Merkel wins bailout but pressure builds

LONDON: Cracks showed in Germany’s governing coalition during a crucial vote to strengthen the euro bailout fund yesterday, but the Chancellor, Angela Merkel, escaped a politically humiliating result that would have threatened her leadership.
As expected, the proposal to increase the size of the European Financial Stability Facility was passed. The final vote was 523 votes to 85. Fifteen rebel backbenchers voted no or abstained. Fifteen rebel backbenchers voted no or abstained, but she was left with a safe margin the Germans call “the chancellor’s majority”.
The rebellion in her ranks was smaller than had been feared and spared her the embarrassment of having to rely on the opposition to pass the proposal.
The chief executive of the Berlin Stock Exchange, Artur Fischer, told the BBC it was a good result for Mrs Merkel but the vote did not resolve the euro crisis, which would take years to fix.
Gero Neugebauer, a political scientist at Berlin Free University, said it left Mrs Merkel “walking on the brink of disaster” given her government’s loss of popular support over the issue.
“As soon as the people doubt the ability of Mrs Merkel to conquer the crisis, to keep Germany’s economic and social institutions stable … they will turn away from Mrs Merkel,” he told the BBC.
Polls report up to 70 per cent of Germans resent their nation’s contributions to bailing out Greece and other troubled countries. But political instability in Germany would further rock the euro zone. With Greece lurching closer to default, and authorities working on contingency plans, the vote was seen by the markets as crucial to maintaining confidence that Europe can prevent troubled member states, and the euro itself, from failing.
The fund’s expansion to €440 billion ($609 billion) must be approved by other nations and is unlikely to be finalised until late next month. Germany’s contribution would almost double from €123 billion to €211 billion, a move many Germans and some politicians argue would be throwing good money after bad.
The British government is also split over the crisis. The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, is at odds with his Conservative coalition colleagues.
More than 100 Conservative MPs have backed a group that is pressuring the Prime Minister, David Cameron, to loosen Britain’s ties with Europe, and the issue is set to be the focus of next week’s Conservative Party conference, The Daily Telegraph in London reports.

First published in the Sydney Morning Herald.

It happens even in royal marriages


IT WAS a right royal tantrum. The front door flew open and Prince Philip charged out.
A pair of tennis shoes and a racquet flew after him. An enraged Queen appeared in the doorway, screaming at him to stop running and ordering him back.
As a fascinated Australian film crew watched, cameras rolling, the Queen “dragged” her husband back into the chalet in which they were staying, and the door slammed. The crew had been waiting for the Queen to appear so she could be filmed looking at kangaroos and koalas, according to a new biography of the monarch.
It was March 6, 1954, and the Queen was halfway through an eight-week tour of Australia – part of a six-month world trip after her coronation. The couple was having a weekend break on the shores of the O’Shannassy reservoir in the Yarra Ranges of Victoria.
The crew had been waiting impatiently because the afternoon light was fading.
The second cameraman, Frank Bagnall, instinctively turned on his camera when he saw the front door open and so captured the memorable marital moment.
Today, it would be a world exclusive. Back then, different rules were in play. They were enforced by a curmudgeonly courtier, the royal press secretary Commander Richard Colville. He charged out “angrier than a wounded buffalo”, writes author Robert Hardman.
The senior cameraman Loch Townsend “was not about to enter mortal combat with the man British journalists knew as the Abominable No Man – or, simply, Sunshine”. Townsend exposed the film and handed it over.
The Queen soon reappeared, her serene public persona re-affixed. “I’m sorry for that little interlude,” she told Townsend, “but, as you know, it happens in every marriage. Now, what would you like me to do?”
The book, Our Queen, is being serialised in the Daily Mail in London and is due to be published on October 6. The Queen and Prince Philip start a 10-day visit to Australia on October 19.
It tells of a perfectionistic woman, who as a princess during a 1947 tour of South Africa took to prodding her mother’s Achilles tendon with an umbrella to keep the show running on time.
She has a particular stare for those who breach protocol or otherwise offend, described by one witness as “open eyes, absolutely no expression”.
She has also perfected a subtle way of intervening in political issues. The book says she received many residents’ letters over a plan for authorities to sell 1230 public homes to a private company. She wrote endless letters to the authorities asking polite but pointed questions. The residents were saved when the homes were sold for a knock-down price to a housing association.
But her temper is still sometimes on show to the royal household. She was enraged at being advised to fly the British flag at half mast at Buckingham Palace after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. One senior adviser said: “I have been scarred by the Queen.”
She became “incandescent” during a visit in 1973 by the president of Zaire, Mobutu Sese Seko, and his wife. Mrs Mobutu had smuggled a small dog through customs and was ordering it steak from the palace kitchens. The Queen ordered: “Get that dog out of my house!”
But she also has a dry sense of humour. During one public engagement in Britain, the courtier who was meant to introduce her to a reception line had trouble getting out of his car because he was tangled up with his ceremonial sword. The monarch strode over to the line of waiting people, hand outstretched, and said: “I had better introduce myself. I am the Queen.”

