Phone Hacking at the Mirror in 1998: Read Paddy French’s Scoop and Pre-buy his Piers Morgan Biography

Over at Byline, veteran investigative reporter Paddy French has an exclusive which concludes the Mirror Group, and by implication Piers Morgan, knew about phone hacking well before it became standard practice by Glenn Mulcaire at News of the World.  Below is just an excerpt from the full damning in depth piece.

But this is just a taster. Paddy is pitching on Byline a full unauthorised biography of Piers Morgan:

Morgan is one of the most important members of the cast of the phone hacking scandal. He was the first of a long line of Murdoch editors forged in the crucible of the Sun’s show business column “Bizarre”. One of his proteges was Andy Coulson.

Morgan was singled out by Sun editor Kelvin Mackenzie as a future editor and it was his patronage that led to his appointment as News of the World editor at the age of 29. There Morgan singled out a young reporter and promoted her to Features Editor: her name was Rebekah Brooks. Morgan was destined to edit the Sun but when Daily Mirror boss David Montgomery — a former News of the World editor — offered him the editorship of the Mirror, Morgan accepted.

By 2003, the troika of Morgan (Mirror), Coulson (News of the World) and Brooks (The Sun) had an iron grip on Britain’s tabloids. Morgan was at the Mirror for nearly ten years — a decade that saw the paper embrace the “dark arts” of illegal news-gathering.

The plan is to produce a readable, balanced picture of a talented but flawed individual.

I’m a retired television producer so I don’t need to be paid for my time.

But researching, writing and publishing a book as ambitious as this one does not come cheap, especially since it needs to be read for libel.

I hope you will support the venture.

For a taster of the article, more below

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How the Guardian was Got At but the News of the World Got Away With It

Crossposted from Byline – the No 1 Journalist Crowdfunding site. Please chip in to support my work there.
15 years ago the Met’s Operation Two Bridges exposed a lucrative illegal trade between corrupt police officers, private investigators and Fleet Street. Nothing was done. But what happened to two Guardian journalists who were writing about police corruption at the same time?

As Joe Public has revealed on Bellingcat, ‘How The Metropolitan Police Covered-Up For Rupert Murdoch’s News International’ senior Metropolitan police officers knew back in 1999 that there was a phenomenal trade in illegal information atNews of the World which predated phone hacking.

A secret probe in the premises of Southern Investigations, ostensibly part of a third inquiry into the murder of former founder Daniel Morgan, caught many connections between the corrupt detective agency and senior Fleet Street journalists. Continue reading

The Political Aspect of Phone Hacking

Given the current febrile atmosphere of the election campaign here in the UK, this is worth revisiting. A comprehensive report by the Media Standards trust shows how politically targeted phone hacking at News of the World was – mainly under the editorship of Andy Coulson (the only surviving phone records to confirm hacking date from a year or so of his editorship

 A striking number of targets were people in positions important to national security. Four consecutive Home Secretaries from 1997 to 2007 are reported to have been hacked, as well as many senior officers from the Metropolitan police (including Sir Ian Blair, John Yates, Mike Fuller, Andy Hayman, Brian Paddick and Ali Dizaei).

And it turns out that the News of the World was seven times more likely to hack a Labour politician than a Conservative one.

But what emerges most clearly is that the great majority of those who were hacked were people most of us had never heard of. Many were connected to public figures, but often simply by being related to them, or working with them, or being their friends. You might be hacked because you were, for example, the partner or ex-partner of a public figure, or a work colleague or a friend or acquaintance or a parent or step-parent.

via Who was hacked? A New Report Investigates | Policy Wonkers. Continue reading

UPDATED@ Alastair Morgan to @RupertMurdoch “You are in a unique position to help us finally lay Daniel to rest.”

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With considerable speed and grace, on Monday 16 March, Rupert Murdoch replied to Alastair’s letter, promising to co-operate with the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel inquiry, and explaining how News Corp’s Management and Standards Committee have already complied with requests from the police and the IPCC.

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Questions about the role of News of the World and surveillance of chief investigating officer and his family were part of James Murdoch’s formal written submission to the Leveson Inquiry

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My original blog on the letter is below. 

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Mazher Mahmood told Met Investigation back in 2005 his informants included “senior officers” and “bent police officers”

A small but telling detail about the proximity of News of the World’s star reporter Mazher Mahmood to the Metropolitan Police.

Over on Bellingcat, Joe Public has noticed that senior Met Officers never even asked about the provenance of the gun used in the Beckham Kidnap fiasco – which saw five people jailed on remand for months. A complaint about this led to Operation Canopus – into the Fake Sheik‘s activities 

 Then, on October 17th 2005 the Guardian ran a Roy Greenslade piece under the headline; “Police probe News of the World stories” – it was a report into the existence of Operation Canopus Two. For the first time a police investigation into Mahmood was out in the open.

But this investigation into Mahmood in 2005 apparently exonerated him, even though he told them:

“I’ve got bent police officers that are witnesses, that are informants.”

via bellingcat – Did Scotland Yard Cover-Up Beckham Kidnap Evidence So The Fake Sheikh Could Be Their Star Witness?.

Earlier during that interview on  26 October 2005 Mazher Mahmood also told investigators from Operation Canopus.

“I’ve got some senior officers in Britain who are also my informants”

This is a full SIX YEARS before the police launch Operation Elveden, into corrupt payments paid to police by News International journalists. Why the delay? And how can we trust the Fake Sheikh’s activities can be fully and appropriately investigated by the same police force he worked so closely with?

In his own words, some were bent. And he was also in contact with senior officers – probably way above the pay grade of those investigating him.

In his autobiography Mahmood boasts of meeting the former Met Commissioner Lord Stevens for drinks, with his then boss Andy Coulson. As the Press Gang notes this was in 2003.

It was shortly after the Crown Prosecution Service decision to abandon charges in the Beckham kidnap affair because one of Mahmood’s informants was considered an unreliable witness …

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2014 in Review: Guess the most popular pieces on my hacking trial blog

Was it key pieces of evidence from the Hacking Trial? The revealing messages between Tony Blair and Rebekah Brooks? Or the electrifying evidence of former News of the World reporter and supergrass/whistleblower Dan Evans? Or was it the near disastrous intervention of David Cameron over the partial verdicts on his former head of communications Andy Coulson.

No. The two most popular posts were…. wait for the fireworks….

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Mahmood investigation – more than uncanny echoes of the original limited Coulson hacking inquiries

Important piece from Bellingcat about Operation Silverhawk – the inquiry into Mazher Mahmood‘s alleged role in the Tulisa trial. It has more than uncanny echoes to the original limited phone hacking investigation in 2010.

Metropolitan police’s Operation Silverhawk, an investigation into Sunday on Sunday’s Fake Sheikh Mazher Mahmood is being led by Commander Martin Hewitt – who was one of the senior investigators in Operation Varec which was part of John Yates discredited investigation into phone hacking at Mahmood’s News of the World in 2010. Minutes from ‘Gold’ Group meeting which was chaired by Yates shows Commander Hewitt present as one the more senior investigators in the team at a meeting in September that year.

Operation Varec was criticised for interviewing whistleblower ex-News of the World showbiz reporter Sean Hoare under caution – effectively meaning that his statements could be used against him for prosecution. Hoare a former friend of Andy Coulson had given an interview to The New York Times weeks earlier claiming Coulson had “actively encouraged” him to hack phones but was left with no choice but to give No Comment answers in his police interview. This was at the time Andy Coulson was Director of Communications for the government at 10 Downing Street.

Read the whole piece bellingcat – Mazher Mahmood: Just Like Phone Hacking, the Met Narrows the Investigation.