As Newscorp plugs another hole in the boat, a new one appears

Riddle of media’s role in hacking the Brown plotters during 2005-6

During last Wednesday’s PMQs, David Cameron was looking distinctly miffed and altogether hissy when Labour MP Tom Watson asked him about the breadth and remit of Asst Met Commissioner Sue Akers’ enquiries about Hackgate, and the culture of criminality at Newscorp. Employing the tones of Kevin the teenager, he was forced to admit that she could look where she wanted across any time period that appealed to her.

But disappointing in the background to the question was the revelation that same day about AMC Akers replying to a member of the public that her remit was indeed limited. This unfortunately confirms what a Met source told me last Monday: that a few career warning shots have been fired across Sue’s bows by the uniformed dissemblers around her. I have now heard from three separate sources that, to date, no police enquiry has nailed a senior member of Newscorp management; and thus I am left hoping that the failure is genuine rather than the result of others’ encouraging her to fail.

Cameron has everything to fear from what the Akers investigation finds out. Socially intertwined with Rebekah of the Cotswolds and politically in debt over the BSkyB takeover, the potential for this scandal to blow the Coalition out of the water remains a real and present danger. Scurrilous gossips have also been offering tittle-tattle here and there (well, everywhere actually) about Wade and Cameron’s formerly shared interest in recreational stimulation. To be honest, such rumour is of little or no interest to me: my sole concern in this specific case of privacy invasion is to ensure that the real perpetrators go to jail – and above all else, no future British Prime Minister winds up in the pocket of a media baron, Murdoch or otherwise.

The Guardian’s Hackgate expert Nick Davies has run two excellent pieces this week demonstrating how the sheer size and eclecticism of Murdoch’s Privacy Marauders meant that, in the end, there simply wouldn’t be enough spokespeople, bribe-bungers and Silverleafs to stem the flow of incriminating evidence. This time around, he pinpoints ‘detective’ Jonathan Rees as the man whose activities will embarrass Uncle Roop still further.

As the Slog predicted some time ago, the Hackgate Affair has turned into a series of denial trenches, each of which has had to be first defended to the last hack, and then vacated in favour of the next one back. But the real explosion of the virus (so deadly so far to Newscorp alone) will infect every level of society. The probable progression looks like this:

News of the World – The Sun – The Sunday Times – Mirror publications – The Telegraph group via Associated Newspapers – the Met Police – Westminster politics – the Royal Family – the Coalition – 10 Downing Street – the security services – the stock markets – the plot to oust Tony Blair.

If the last two there need explanation, I am happy to provide it.

The Slog’s wider investigation into privacy invasion continues. The practice of blagging (placing software gateways into commercially-used pcs) and hacking the mobile hardware of everyone from senior politicians and finance ministers to Hedge Fund bosses and soccer clubs, is now so obviously endemic in our culture, it is high time the police, the media and our political Executive acted to stop it. There will be an extended piece on this in the very near future.

The plot to oust Tony Blair is an interest area going back to the birth of The Slog two years ago….even in fact stretching back to the foundation of in 2004, when it first became clear to me that the then Chancellor was a gold ingot short of a Treasury. Today, the Daily Telegraph began the serialisation of a cache of Ed Balls papers probably stolen by nefarious means obtained in the public interest which purport to show how Brown, Balls, the current Opposition Leader Ed Miliband and others conspired to unseat Tony Blair in the 2005-6 period.

However, as The Slog has pointed out several times, the unwillingness of those plotters (now running the Labour Party) to raise the Hackgate question at PMQs is deeply suspicious. Above the fray these days, both Two-Jags Prescott and Fifty-Faces Mandelson have been quite happy to demand more action from the Met. But questions of the PM are always asked by Tom Watson, Chris Bryant and others outside the Shadow Cabinet. What is the Labour leadership worried about? There is a connection here between Brown’s blackmail and Hackgate; but as yet, it lacks the facts to give it some sense of order.

The problem for Rupert Murdoch and those around him, however, is that there is more than one dimension of ‘progression’ – beyond the purely horizontal one across newspaper titles and walks of life.

The most obvious second one is vertically within the Newscorp sin-bin. Like many other commentators on this flagrant case of believing oneself above the Law, I am beginning to worry about the continued influence of Murdoch heavies behind the scenes. They spread their tentacles into Select Committees, MPs with vulnerable private lives, and on into the very centre of Government – even if this isn’t always physically inside 10 Downing Street. With each week that passes, Culcha Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s grin becomes more rictus in nature, as if he’s not sure which master to whom he should answer…or by whom he’s been poisoned.

Lest we forget, the Murdoch organisation effectively owns half the Republican Party – and lavishly entertained a large group of senior Met Police personnel at the height of the original Hackgate scandal. One senior retired officer (whose role remains unexplained) is Andy Hayman, a man employed today by Newscorp. My hunch remains that the civil cases will be the catalyst here: but that puts an awful lot of pressure on the likes of Steve Coogan and Jude Law.

A third way in which Newscorp will face a war on multiple fronts is via the instigation of enquiries separate to Akers’ Operation Weeting within the Met itself. Cahal Milmo and Martin Hickman raised this likelihood in an Independent piece yesterday, pointing out that:

‘The Yard rejected allegations that it has ignored a trove of evidence that Jonathan Rees may have targeted high-profile public figures including Tony Blair and Kate Middleton. It said it was conducting a preliminary assessment of the documentation it holds before consulting with prosecutors about a further inquiry into the buying of illegally obtained information by newspapers.’

As always with Milmo and Hickman, the piece is admirably calm but underpinned by sound investigation and research. My own information is that the new investigation could easily breach the Newscorp ‘Inclusion Zone’ at the front end – that is, in the period prior to 2005 – and will blow a mile-wide hole in the ‘it all ended after 2006’ nonsense.

Indeed, the contagion most feared by Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch is that involving allegations of hacking after the 2005-6 Inclusion Zone – ie, that zone within which Newscorp admits unequivocal guilt for hacking people illegally. Adverse revelations inside the period would be devastating (especially if they had any bearing upon the Brown/Blair plot story); but much more danger, yet again, lies in the upcoming civil cases pertaining to the period 2007-10, to which (I’m led to understand) a substantial number of allegations pertain.

Hackgate has been an exciting, disturbing, perhaps even threatening story at times: a race in which there are many horses – and almost as many jockeys trying to block the progress of others. As Operation Weeting begins to upset senior Met officers, another one begins. As Hunt gives a verbal clearance to the BSkyB deal, Justice Vos makes another civil case date in Court. And just when it looks like Coulson and Brooks (and thus Camerlot) are safe, up pops Tom Watson to ask a question, or liberal journalists with new and ever-more damning information to make readers across the spectrum go to the site. (I’d probably read the Guardian twice in 2010 before last November: now I look at the main stories and media section every day.)

The actions of Newscorp, for once, go beyond political alliances. Although the vast majority of Brits still can’t get their heads round this, it is the security of the State, the openness of our democracy, and the freedom of the press that are at stake here: a freedom that will be taken away not by fascist elements in the political class directly – but in revenge thanks to the sociopathic greed of one organisation….and those who quietly joined in, but are now keeping their heads low.

Is there a link between the Brown plotters and hacking during 2005-6? Go to Brown, Blair & Blackmail and judge for yourself.

You can catch up with the whole grisly History of Mystery at the Hackgate section of this site.