First published in the Sydney Morning Herald.
The couple will arrive in Canberra on October 19 and go to Perth for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. They will visit Brisbane on October 24 and Melbourne on October 26.

Murdoch’s ‘Milly’ bill rises


THE “Milly moment” is to cost Rupert Murdoch even more dearly than expected, with the British arm of his media empire offering the family of the murdered schoolgirl about £3 million ($A4.6 million) over the hacking of her phone.
It is believed the sum will be divided into £2 million for the Dowler family and £1 million to be donated by Mr Murdoch to a charity of their choice.
The proposed payout, yet to be finalised, dwarfs previous settlements in the long-running phone hacking scandal, but Milly Dowler’s case was always going to carry a premium.
It is the one that sparked a tide of public revulsion over the tactics of the Sunday tabloid News of the World.
Milly, then 13, disappeared in 2002 and was still being treated as a missing person when the News of the World arranged for her phone messages to be intercepted.
The paper’s hacker even deleted some messages, giving her family false hope that she might still be alive. The public, which had been sanguine over hacking when it seemed confined to celebrities, was outraged when Milly’s case was revealed in July.
Mr Murdoch and his son James were forced to kill the commercially successful tabloid, and Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of News International, News Corp’s British arm, resigned.
The Dowler family’s payout might lead to higher expectations by families of other victims of violent death who were hacked.
They included soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a young man who died in the July 2005 London terrorist bombings.
A London media lawyer, Niri Shan, said the payout was much more generous than could be expected in a court. “The only downside is if it potentially sets an unrealistic expectation for others,” he said.
Others suggested the size of the payment meant News Corp might blow its £20 million budget for phone hacking claims.
Tom Watson, a Labour MP who has campaigned strongly over the issue, told The Independent: “News Corp shareholders were told that cleaning up the hacking cases would cost £20 million in the civil courts.
“This settlement shows that the final cost to shareholders will be considerably more than that. There will be questions to answer at the News Corp AGM next month.”
About 30 claims are still to be settled. The High Court has accepted six as “lead cases” to be heard as exemplars.
Previous out-of-court settlements over hacking by News include £1 million to publicity agent Max Clifford, £700,000 to footballers’ union chief Gordon Taylor and £100,000 to actor Sienna Miller.
Scotland Yard is investigating the potential hacking of 3000 more phone numbers held by the paper’s hired hacker, private detective Glenn Mulcaire. That operation has cost £1.8 million so far, The Guardian reported.
Two other police operations are looking at payments to police and computer hacking. Sixteen people have been arrested.First published in The Age.

Sorry still the hardest word for Strauss-Kahn

WHEN Dominique Strauss-Kahn appeared on French television to speak about his sexual encounter with a New York hotel maid, ”sorry” was not what he wanted to say.

