The latest victim of the phone hacking scandal that has shaken Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and caused the closing of the 168-year-old tabloid News of the World is no one less than Sir Paul McCartney. The revelation comes the day after his ex-wife, Heather Mills, told BBC News Night that, in 2001, a senior Mirror Group journalist told her that he had hacked into her voice mail and overheard messages left for her by McCartney. Mills had “had a row” with McCartney, who then left a “conciliatory message” on her voicemail.
The BBC reports that McCartney, who is currently touring in the US, has told US media that, on returning to the UK, he will be talking to police because, as he says,
“When I go back [to Britain] after this tour, I am going to talk to the police because apparently I have been hacked.
“I don’t know much about it because they won’t tell anyone except the person themselves. So I will be talking to them about that.
“I do think it’s horrendous violation of privacy. I do think it has been going on for a long time and I do think more people than we know knew about it.
“But I think I should just listen and hear what the facts are before I comment.”
Mills’s claim that her phone was hacked into further suggests that another tabloid, the Daily Mirror, engaged in the practice, which would then be more widespread than so far thought. Her statement also seems further to implicate Piers Morgan, the editor of the Daily Mirror until 2004 and now the host of a CNN talkshow. The Guardian relates this exchange between Mills and the senior Daily Mirror journalist:
According to Mills, the journalist rang her and “started quoting verbatim the messages from my machine”.
She said she challenged him, saying: “You’ve obviously hacked my phone and if you do anything with this story … I’ll go to the police.”
Mills said he responded: “OK, OK, yeah, we did hear it on your voice messages, I won’t run it.”
Morgan himself has “consistently denied he has ever hacked a phone, ordered any of his journalists to do so, or published any story obtained from the hacking of a phone.” He also questioned Mills’s credibility, pointing out that “a high-court judge had described her as a[n] unreliable witness.”
The Guardian also reports that Morgan himself is now under pressure to return to the UK for questioning. John Whittingdale, the Conservative MP who chairs the Commons culture, media and sport committee, says that “it is right” for him to return.
Time magazine reports that the FBI is widening its investigation of News Corporation in the US to see if a case of computer hacking by one of its subsidiaries was an isolated incident or a “larger pattern of behavior.” In 2004, Connecticut-based News America, an adversing subsidiary of News Corp., was convicted of hacking into the password-protected computer system of a far smaller competitor, Floorgraphics of Hamilton, New Jersey. Time says it has acquired a copy of a confidential fax sent in 2004 by William Berkley, a major investor in Floorgraphics to News Corp’s chief financial officer, David DeVoe.
In the fax, Berkley wrote that ”We have just discovered evidence that our proprietary and password-protected computer files … has been breached by News America.” He also accused the company of performing “some sort of corporate espionage” to obtain the password.
The former CEO of News America, Paul V. Carlucci, is now the published of the Murdoch-owned New York Post. Employees of the New York Post were advised last Friday to save any information that might be related to hacking or bribery.
The FBI is also conducting an inquiry into allegations made in the Daily Mirror that staff from News International hacked into the phones of victims of 9/11.
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