
  • they “saw Liz Hurley’s phone being hacked and a reporter listen to her mobile phone messages”
  • Ex-Sunday Mirror journalist Richard Watson confirmed hacking took place “pretty much every day”

Last week this blog reported on the record accusations against Tina Weaver, editor of the Sunday Mirror, that she was at the heart of a culture of journalistic illegality. Max Keiser claimed that she personally told him in 2002 about Piers Morgan’s working knowledge of phone hacking – at a time when he was editor of the Daily Mirror. Guido has extensively reported allegations against Piers Morgan dating back to his time at the Daily Mirror which have been followed up worldwide. We have reported testimony that when Mark Thomas was editor of the Sunday People, he was according to Guido’s source – who is a household name, “the biggest phone hacking enthusiast”. The evidence of the Information Commissioner against the Mirror group is compelling.

If it turns out that Sly Bailey’s Mirror group was a criminal enterprise, they will have to face the consequences, with a market capitalisation of only £140 million and damages that could mount up to tens of millions the consequence could be bankruptcy. Plus jail time…

Meantime, and until the due process of the law takes its slow course, Guido thinks it beyond credibility that Tina Weaver is a member of the self-regulatory Press Complaints Commission. Tina should step down.

On a personal note, if Mirror group newspapersgo after Louise Mensch MP, as they are openly threatening to do, they will be making a big mistake. She sits on the DCMS Select Committee and is determined to widen their inquiries out to other newspapers beyond the News of the World. Tina and Sly should remember that it was a similar threat by Rebekah Brooks against Tom Watson that eventually led to News International being brought to crisis point. Louise is just as tough as Tom…

James Murdoch Claimed Three Sentence Long Law Firm Memo "Cleared" News International

Under questioning this week by the DCMS Select Committee, James Murdoch said he “relied upon” media law firm Harbottle & Lewis’s report when he and Rebekah Brooks claimed that hacking was the work of one rogue reporter. According to a Bloomberg newswire report Harbottle & Lewis is now seeking clarification from New York-based News Corp., by whom they were retained, about the extent to which its duty of client confidentiality is waived. The lawyer who first reviewed the emails, Lawrence Abramson told the Guardian that “Professional duty of confidentiality prevents me from commenting on this.”

Guido, in an effort to be helpful, is publishing the report. The report is from Lawrence Abramson of Harbottle & Lewis LLP to Jon Chapman, the in-house counsel at News International Limited, which James Murdoch told the Select Committee cleared News International is published in full below:

Re Clive Goodman

We have on your instructions reviewed the emails to which you have provided access from the accounts of:

Andy Coulson
Stuart Kuttner
Ian Edmondson
Clive Goodman
Neil Wallis
Jules Stenson

I can confirm that we did not find anything in those emails which appeared to us to be reasonable evidence that Clive Goodman’s illegal actions were known about and supported by both or either of Andy Coulson, the Editor, and Neil Wallis, the Deputy Editor, and/or that Ian Edmondson, the News Editor, and others were carrying out similar illegal procedures.

Please let me know if we can be of any further assistance.

29 May 2007

Count ’em, it is three sentences long. Not exactly in-depth is it? Guido is increasingly of the view that James Murdoch is, without being too legalistic, totally f****d.

Mirror Journo Speaks Out Against Morgan's Version of Events

Today’s guest publication is The Australian, not normally Guido’s first choice for news, but somehow they got the interview that he was chasing all morning. James Hipwell, the former Mirror journalist whose insider information about the paper under Piers Morgan puts the former editor’s denials into serious doubt, has spoken out for the first time in five years. He claims phone-hacking was rife and that “bosses” were in on it:

“I know that for one simple reason: I used to see it going on around me all the time when I worked at the Daily Mirror. I sat right next to the show business desk and there were some show biz reporters who did it as a matter of course, as a basic part of their working day. One of their bosses would wander up and instruct a reporter to `trawl the usual suspects’, which meant going through the voice messages of celebrities and celebrity PR agents. For everyone to pretend that this is some isolated activity found only at the News of the World is ridiculous, it’s just a lie.”

