Hacking was 'standard practice'

2011-07-10 08:03

London - Illegal voicemail hacking was "standard practice" at Britain's best-selling Sunday newspaper, and then covered up by executives, according to a senior police officer who was asked to investigate the matter in 2009.

After years of allegations about the News of the World's tapping of voicemails of celebrities and politicians, the scandal reached a tipping point this week when it was alleged that in 2002 the paper had listened to the voicemail of Milly Dowler, a missing schoolgirl who was later found murdered, and even deleted some of her messages to make room for more.

Assistant Police Commissioner John Yates told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper that senior News of the World executives had failed to cooperate with police during a 2005-06 investigation into the practice.

"The only reason you now have a new investigation is because the News of the World produced new material and new evidence," he was quoted as saying.

He said the new investigation had been prompted by "material that was completely available to them in 2005-06".


"It makes their assurances in 2005-06 look very shaky."

He acknowledged that the reputation of London's Metropolitan Police had been "very damaged" by its failures to investigate more fully, adding: "I have regrettably said the initial inquiry was a success. Clearly now that looks very different."

"In fairness, in 2005-06 and even in 2009 (when Yates failed to reopen the inquiry), did we think hacking was standard practice? I don't think anybody knew. Now it's different."

Allegations that a growing list of victims included relatives of Britain's war dead and of those killed in the 2005 London transport bombings outraged readers and caused many firms to pull advertising, prompting a decision to shut the paper.

In the coming days police will question Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International, owner of the News of the World and News Corp's other British newspapers, the Sunday Telegraph reported, quoting a senior News International source. Police declined to comment.


It was under Brooks's editorship that an investigator working for the newspaper is said to have hacked into Dowler's voicemail. Brooks says she did not know about the hacking.

The scandal has also brought to light accusations that journalists working for Murdoch and others illegally paid police for information.

Murdoch said on Saturday that Brooks had his full support and no management changes were planned as a result of the scandal.

Prime Minister David Cameron has announced two enquiries relating to the scandal. One of them, led by a judge, will look at the way the police investigated the allegations against News of the World and the relationship between newspapers and the police.

  • tiotudg - 2011-07-10 08:52

    Looi hulle!

  • michael.e.bowery - 2011-07-10 09:16

    After the end of the Second World War the USA and Britain entered into an agreement which set up PROJECT P415. The largest overseas station in the Project P415 network is the US satellite and communications base at Menwith Hill, near Harrogate Yorkshire. It is run undercover by the NSA and taps into all Britain’s main national and international communications networks. Primarily intended for international intelligence gathering it can be used if necessary for domestic traffic throughout UK. This, by the nature of this facility includes monitoring of all communications including faxing, telephones and mobile phones - in other words `hacking' So whats new in what the NOTW got up to? In today's communication age - Nothing is secret anymore, so all those who are aghast at what NOTW did, should wake up to the real world out there.

      Grayman - 2011-07-10 12:20

      The difference is that Project P415 was set up by the government to monitor potential national threats and gather information. In a perfect world we would hope that that is all they did. In the case of the NOTW they used hacking for selfish and financial gain. That is a far cry from the noble intentions of Project P415. The saddest part of it is that the NOTW was driven by financial greed to feed the ever-increasing hunger for gossip. Our society should be ashamed of itself that we have allowed this sort of gutter journalism to flourish.

      Christopher - 2011-07-10 12:40

      You haven't said how many people have been saved by this so called "hacking" by terriost threats or stopped, Hacking & Monitoring btw are two differnt things, Hacking implys breaking in, Monitoring implys they're just got a computer searching for keywords, and phone company reroute system throught this computer!

      Barry - 2011-07-10 14:46

      Yes , but what NOTW did was for commercial profit , when governments "listen" in it is for national , international security ! NOTW gave false hope to the family of Milly that she was still alive when they deleted her personal voicemail !

  • rumsour - 2011-07-10 13:35

    "Big Brother is watching!" and now so is everyone else. Think very carefully before leaving a message, sending a text or even speaking on your cellphone/smart phone, remember, someone is monitoring you.

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