The former head of the International Monetary Fund, who has lost both that position and his place as the favourite in next year’s French presidential elections over the scandal, did admit that his part in the encounter was ”a moral failure” he would regret his whole life.

”What happened was not only inappropriate … it was a fault: a fault towards my wife, my children, my friends, but also a fault towards the French people, who placed in me their hope for change.”

But while his scripted words were placatory, his angry, closed face was not. Mr Strauss-Kahn seemed to be talking of a strategic political error rather than expressing personal contrition. For much of his soft-pedal interview on Sunday night – with a TV journalist who is a close friend of his wife’s – Mr Strauss-Kahn seemed to radiate controlled rage. He strongly denied there had been any violence in his exchange with hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo, who had accused him in May of forcing her into oral sex after she arrived to clean his hotel room. New York prosecutors dropped the case after finding Ms Diallo, 32, had lied about her life story.

Mr Strauss-Kahn said there had been no sign of injury on either herself or him. ”[She] lied about everything . . it’s in the prosecutor’s report.”

He said the same thing about French writer Tristane Banon, also 30 years his junior, who has claimed he pounced on her like ”a rutting chimpanzee” when she went to interview him in 2003. Mr Strauss-Kahn, 62, has reportedly admitted that he tried to kiss her but said on Sunday that the assault claims were ”imaginary and slanderous”.

The scandal has reverberated. The US justice system was embarrassed when the case fell over because it had paraded a handcuffed Mr Strauss-Kahn in a walk of shame for TV cameras. For Mr Strauss-Kahn, the scandal means he can ”obviously” no longer be a presidential candidate in 2012, he said. Left-wing daily Liberation published a survey in which more than half of voters hoped that Mr Strauss-Kahn, formerly seen as likely to unseat centre-right President Nicolas Sarkozy, would bow out of the race.

For French Socialists, the scandal has knocked out their best hope. This might boost far-right leader Marine Le Pen and her new-look Front National.

For French society, the scandal has meant a debate over tolerance of the sexual privacy of public figures, and over the question of whether droit du seigneur – the mythic right of a lord to bed women in his fiefdom – lives on in the behaviour of some of its powerful men. For observers of human nature, it has been wry evidence of a related phenomenon: the ageing Lothario’s dogged belief in his own eternal irresistibility.

First published in The Age.

Huge caches of documents, emails found in hacking case


“Many tens of thousands” of documents and emails that might be evidence of phone hacking have been found by the publisher of the defunct tabloid News of the World, Britain’s High Court has been told.
The lawyer for News Group Newspapers, which had been ordered to search its internal mail system for any evidence of hacking of a list of public figures, said: “Two very large new caches of documents have been [found], which the current management were unaware of”.
The search was not yet finished, Michael Silverleaf, QC, told the court.
The news emerged before Mr Justice Vos, who was conducting pre-trial hearings for civil suits by phone-hacking claimants.
Mr Justice Vos said he wanted five “lead actions”, including suits by politicians and celebrities, to be the first considered by the courts. He accepted Sheila Henry, the mother of a victim of the London bombings of July 7, 2005, as a lead action as she was a victim of a crime and so represented “a new category of people”.
Mrs Henry’s 28-year-old son, Christian Small, died when his train was bombed by terrorists.
A News International spokesman said: “We take very seriously the matters raised in court and we are committed to working with civil claimants to resolve their cases.”
Separately, the company announced that James Murdoch, the chief executive of News International, was happy to reappear before the House of Commons media select committee that is investigating phone hacking.
MPs decided on Tuesday to recall him after two of his former colleagues disputed his claim that he did not know of a crucial phone-hacking email.
Meanwhile in the US, prominent News Corp investors added to their claims in a lawsuit accusing Rupert Murdoch of using the company as his “own private fiefdom” and accuse the company of widespread misconduct.
In March the shareholders launched a US legal action aimed at board members, including Rupert himself, his sons James and Lachlan, and the media empire’s chief operating officer, Chase Carey.
Leading the action is Amalgamated Bank, which manages $US12 billion ($11.7 billion) on behalf of investors and holds about 1 million News Corp shares, and the New Orleans Employees’ Retirement System and Central Laborers Pension Fund.
The latest amended complaint alleges “widespread misconduct” at News Corp subsidiaries including News America Marketing and the smart-card manufacturer NDS. The complaint says the two “have been accused by multiple parties of stealing computer technology, hacking into business plans and computers and violating the law through a wide range of anti-competitive behaviour”.
The complaint draws on several lawsuits in which News Corp subsidiaries were sued by rival businesses for alleged misconduct. In one case, a subsidiary called News America Marketing was accused of breaking into a rival’s computer system 11 times.
It reached settlements with three separate competitors totaling $US650 million.
The lawsuit claims NDS posted on the internet the code to the smart cards of a rival, allowing hackers to inflict more than $US1 billion worth of damage.
A lawyer for the complainants, Jay Eisenhofer, said the cases showed “a corporate culture that allows this sort of misconduct to take place over a very long period”.
There was no immediate response by News Corp.