Hipwell says, depending on legal advice, that he is likely to offer his insight to Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry. This is very bad news for Piers Morgan…

UPDATE: This is also pretty bad news for current Mirror editor Richard Wallace. He was Showbiz Editor at the time. Awkward…

Indy Newsroom's Hari Missing Poster

One of Guido’s co-conspirators at the Indy sent this in. They are clearly worried about Johann Hari and have put this thoughtful missing poster at strategic points around the Indy’s newsroom floor at Northcliffe House.

The Council of the Orwell Prize met yesterday to consider and review Johann Hari’s cut ‘n pasting as well as evidence of plagiarism and passing off helpfully submitted by the public and readers of this blog. We await their judgement. 

Mirror Group's Sly Warning Cuts No IceDid Sunday Mirror Blag Rio Ferdinand's Mobile Phone?

Mirror Group CEO Sly Bailey has gone into full Rebekah Brooks mode, issuing threats to the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee, telling them to stop questioning her papers and their tactics. Sky’s Mark Kleinman makes the very good point that just like Brooks, Bailey has issued a denial before instigating any investigation. Given her papers beat all of the competition in the number of blagging cases discovered by the Information Commissioner, Guido would recommend she gets onto this forthwith.

If Sly is going to continue to deny Trinity Mirror didn’t illegally hack voicemails and blag phones, perhaps she would like to explain how they got this Pulitzer worthy Sunday Mirror story:*

Football In Crisis: Rio phone sensation: WHY TEXT HIS DOC?
by JAMES SAVILLE Oct 19, 2003

THE mystery over the Rio Ferdinand missed drugs test takes a dramatic new twist today as we reveal that the first contact he made after leaving the ground was a text message to a private doctor. The Man Utd footballer sent the message within minutes of leaving the club’s training ground and just an hour after being ordered to attend the random check. The Sunday Mirror can reveal that the 24-year-old had his mobile phone on at all times – contrary to reports that his phone was still off after finishing training. And although a desperate phone call and a series of text messages had been left on his phone by club doctor Mike Stone, it took Ferdinand nearly half an hour to call back.

How did the Sunday Mirror know about Rio’s text messages? That his phone was switched on at all times? Where he was when he texted? They of course had illegally blagged acess to the mobile phone records including location data. Plenty more where that came from…

* Emphasis added.

Ex-Mirror Journalist Puts Morgan's Denial in DoubtMorgan:"With New Technology Comes New Temptation"

Piers Morgan told CNN on Wednesday: “For the record, in my time at The Mirror and the News of the World, I have never hacked a phone, told anybody to hack a phone or published any story based on the hacking of a phone.” That’s not what one former Daily Mirror journalist who worked for him says though.

“Many of the Daily Mirror’s stories would come from hacking into a celebrity’s voicemail,” James Hipwell said of his time at the Mirror between 1998 and his sacking in early 2000. Morgan was editor from 1995 to 2004. Hipwell was jailed in 2006 for his part in the City Slicker Viglen share tipping scandal. Despite Morgan buying £67,000 worth of shares in Viglen the day before Hipwell tipped them in the Mirror’s finance column, the editor got away with it. 

Talking to the Guardian in 2006, Hipwell added that targets for voicemail hacking during his period at the Mirror had included the Spice Girls. On one occasion a fellow Mirror journalist even deleted a voicemail message from one of the Spice Girls’ phones to stop his rival on the Sun getting hold of it. Hipwell also confirmed that the Mirror found out about Ulrika Jonsson’s affair with Sven-Goran Eriksson from a voicemail left by the then England coach on the TV presenter’s phone, something Guido covered in some depth last week.

While Hipwell and fellow City Slicker journalist Anil Bhoyrul were under fire for writing about the shares in which they had invested, a sympathetic colleague had hacked into Morgan’s voicemail in an attempt to track down any messages from Mirror executives. Morgan confirmed this incident in GQ just five months ago:

“It was pretty well-known that if you didn’t change your pin code when you were a celebrity who bought a new phone, then reporters could ring your mobile, tap in a standard factory setting number and hear your messages. That is not, to me, as serious as planting a bug in someone’s house, which is what some people seem to think was going on.

