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Phone hacking. Where are the other papers?

That a News of the World reporter was involved in phone hacking was originally thought of as old news. Clive Goodman was guilty and he was the only one involved. Or so the official line ran.

Well the New York Times has blown the lid off that. The article reveals not just how much hacking was done by Goodman on behalf of News International, the article also details how badly the British British police failed others.

The NYT details

AS OF THIS SUMMER, five people have filed lawsuits accusing News Group Newspapers, a division of Rupert Murdoch’s publishing empire that includes News of the World, of breaking into their voice mail. Additional cases are being prepared, including one seeking a judicial review of Scotland Yard’s handling of the investigation. The litigation is beginning to expose just how far the hacking went, something that Scotland Yard did not do. In fact, an examination based on police records, court documents and interviews with investigators and reporters shows that Britain’s revered police agency failed to pursue leads suggesting that one of the country’s most powerful newspapers was routinely listening in on its citizens.

The police had seized files from Mulcaire’s home in 2006 that contained several thousand mobile phone numbers of potential hacking victims and 91 mobile phone PIN codes. Scotland Yard even had a recording of Mulcaire walking one journalist — who may have worked at yet another tabloid — step by step through the hacking of a soccer official’s voice mail, according to a copy of the tape. But Scotland Yard focused almost exclusively on the royals case, which culminated with the imprisonment of Mulcaire and Goodman. When police officials presented evidence to prosecutors, they didn’t discuss crucial clues that the two men may not have been alone in hacking the voice mail messages of story targets.

You would expect much media excitement about the NYT revelations. After all, going after News International is something you would expect to be natural territory for the Daily Mirror, the BBC, The Guardian and others. Especially when there is a potential scalp for the media, that of Conservative Spin-Doctor Andy Coulson.

The head of Coulson, for the media would at this stage of the Coalition Government be an even greater scalp than the head of Alistair Campbell during the Blair years.

There was initially little coverage. Many papers were silent on this.

The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The Independent and the Mirror all failed to cover the story for days in any big way until Couslon himself gave the story some more legs.

The only UK paper to have reported on the NYT article was according to the New Statesman, The Guardian. The New Statesman said that there was a deafening silence about the scandal.

So why were they holding back?

Well it is rather obvious why News International papers were silent on the matter.

It is less obvious why other papers were silent.

Liberal Conspiracy blogger, Sunny Hundal accuses Paul Staines (aka Guido Fawkes) of running a bait and switch article. Reporters went after Hague for the supposed non story about his sexuality, (which was actually more to do with his hiring of a poorly qualified Special Advisor then his sexuality), rather than going after the “real story” of Coulson.

What makes this old news is Coulson already “walked” from his job as a result of this (as Guido points out).

You can understand, in part, why Labour are going after the story. They want the scalp. They want to claim it before the press does. They however could have done something about it if they were really worried about it. Jack Boots Smith and Postman Pat Alan Johnson were hardly left libertarians when they occupied the position of Home Secretary. They would have hardly worried themselves about niceties about freedom of the press.

They would however have been afraid of annoying the News International papers that they themselves feted with continual scare stories about exaggerated threats of terror, that helped them and helped sell papers for Rupert Murdoch.

So Labour pushing the story for revenge for the Sun “switch” is easy to understand.

The BBC latterly picked up on the story. There was a rather painful interview with John Prescott (aren’t they all) on the Today programme. Somewhat easy to explain as they are being drawn in to an un-winnable war with Sky and in that battle few papers will jump to their defence.

The police had their scalps and were probably quite pleased with themselves. I doubt that there was a conspiracy in Scotland Yard which caused “their failure to investigate”. Once they had a confession, they simply wanted to get their scalp. There was no need for any more investigating stuff.  They are changing their tune as a result of the NYT article and political pressure.

The Press were reluctant to comment – because they are all guilty of this and worse. The scalp that may be claimed by this is not that of Coulson alone (if it all), it will be the whole murky World of Tabloid and “celebrity” journalism. You want your gossip about the celebs, or even your “investigative journalism” then this is what happens.

What people accept for their next day’s chip wrapping (does anyone still wrap chips in newspapers) is quite different from what the law allows.

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