First published in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Learning to live together peacefully

DUTCH academic and author Paul Scheffer visited a school in the Belgian city of Antwerp, where 70 per cent of the students were Muslim. The teachers called him aside to ask his advice about a problem.

”The teachers told me it was very difficult to talk about the Second World War and the Holocaust because the students didn’t want to hear this, they said it was all lies,” he says. ”In biology class, they didn’t want to hear about evolution. In literature, they didn’t want to hear about Oscar Wilde because he was homosexual. Physical education classes were difficult because they didn’t want boys and girls to be together.

”What does a policy of multiculturalism tell you to do in such a situation? It is a philosophy of avoidance. It perpetuates the first stage of a migrant community, which is living side by side but separately from the wider society. It doesn’t give you a clue about what you need to do next.”

Scheffer, now professor of European studies at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, agrees with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that multiculturalism in Europe is dead, a failed policy unable to come to grips with today’s social realities. In 2000, he wrote an essay warning of this kind of eventuality, intending to criticise a smug Western elite that he believed was ignoring the social disadvantage of others.

In The Multicultural Drama, he warned that many first-generation migrants and their children lagged behind in terms of jobs and education and that more needed to be done to help them. But he also pointed out many of them were unwilling to accept a liberal society and religious pluralism.

The essay took off like a rocket, sparking some debates in terms that were not of Scheffer’s making and which made him ”pretty miserable”. First it was used to back right-wing rhetoric on race. After the 9/11 attacks, however, it morphed again, with the debate becoming focused on religion. Scheffer says that in Europe, ”9/11 made the question of migrants into the question of Muslims”.

Farooq Murad, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, puts it more strongly: ”Suddenly, this large faith community, which represents one-fifth of the people on this earth, became, in the eyes of the Western world, criminals, or at least [people who were] suspected of harbouring that point of view.”

Murad says 9/11 has made daily life much harder for Muslims in myriad ways. One study found that Asians – in Britain, most of them are Muslim – are 46 times more likely to be stopped and searched by police than non-Asians.

”I have lived in England since I was a teenager,” he says. ”Suddenly, overnight, you feel an outsider, you feel suspected, you watch your behaviour. Boarding a train, you feel awful that you might be causing distress to your fellow travellers. On a plane you may need your bag in the overhead compartment but you don’t get it because you don’t want to cause alarm.”

All this, he says, despite the fact that Muslim leaders have repeatedly condemned terror attacks, and the fact that Muslims were among the victims of both 9/11 and 7/7 (the London bombings in 2005).

He disagrees with Scheffer’s interpretation of multiculturalism; it shouldn’t mean ghettos, or separate school curriculums, he says – and he points out that all major religions, not just Islam, have minorities with rigid orthodox views.