…loads of newspaper journalists were doing it. Clive Goodman, the NOTW reporter, has been made the scapegoat for a very widespread practice… Not defending him, just expressing sympathy for someone who has been made a scapegoat.

…they used to do it to me. And no, I didn’t like it. But with new technology comes new temptation and new issues.”

Hipwell also mentioned to the Guardian that he was planning a still unpublished book, and had already written four chapters of it, describing the lengths to which the Mirror, when edited by Piers Morgan, went to get stories:

“It details many examples – dozens in fact – of celebrity phone taps… This has been going on for years.”

Guido thinks we have found another prime candidate to testify, under oath, at Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry…

Guido is going to be very blunt about this, Piers Morgan is a bare-faced liar. It will come out in the course of the inquiries that hacking was rife at the Mirror during his time as editor. It will not be in doubt that stories were published based on information obtained by hacking – Piers will definitely be caught out on that one. Morgan is betting that no one will testify that he knew and no invoices or otherwise will be produced in evidence. Exactly the calculation Andy Coulson made. Ask yourself this: Do you believe Piers Morgan, knowing all about how to hack celebrity’s phones, told his staff not to hack phones, refused to run stories based on phone hacks and never asked from where the stories came?

Hat-tip to the eagle eyed Neal Mann of Sky News for spotting the GQ article.

The Met Widens the Net

With Cameron on his feet for three hours, and the reality of the Euro crisis taking the hold, for the first time in weeks the phone-hacking scandal isn’t top of the news. It’s still worth noting the Met’s interest in other newspaper groups though. The Beeb is heavily trailing a Radio 4 documentary that reveals tonight:

“Police have asked for files of an earlier inquiry into the use of private investigators… the files from Operation Motorman, which was run by the Information Commissioners Office in 2003, were requested three months ago. They contain 4,000 requests from 300 journalists and 31 publications for confidential information from a private investigator, which in many cases had been obtained illegally.”

Just what these illegal activities might have been was summed up by Nick Davies in 2009. As Guido revealed graphically last year, this is bad news for Trinity Mirror:

Guido has something up his sleeve for the circular firing squad today. Watch this space…

BSkyB and News Corp Shares Up on Testimony

Yesterday’s hysteria in Westminster was heavily discounted in the City and on Wall Street. As we go to pixel BSkyB shares are up well over 3% since yesterday’s open and News Corp’s shares bounced 4.51% yesterday on the back of the Murdoch testimonies.

Punters also slashed the odds of James Murdoch being forced to resign as News International CEO from odds on favourite to go, to a little less than evens. James Murdoch actually performed solidly yesterday, demonstrating a clear grasp of the issues. The way some people have been talking you would think they were on the verge of being burnt at the stake.

There will no doubt be more thrills and spills to come, wiser heads around Miliband might question the wisdom of becoming the anti-Murdoch party. When the dust settles, Labour may regret lashing itself to a cause of little interest to anyone outside the Westminster bubble and in the process making a mortal long-term enemy of James Murdoch. Guido has heard it remarked that it is actually right-wingers who should be wary of the media business being dominated by the next generation of Murdochs. James, Lachlan and Elisabeth are not conservatives like Rupert, they are actually centrist liberals with greenish tendencies who are embarrassed by the excesses of Fox News. Elisabeth was a big fundraiser for Obama. Imagine both the BBC and Murdoch empires preaching from the same hymn sheet.

Red Ed Dived Into Bed

With rumours flying of a massive “data dump” from CCHQ and No. 10 later today, in regard to all of Dave’s meetings with media types since he became leader, Ed Miliband has rushed out his schmoozing list so far. You can read the whole thing here, but it did tickle Guido that having patted the Mirror on the head as soon as he had won, Ed’s diary was dominated with creeping up to the Times, News of the World and the Sun. In fact he’s had so many discussions with the News International stable, that anyone would think that he really, really wanted them to like him. When was Baldwin first suggested?

UPDATE: 11 out of 32 meetings admitted to were with Murdoch’s employees, however Ed has conveniently forgotten to list all his meetings during the leadership race. This was the actual period when he was sucking up the most.

Morgan Deflects From the Issue

Guido is looking forward to crystal clear tones when Morgan is hauled before Lord Justice Leveson.

