Monday, September 06, 2010

Does Chris Huhne still think hiring Coulson was a Cameron misjudgement?

Very odd silence from the Liberal Democrats, given Chris Huhne's piece in the Guardian last year.

The key issue now involves a dispute over the facts between News International, which owns the News of the World, and the Guardian. News International has argued that the conviction of Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire is as far as the story went. It found no other evidence that its journalists were involved in phone tapping, and its chief Les Hinton told the Commons' culture media and sport committee in March 2007 that this was an isolated case
He points out that a settlement to Gordon Taylor gives the lie to that claim, as does a settlement with Max Clifford and there are others now known to be involved.
Charlotte Harris of JMW Solicitors, who is representing around 25 alleged victims of the phone-hacking scandal, believes the newsroom's culture owed much to senior management.... On Friday, the law firm Bindmans announced it was seeking a judicial review into the police investigation on behalf of three clients: Chris Bryant, the MP for Rhondda, Brian Paddick, former deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police, and Brendan Montague, a journalist and author

Chris Huhne went on
Davies gave further evidence to the committee. He produced a contract promising Mulcaire a bonus for acquiring information, which implies senior executives at the paper knew his work.... Davies's evidence suggests that other journalists were complicit in the illegal phone tapping, which in turn is clear prima facie evidence that should be investigated by the police as a contravention of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 carrying a maximum custodial sentence of two years. It is extraordinary that Assistant Commissioner John Yates summarily refused to look at the evidence again, and that David Hanson, the police minister, has so meekly accepted this

Even then, Huhne claimed that it was a misjudgement by Cameronto hire Coulson as director of communications. Does he think that it was a further misjudgement to bring Coulson into the heart of government and the civil service?
I have complained to the Independent Police Complaints Commission because the Met department that conducted the original investigation should not be judge and jury in its own trial for potential neglect of duty. There is a clear public interest that the Met reopens this inquiry, so that we can establish whether there have been systematic and illegal invasions of privacy. Nothing else will ensure that they stop.
Silence has reigned from Chris - perhaps the NotW story about his marriage was punishment by them for transgressing against News International.

Gradually, this story is building, despite the attempts by elements of the media to avoid discussing it. Partly this is because of their own involvement in some of the shadier elements of journalistic research
Significantly, Harris suggests she has seen evidence confirming the phone-hacking culture was not simply confined to the NoW. "I think I can say without breaching any confidences that Glenn Mulcaire wasn't working for just one newspaper," Harris said. Indeed, Fleet Street's use of private eyes – sometimes for legitimate purposes – is extensive. In 2006, Richard Thomas, the then information commissioner, published the findings of "Operation Motorman", which had targeted a private investigator, Stephen Whittamore. According to Thomas's investigation, more than 50 Daily Mail journalists had bought material from Whittamore on 952 occasions. Other newspapers that had paid Whittamore included the Daily Mirror, the NoW, the Observer and the Sunday Times.
Oddly, although the BBC, the Guardian, the Independent and Channel 4 News all covered the story to a greater or lesser degree, readers of the Times, Sun, Telegraph and the Daily Mail have been spectacularly uninformed about a scandal breaking over the bows of the Coalition administration.

There is a new defence being raised to distract from the meat of the story - seized upon by Iain Dale in a controversial post yesterday, drawing upon the 'knowledge' of the other loyal Tory blogger, DizzyThinks
* Calling someone's mobile, waiting for it to go to voicemail and then entering their four digit pin (0000) is not hacking. Hacking is about circumventing security, not being presented with them and passing them.
** Calling someone's mobile, waiting for it to go to voicemail and then entering their four digit pin (0000) is not tapping. Tapping is the covert act of real-time interception of active communication links.
While we could have a semantic argument about the meaning of specific words - and hackers the world over will tell you that trying obvious passwords is a very effective way of getting past poor security, but is still a subset of hacking activities. Hacking is commonly taken to mean circumventing security measures to go to an electronic place where you should not be. As for tapping, the only important definition is the legal one, which handily encompasses what actually happened - and the CPS managed to sustain two convictions, so unless Iain and Dizzy have struck upon a defence missed by the lawyers for Mulcaire and Goodman, we'll go with what the law actually says:

Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 Section 2. Meaning and location of ‘interception’ etc.

(8) For the purposes of this section the cases in which any contents of a communication are to be taken to be made available to a person while being transmitted shall include any case in which any of the contents of the communication, while being transmitted, are diverted or recorded so as to be available to a person subsequently.

Tim Ireland at Bloggerheads covers this nicely.

And just a reminder of what Chris Huhne said to the BBC when Andy Coulson faced the DCMS committee
"Andy Coulson's defence is that he did not know what was going on despite the mounting evidence that his newsroom was widely using illegal phone hacking. Either he was complicit in crime, or he was one of the most incompetent Fleet Street editors of modern times. Neither should be a top recommendation to David Cameron."

So which is it - incompetent or complicit?

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