The spotlighting of tensions between Muslim and non-Muslim communities was not the only aftershock of 9/11 in Europe. As anxious nation-states tried to tighten their security against an amorphous, stateless threat, they introduced new laws, curbed long-standing civil rights, and developed different policing techniques, especially with regard to counterterrorism.

Under the leadership of US president George W. Bush, several European countries, including Tony Blair’s UK, also joined ”the coalition of the willing” in the Iraq war and the military operations in Afghanistan.

Britain and the continent were familiar with terrorism on their own turf in a way that the United States was not, says security expert Tobias Feakin, pointing to the history of the Basques in Spain, the Baader-Meinhof gang in Germany, and the IRA in Britain. So Europe did not experience quite the shock America did with the advent of Islamist terrorism, he says, but it was appalled by the magnitude of the destruction on September 11.

Then came Europe’s own Islamic extremist attacks: 191 dead in Madrid in 2004, and 52 killed in London on July 7, 2005. Feakin said Europe had to develop new responses to Islamist terror because it was very different to what had come before: no warning was given before an attack, bombers were willing to die themselves, the aim was simply to kill the maximum number of people as dramatically as possible, and there was no clear political agenda – at least, not one the Western public could understand.

Feakin, who is director of the national security and resilience department of the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies in the UK, says Britain responded to the London attacks and to several cases of lone terrorists with a raft of measures.

“The law was changed to create a detention-without-charge period, so someone can be arrested but not formally charged to allow police additional time to investigate in order to gather the rest of the evidence,” he says. ”Police were dealing with huge bodies of evidence, sometimes in international languages they didn’t understand, or with encrypted file sources.

”Stop-and-search powers were brought in at a later stage, so that police could stop anyone they felt they had a reason to, and we got control orders to put someone under house arrest and control their movements and communications … even without charge or conviction.

”And counterterrorism policing is very different in the UK since 9/11; counterterrorism police hubs in co-ordination with MI5 have been placed right across the UK.”

This tense atmosphere was further fuelled by the murders in the Netherlands of right-wing politician Pim Fortuyn and filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, the latter sparking more than 100 retaliatory attacks on Muslim targets such as mosques.

Some countries have allowed post-September 11 fears about Islam to rigidify into a determination to resist its symbols. France has banned the face-covering burqa in public and the headscarf in schools, arguing that they were an affront to the nation’s secularism; the Irish have banned the burqa from classrooms; and the Swiss voted for a national ban on minarets (the towers on mosques) in a referendum sponsored by the extreme right but opposed by the government.

The paradox is that while such civil measures have increased, the debate is now looking more critically at initial responses to the crisis.

The former head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller, last week argued in a public lecture that it was a mistake to have called the response to September 11 ”the war on terror” because it legitimised terrorists as warriors. She also criticised the shrinking of civil liberties, arguing that this was ”handing victory to the terrorists”.

Feakin says Britain is soon to roll back some security measures that were found to be too heavy-handed. Meanwhile, support for al-Qaeda has fallen across the Arab world because of its attacks in Iraq: ”They slaughtered thousands of fellow Muslims. It was an incredibly hardline approach that seemed to go against the ethos of taking the war to the US.”

The Arab Spring might lessen Muslim frustration, too, in a way that siphons off the anger that spurred terrorism, Feakin says. ”Al-Qaeda used to talk about the oppressive governments across the Arab world and now they are gone. If democracy there is successfully allowed to develop in a proper manner, you could see al-Qaeda become completely irrelevant. But if you see another kind of abuse of power develop, that will go with the al-Qaeda agenda.”

It is a view Scheffer shares. If the Arab Spring lessens the sense of grievance about dictatorial regimes supported by the West, ”that might change the equation, especially now that people have seen the genuine effort by France and Britain in Libya. It makes it harder to argue that the West is trying to push the Arab world into a corner.”

Scheffer’s new book, Immigrant Nations, looks at how immigration is changing the world. He says that researching the topic has reassured him that the current tensions between Europe’s 20 million Muslims and their neighbours are to be expected and should ease over time.