We Are On the Verge of Killing Popular Journalism

Back in September 2010 Guido produced, with the help of the Information Commissioner’s Office, this “blagging” chart. The idea that this crisis is only about News International is fanciful. Look who had the most recorded offences:

From the Information Commissioner’s report one can infer that at least 140 Mirror Group journalists could be looking at criminal charges. The Operation Motorman investigation was based on a group of blaggers used frequently by Mirror and Mail journalists to obtain information. Missing from this chart is The Telegraph, who according to a Guido source paid a private detective to hold a seminar at their Canary Wharf offices on how to hack phones back in 2000. The bribing of staff at HMRC, the DVLA, BT, the Land Registry, banks and  in the police has been endemic for decades. That is where the news you read is sourced.

In short every major newsroom in the land has used illegal techniques to obtain information. We are on the verge of criminalising hundreds of journalists.

We mocked George Monbiot this week for sayingthis is our Berlin Wall moment. On reflection there is a similarity, the Stasi HQ spied on the ordinary citizenry with all the paraphernalia of a police state. In Britain newspaper HQs spied on celebrities and the famous to entertain ordinary citizens. As readers we rewarded them by buying their papers.

Most of the hacking hacks will get suspended sentences and conditional discharges. Will they still be fit and proper journalists? Without the infotainment aspect of newspapers how will popular investigative journalism be financed? We are in danger of either killing off popular journalism or heading towards a French style subsidised newspaper sector, emasculated and servile to the rich and powerful…

Russia Today Anchorman AccusesSunday Mirror Editor of Phone Hacking Knowledge

Mirror Group CEO Sly Bailey has written to advertisers telling them that “our brands are trusted and respected” providing a “viable and valuable route to this important Sunday market…” Might those words come back to haunt her soon?

Sunday Mirror editor Tina Weaver has been accused directly by Max Keiser of Russia Today of knowing about phone hacking. He makes a series of claims about Weaver’s knowledge of phone hacking including that in 2002 she was aware of Piers Morgan knowledge of the neat little trick. Let the circular firing squad begin…

+ + + Brooks Resigns + + +

It was looking tricky as soon as Murdoch’s real daughter turned on her this morning.

UPDATE: Brooks’ email to staff:

At News International we pride ourselves on setting the news agenda for the right reasons. Today we are leading the news for the wrong ones.
The reputation of the company we love so much, as well as the press freedoms we value so highly, are all at risk.

As Chief Executive of the company, I feel a deep sense of responsibility for the people we have hurt and I want to reiterate how sorry I am for what we now know to have taken place.

I have believed that the right and responsible action has been to lead us through the heat of the crisis. However my desire to remain on the bridge has made me a focal point of the debate.

This is now detracting attention from all our honest endeavours to fix the problems of the past.

Therefore I have given Rupert and James Murdoch my resignation. While it has been a subject of discussion, this time my resignation has been accepted.
Rupert’s wisdom, kindness and incisive advice has guided me throughout my career and James is an inspirational leader who has shown me great loyalty and friendship.

I would like to thank them both for their support.

I have worked here for 22 years and I know it to be part of the finest media company in the world.
News International is full of talented, professional and honourable people. I am proud to have been part of the team and lucky to know so many brilliant journalists and media executives.

I leave with the happiest of memories and an abundance of friends.

As you can imagine recent times have been tough. I now need to concentrate on correcting the distortions and rebutting the allegations about my record as a journalist, an editor and executive.

My resignation makes it possible for me to have the freedom and the time to give my full cooperation to all the current and future inquiries, the police investigations and the CMS appearance.

I am so grateful for all the messages of support. I have nothing but overwhelming respect for you and our millions of readers.

I wish every one of you all the best.

Rebekah

UPDATE II: Tom Mockridge the CEO of Sky Italia will replace her. Interesting decision to reassure the world that you won’t be selling your newspapers by putting a telly man in charge of them. 

