Friday, July 22, 2011

FBI On Jude Law Phone Hacking; Execs Say James Murdoch Knew Hacking Was Widespread

Sherlock Holmes might not be on the News Corporation phone hacking case yet, but his assistant Dr. Watson is.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations will be contacting British actor Jude Law, star of Sherlock Holmes and Alfie, in response to his lawsuit that reporters for now-defunct News of the World hacked his cellular telephone and intercepted voicemail messages he had been exchanging with his assistant Ben Jackson while they both were at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport in 2003, officials told the BBC Friday.

Law claims News of the World's September 7, 2003 story about his brief stay in New York was based on information gleaned from his voicemails. If true, even if the hackers had been sitting in London and the phone's voicemail box had been in England, the messages would first have gone to a U.S. cell site, over U.S. phone lines, through a U.S. Mobile Telephone Switching Office, and into a U.S. long distance trunk line before getting anywhere.

All of which makes messages allegedly exchanged between a couple of Brits, hacked by other Brits, and written up in a British tabloid a very, very U.S. problem. Aliens attack U.S. communications system. Dr. Watson, meet Mulder and Scully.

Law's allegations are the first claims of News Corp phone hacking on U.S. soil. If the FBI finds evidence supporting Law's allegations, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, a U.S. corporation, could face charges for violating American wiretapping and privacy laws right here in the good 'ol US of A. Book him, Danno.

The Federal Communications Commission frowns upon cons holding FCC broadcast licenses. News Corp, aside from owning shuttered News of the World, owns Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, and a whole panoply of other media and communications enterprises.

Law and Jackson stayed briefly in New York while the actor was en route to Canada to film I Heart Huckabees. News of the World published a detailed account of Law's arrival at JFK and his stay at the Carlyle Hotel, including his room number and room service tab. Law claims News of the World could only have learned some of the things written in the article from his voicemails.

The FBI and US Justice Department are also looking into alleged News Corp hacking of 9/11 terrorist attack victims, and possible violations of the 1977 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, an anti-bribery law.

Meanwhile, in London, Murdoch's son, News Corp deputy chief operating officer James Murdoch, was coming under further scrutiny as two former News Corp executives contradicted the younger Murdoch's Monday testimony before a Parliamentary committee that he'd had no knowledge that phone hacking had extended beyond rogue reporter Clive Goodman.

Watson, Mulder, meet the "For Neville" Email.

Seems an English ex-footballer (that's soccer player, for all us Yanks), Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers Association, was getting a six-figure phone-hacking settlement from the News of the World. In May, 2008, News of the World parent News International's then-legal manager Tom Crone got a stack of papers from Taylor's lawyers marked "Amended Particulars for Claim," which included the description of a document seized by police during a raid on News of the World gumshoe Glenn Mulclaire, who'd been arrested with then-presumed "rogue" reporter Clive Goodman for phone hacking. With what must surely have been a sinking feeling in his gut, Crone read:
"By email dated 29th June 2005, Mr. Ross Hindley emailed Mr. Mulclaire a transcript of the aforesaid 15 messages from the claimant's mobile phone voicemail and 17 messages left by the claimant on Ms. Armstrong's mobile phone voicemail. The transcript is titled 'Transcript for Neville' and the document attached to the email was called 'Transcript for Neville.' It is inferred from the references to Neville that the transcript was provided to, or was intended to be provided to Neville Thurlbeck. Mr. Thurlbeck was at all material times employed by NGN as the News of the World's chief reporter."
Meaning, of course, that neither News of the World reporter Ross Hindley or News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck were either "rogue" gumshoe Glenn Mulcaire or "rogue" reporter Clive Goodman. Cha-ching. High and deep to center field, and it's outta here. Caught red-handed in the cookie jar with a smoking gun. That's gotta hurt.

And, the original "For Neville" email had been sitting quietly in Scotland Yard's basement among the 11,000 documents Met boss Sir Paul Stephenson, busily enjoying $20,000 worth of spa treatments at posh Champney's courtesy of News Corp, and his Number Two, John Yates, had disdained rummaging through when they'd dropped the case back in the day. Gordon Taylor's lawyers hadn't dropped the case, and had gotten their hands on the "For Neville" email from the cops under a court order.

Sir Paul resigned as Commissioner of the London Metropolitan Police Sunday. Yates resigned Monday. 

Now comes the good part. Crone, heart no doubt in his throat, walked down the hall to see his new boss and tell him the other side had the high-and-deep, cha-ching, cookie jar-smoking gun, that's-gotta-hurt email and its list of painstakingly transcribed voicemail messages. The new chief executive of News International, who'd been on the job for five months, and hadn't been around when the original proverbial had hit the fan the previous year, was none other than James Murdoch.

Who'd sat in front of lawmakers Monday and had told everyone he'd never, ever, pever, jever heard of anyone other than Goodman and Mulclaire hacking messages before.

Crone and former News of the World editor Colin Myler told a Parliamentary committee Friday they had told James Murdoch about the high-and-deep, cha-ching, et cetera email before Murdoch fils approved a big-money settlement for Taylor that was twice as much as what outside council for News International had advised. And no one ever heard of the "For Neville" email again. Until now. That's gotta hurt.

Oh, and, in the good ol' US of A, Senator Frank Lautenberger (D-NJ) Wednesday asked the FBI to take another gander at a complaint he'd made to then-US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in 2005 that News America Marketing, a subsidiary of News Corp, had hacked into the computers of FLOORgraphics, Inc., of Princeton, New Jersey, one of Sen. Lautenberger's constituents.

Lautenberger hadn't heard back on that case, and he was wondering what was going on with it. Them. News Corp. Murdoch. Gonzales. The Bush Administration.

Book him, Danno.

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