”I’m confident that the conflict we are witnessing isn’t a sign of the failure of integration,” he says. ”It’s part of searching for a new understanding of how to be with each other, and that is often painful and difficult.”

He says the history of immigration in the US shows new communities typically go through three phases: avoidance, when they live separately; conflict, as they begin to rub up against the existing community and its different ways; and, finally, accommodation, as both sides learn to live with each other.

But he says that in order to reach the final stage there must be acceptance of mutual values, including religious freedom, freedom of speech, and equality of treatment.

The key is reciprocity: ”If I have a class of boys from a Moroccan background, I ask, ‘Why are you angry?’ They might say it is because they are discriminated against; they want to be treated as equals. ‘But then there is perhaps a question of the equal treatment of women, or of homosexuals; can you live with that idea? Because if you think it’s an important value, you can’t just pick and choose when to apply it.’ They see the fairness of the argument.

”But you are not going to force people to change their thinking through laws or banning the burqa or saying you can’t build a mosque. It’s a matter of explaining that the freedoms you are demanding can only survive if you grant them to people with whom you deeply disagree … If not, you are transforming yourself into an outsider.”

Murad agrees, and points to the need for visionary political leadership to help heal the rifts of the past decade. He says, ”Muslims and Christians and Jews have created great societies together in the past. We share a great deal of common values, and in a shrinking world, [living together peacefully] is not a matter of choice any more.”

British soldiers conducted ‘choir of pain’ in Basra


THE British army has suspended several soldiers and more prosecutions are possible following a devastating report into abuse of Iraqi civilians by British soldiers in Basra in 2003.
A young widower, hotel receptionist Baha Mousa, left behind two orphaned children after soldiers beat him to death after mistaking him for an insurgent. His body carried 93 external injuries.
An officer who visited the Basra detention centre told the inquiry, chaired by retired judge Sir William Gage, that Mousa and nine other detainees looked as though they had been “in a car crash”.
The report has been handed to civilian and military prosecutors “to see whether more can be done to bring those responsible to justice”, British defence secretary Liam Fox told Parliament. He said Ministry of Defence inquiries “are revealing evidence of some concern in other cases”.
He promised: “If any serviceman or woman . . . is found to have betrayed the values this country stands for and the standards we hold dear, they will be held to account.”
The report found that the military had allowed all reference to a ban on inhumane techniques to be removed from training programs and practice manuals, and even made some of the techniques standard operating procedure.
Methods used on suspects in Northern Ireland — wall-standing, hooding, subjection to noise, deprivation of sleep, and deprivation of food and water — were banned by Britain in 1972. They were later declared illegal by the European Court of Human Rights.
Mr Fox admitted there had been a systemic failure by the army to publicise and enforce the ban. The report concluded that at the time of the Iraq invasion, “there was no proper MoD doctrine on interrogation of prisoners of war that was generally available”.
Mr Mousa, 26, and nine other civilians held in Basra were hooded for most of their 36 hours in British custody and forced to stand with knees bent against a wall with their arms in the air.
They were beaten with metal bars, had their genitals kicked and their eyes gouged, and were subjected to a grotesque parody of a choir in which they were hit in turn, “causing them to emit groans and other noises and thereby playing them like musical instruments”, the report said.
A total of 19 soldiers were named as responsible but only one has so far been punished. Corporal Donald Payne served a year in jail following a court-martial over Mr Mousa’s death.
General Sir Peter Wall, chief of the general staff of the army, said several soldiers had been suspended and the military’s provost martial would investigate whether anyone else should be disciplined.
The report was also scathing about the unit’s doctor, who faces a disciplinary tribunal by the General Medical Council, and its Catholic priest, who will be interviewed by his archbishop.First published in The Age.

No evidence of widespread hacking was found, says former Murdoch legal chief

LONDON: No criminal lawyer was asked to assess a cache of 2500 emails gathered by News International lawyers in an internal probe into phone hacking in 2007, the former director of legal affairs for the company told the hacking inquiry.