Guardian Says Sorry to Sun

Guido understands that Nick Davies* had a breakfast meeting on Tuesday morning with Gordon Brown. That meeting was a two-way information exchange and the erroneous article – with David Leigh and Nick Davies bylines – was published the same morning. Brown’s speech in the Commons chamber on Wednesday came in the wake of the Guardian story. This combined Guardian / Brown line of attack has now completely unravelled, with the Sunday Times editor John Witherow rebutting the claim that it employed a criminal to blag for information about Brown’s flat purchase from Robert Maxwell’s estate in a dubious deal brokered by Geoffrey Robinson.  Witherow is adamant that it was a legitimate investigation, in the public interest.

Sun Front Page - Brown WrongThe Sun is unsurprisingly crowing about the apology, Rupert Murdoch himself has stuck the boot in an interview in the Wall Street Journal saying of Brown “He got it entirely wrong… the Browns were always friends of ours” until that is The Sun switched support to the Tories. Brown has handed Murdoch and Wapping a chance to fight back…

Murdoch is bullish about appearing before a committee of MPs next week, saying he wants to address “some of the things that have been said in Parliament, some of which are total lies.”  Tom Watson has lost his bet that the Murdochs would chicken out of coming to the hearing. He won’t mind, his consolation prize is a chance to grill Rupert, James and Rebekah.

*A previous version transposed Nick Davies and David Leigh. You know how it is, these Guardian journalists all look the same to Guido. Corrected and apology on page 37.

Top Telegraph Hack Taped Discussing Blagging

In the summer of 1990 Boris Johnson was The Telegraph’s Brussels correspondent. In the now famous taped conversation between him and Darius Guppy, just months before the latter would be busted in a £1.8 million insurance scam, Boris conspired to have a News of the World journalist, Stuart Collier, beaten up on behalf of his old School chum. In the tape Boris says he’ll obtain Collier’s phone number and then get an address. As the UK has never published reverse directories how would Boris achieve this?

Well blagging of course. It had to be via the police or a British Telecom staffer. Most likely would be a copper, as it was standard practice on Fleet Street back then to take advantage of the fact that the Police National Computer did not record such inquiries unless an individual was flagged as a person of interest. BT on the other hand much tighter internal controls. Boris displayed both the knowledge and intent to blag, though there is no evidence that he actually supplied the requested information, despite saying he would. Perhaps The Telegraph’s leading columnist would like to explain what the public interest angle was on this one…

That's a No Then

Dear John,

Thank you for your letter of 12 July, on behalf of the committee, inviting me to give evidence to you on 19 July.

Unfortunately, I am not available to attend the session you have planned next Tuesday. However, I am fully prepared to give evidence to the forthcoming judge-led public inquiry and I will be taking steps to notify those conducting the inquiry of my willingness to do so. Having done this, I would be happy to discuss with you how best to give evidence to your committee.

I hope this is of help.

Yours sincerely,

Rupert Murdoch

James won’t be there either, though said he is willing to give evidence in August. Brooks, however, will be put in front of the firing squad on Tuesday. Get your popcorn.

UPDATE: The Culture Media and Sport Select Committee have issued summons for the Dirty Digger and Jr.

Piers Morgan Declines To Comment

Piers Morgan Knew of Hacked Scoop

With five MPs now raising concerns about CNN’s Piers Morgan, the story is gathering pace. The Times  are ready to turn the magnifying glass away from Wapping:

 “…it has been more than a little ironic to see the inhabitants of the glasshouses of Fleet Street embarking on a collective exercise of stone throwing…”

Morgan’s hacking continues to gain traction on the other side of the pond.  The Telegraph picks up on the fact Morgan could be hauled in front of his TV executives to explain what he knows about the scandal.

Crucially when he was contacted directly by The Express last night, Morgan “declined to comment.”

Piers Morgan: Britain's Got Hacking

Piers Morgan's Diaries - The InsiderThe above is Piers Morgan’s own diary entry from a decade ago, dated January 26, 2001. It is taken from his 2005 account of his days in newspaper journalism, The Insider: The Private Diaries of a Scandalous Decade:

“Apparently if you don’t change the standard security code that every phone comes with, then anyone can call your number and, if you don’t answer, tap in the standard four digit code to hear all your messages.

[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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“In effect, new MPs are being elected day by day now, as, amid huge secrecy, small cabals of party bigwigs pick candidates for safe seats.”

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