Jonathan Chapman told MPs no evidence of widespread phone hacking had been found. He said it was a review over an employment claim, not a criminal review. It was prompted by allegations about other staff that had come from the sacked royal editor of the News of the World, Clive Goodman, who was later jailed over phone hacking.

Mr Goodman appealed against his sacking in a letter to the company claiming phone-hacking was widespread at the paper and had been routinely discussed at news conferences.

Former group human resources director Daniel Cloke told the inquiry the claims had been made by a former employee who had been sacked for gross misconduct but that the internal inquiry still reviewed the emails, interviewed other staff and took the matter to a third party, the legal firm Harbottle & Lewis.

Mr Cloke said he was confident as HR director ”that we had covered the bases”.

MPs were also expected to pursue questions about James Murdoch’s credibility and business practices following claims that part of his evidence to the committee in July was wrong.

Colin Myler, the former editor of the News of the World, and Tom Crone, the former legal manager for News Group, were due to give evidence about their claims that Mr Murdoch had been wrong to tell the inquiry he had not known of a crucial News of the World phone-hacking email.

Mr Murdoch, deputy chief operating officer for News Corp, told the inquiry in July that he did not know of an email that showed hacking was not limited to Goodman, when he approved a £700,000 ($1.06 million) damages payout to a football executive. The email, headed “for Neville” and believed to be addressed to investigations reporter Neville Thurlbeck, transcribed hacked voicemail messages of the Professional Footballers Association chief, Gordon Taylor.

Mr Crone and Mr Myler later contradicted Mr Murdoch’s denial. They wrote to the committee alleging Mr Murdoch had either been told about, or actually shown, the Neville emails before he signed the payout deal. The two men might also be asked about claims this week that News authorised private detectives to spy on three lawyers for hacking victims and create dossiers about their political beliefs and private lives.

Meanwhile, News International announced it would sell its Wapping site in east London and move most of its titles – including The Sun and The Times – to another London site. Wapping became synonymous with Rupert Murdoch’s breaking of the stranglehold of the Fleet Street print unions in the 1980s, which many of his detractors agreed helped to save British newspapers.

He built a new printing works there, sacked all 5000 existing print workers, and brought in new staff and technology. Eventually other British papers followed his example.

First published in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Murdoch wrong: execs


TWO former News International executives have publicly disputed James Murdoch’s evidence to an inquiry into the British phone-hacking scandal.
Weeks after Mr Murdoch testified to MPs that he had no knowledge of an email detailing hacking at News of the World, the inquiry was told last night he had in fact been involved in a 15-minute discussion about it.

Both executives told the inquiry that Mr Murdoch had been told about the email, which indicated that hacking was more widespread than previously admitted by News International, the UK arm of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.

The former legal manager for News Group Newspapers, Tom Crone, said the email was the reason the company had to settle a suit by a high-profile football executive, Gordon Taylor, whose phone was hacked by News of the World, the Sunday tabloid that has been shut down as a result of the scandal. ”In order to settle the case we had to explain it to Mr Murdoch and get the authorisation to settle,” he said. ”It was explained to him that this document had emerged and what it meant.”

A former News of the World editor, Colin Myler, confirmed Mr Crone’s claim that James Murdoch, News International’s chief executive, had been told of the email at this meeting. He said Mr Crone had ”swung by my office” and they had walked together to Mr Murdoch’s office.

In July, while appearing before the media select committee of the House of Commons with his father, Mr Murdoch said he had known nothing of the email when he agreed to settle the Gordon Taylor case.

Mr Crone said the email was the first evidence the company had that hacking was committed by more than a single rogue reporter, Clive Goodman, who was jailed for hacking members of the royal family. The email detailed voicemail messages hacked from Mr Taylor’s phone.

Mr Crone said the 2008 decision to settle the lawsuit from Mr Taylor was motivated partly by a desire to avoid further lawsuits. He said the company hoped that the confidentiality clause would prevent others suing. But he said it was Mr Taylor who insisted the document should not be quoted or copied, as it contained personal information about him.

Mr Crone said then editor Andy Coulson, who later became media officer to Prime Minister David Cameron, had hoped to convince the company to rehire Mr Goodman after he had served his prison sentence, out of compassion for him and his family.

He denied that payments totalling £240,000 to Mr Goodman had been intended to buy his silence, or that Mr Goodman had been promised a job if he kept his mouth shut.

MP Jim Sheridan told the inquiry that he and several others had received a letter from a former senior member of News International saying the inquiry was dealing with sensitive and complex matters and ”powerful, well-connected and ruthless individuals who will do anything to keep the real truth under wraps because the truth could blow apart their global empire”.

Jonathan Chapman, former director of legal affairs for News International, told the inquiry that Rupert Murdoch had got it wrong when he blamed a London law firm, Harbottle & Lewis, for failing to uncover the scope of the scandal in 2007. ”I don’t think Mr Murdoch had his facts right,” Mr Chapman told MPs. ”He was wrong.”

Later, Mr Crone told the MPs he had seen a dossier on the private lives of lawyers involved in claims against the News of the World. The dossier had been gathered by a journalist commissioned by the paper.

Mr Crone said he knew who commissioned the investigation, but could not say who because he didn’t want to compromise a police investigation.

First published on

Murdoch knew about phone hacking email, says former News of the World editor


JAMES MURDOCH had a 15-minute discussion with two senior executives over a crucial phone hacking email that he has since denied knowledge of, British MPs were told last night.The former legal manager for News Group Newspapers, Tom Crone, and Colin Myler, the last editor of the News of the World, told a parliamentary inquiry Mr Murdoch was aware of the ”for Neville” email that indicated the use of phone hacking was widespread at the paper and forced the company to settle a claim by a football executive, Gordon Taylor.

”It was the reason we settled the case and in order to settle the case we had to explain it to Mr Murdoch and get the authorisation to settle,” he said. ”We certainly came away with authorisation to settle for the best figure possible.”

But Mr Crone said the £425,000 payment to Mr Taylor – four times larger than any previous settlement for breach of privacy in Britain – had been intended to help hush up evidence of widespread criminal activity at News of the World.

”The provenance of this document was the Metropolitan Police,” he said. ”It was a Metropolitan Police document that had come out of their files.

”How can we be accused of covering up something that’s reached us from the police?”

The former editor Colin Myler confirmed Mr Crone’s claim that Mr Murdoch had been told of the email. He said he and Mr Crone had walked together to Mr Murdoch’s office.

In July Mr Murdoch told the same parliamentary inquiry, the media select committee of the House of Commons, he had known nothing of the email when he agreed to settle the Taylor case.

Mr Crone said the email was the first evidence the company had that hacking was committed by more than a single reporter, Clive Goodman, who was jailed for hacking members of the royal family. The email was headed ”for Neville” and is believed to relate to the paper’s then investigations editor, Neville Thurlbeck. The text of the email was a transcription of voicemail messages hacked from Mr Taylor’s phone.

Mr Crone denied suggestions the payment was aimed at concealing the existence of the document. He said Mr Taylor insisted the document should not be quoted or copied, as it contained personal information about him. Mr Crone said then-editor Andy Coulson, who later became press officer to the Prime Minister, David Cameron, had hoped to convince the company to re-hire Mr Goodman after he had served his prison sentence. Mr Crone was annoyed when Mr Goodman was instead sacked, he said.

He denied that payments totalling £240,000 to Mr Goodman had been intended to buy his silence, or that Mr Goodman had been promised a job on the paper if he kept his mouth shut and did not implicate any other employees in hacking.

Jonathan Chapman, a former director of legal affairs for News International, said Mr Goodman was paid for a wrongful dismissal suit because the company did not want then-unsubstantiated allegations about more widespread hacking to be aired in an employment tribunal.

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