Privacy Invasion Scandal Deepens for Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch

Major new allegations of privacy invasion, influence-peddling and perjury involving Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. continue to rivet the public in the United Kingdom. Murdoch, 80, founder of an empire instrumental in advancing the conservative agenda in the United States and worldwide, is portrayed at right in a photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

A big question is whether he and his minions can confine the scandal primarily to the UK, and to losses of money and prestige. Or will the damage extend to United States holdings and political clout -- and to dire liability for Murdoch family members who control his media holdings?

A sampling of the latest developments and analysis is provided below, primarily from progressive critics. Nearly all these critics have proven their civil rights and non-partisan bona fides in the spirit of our Project by recent, scorching commentaries on privacy invasions and other violations of civil rights by the Obama administration.

 

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Update: Reuters, Justice Department drops News Corp probe related to phone hacking, Staff report, Feb. 2, 2015. The United States Department of Justice has decided not to prosecute News Corp or its sister company Twenty-First Century Fox after completing an investigation of scandals in Great Britain involving phone hacking and alleged bribery of public officials. The end of the probe, disclosed by News Corp in a regulatory filing on Monday, comes after the U.S. government spent years combing through thousands of e-mails from News Corp.'s servers. A U.S. law enforcement official confirmed to Reuters that the case, which included an investigation of possible violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, had been closed by the Justice Department. News Corp was notified about the decision on Jan. 28. The investigation was related to the 2011 phone hacking and bribery charges involving News Corp.'s British newspaper, the now-defunct News of the World. Journalists from News Corp.'s daily tabloid The Sun have also faced prosecution by British authorities. Rupert Murdoch controls both News Corp and Fox, which split into separate businesses in 2013.

Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald, for example, describes in the sample of commentary below from the past week a trend for Obama's federal enforcers to seek more personal information without a court order.

Here's our JIP news round-up from Aug. 15 to 21, starting with columns on the Murdoch scandal updated to a new U.S. development:

Associated Press / Huffington Post, New York Comptroller Spikes School Contract With News Corp, Aug. 28, 2011.New York's comptroller, Tom DiNapoli, spiked a $27 million contract with one of media giant Rupert Murdoch's companies because of the phone hacking scandal in Great Britain. Wireless Generation was to get $27 million of the state's $700 million in federal Race to the Top money to develop software that would track test scores. DiNapoli bowed to pressure from teachers' unions.

OpEd NMichael Collinsews, Murdoch in Free Fall -- Credibility Gone, Billions to Follow, Michael Collins, left,  Aug. 20, 2011. Rupert and James Murdoch conjured up a fictional report that serves as the fig leaf used to cover the naughty secret of News Corporation -- they never investigated phone hacking in general and they never tried to clean house. Their contempt of Parliament may cost News Corporation 33% of its gross revenue.

FireDogLake, Murdoch Phone Hacking Scandal: Private Investigator Ordered to Reveal Who Gave Hacking Orders, Kevin Gosztola, August 19, 2011. A court has ordered Glenn Mulcaire to disclose information on who gave him the order to hack the phones of Elle Macpherson and at least five other public individuals, including a Liberal Democrat deputy leader. The Guardian reports, “Mulcaire has lost an attempt to appeal against a court order obliging him to identify who instructed him to hack the phones, something he has resisted since February.” Mulcaire worked for News International and was jailed for phone hacking in 2007. Leading the charge to force Mulcaire to share details is Murdoch Empire via Creative Commonsactor Steve Coogan, who was reported to be a hacking victim in 2006. According to Lisa O’Carroll, Coogan’s lawyers have argued, “If it were proved that the paper had instructed Mulcaire to hack into the phones of the six public figures, it would show that phone hacking was taking place on an industrial scale.” The figures are believed to include (in addition to MacPherson and Hughes) Max Clifford, a football agent; Jo Armstrong, a legal adviser to the Professional Footballers Association (PFA); and Gordon Taylor, former head of the PFA. Rupert Murdoch is shown above in a David Shankbone photo via Wikipedia.The Murdoch business empire is summarized in a chart courtesy available via Creative Commons.

Daily Beast, Murdoch’s Lawyers Turn on Him, Sam Bungey, Aug. 17, 2011. First came the ex-staff lawyers, and now the London solicitors Harbottle & Lewis are firing back. But the real danger for Rupert Murdoch is if City firm Burton Copeland joins in. What the Murdochs need right now are some mob lawyers. They should have discreet counsel on how to limit exposure, on what to do and say if they are arrested, and maybe the occasional use of an unbugged room in which to conduct business under the protection of the attorney-client privilege. Instead, what the family is getting is less Corleone consigliere, more Fredo Corleone rat. The U.K. firm Harbottle & Lewis is leading the charge of lawyers aggressively dropping a dime on News International. Newly released documents in the hacking case show former staff lawyers Jon Chapman and Tom Crone both turning on their former bosses, and the Murdochs must now fear the worst over BCL Burton Copeland, the City firm drafted by their company to conduct a nine-month internal investigation into criminality.

Huffington Post, Phone Hacking: News Of The World Reporter Clive Goodman Alleges Huge Cover-Up, Wide Knowledge Of Hacking. Reporter Jack Mirkinson wrote Aug. 16, 2011. A former News of the World reporter has alleged that there was a massive cover-up of phone hacking at the paper. The account continues as follows: Clive Goodman, the former royal reporter jailed for his role in phone hacking, wrote a letter in 2007 claiming that phone hacking was "widely discussed" at editorial meetings, and that former editor Andy Coulson offered to let him keep his job if he agreed to say in court that he was a rogue element within the paper. The claims are deeply damaging to Coulson, who has always maintained that he did not know about the hacking going on at his paper.They are also politically perilous for UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who hired Coulson even as evidence mounted against him. Moreover, they raise fresh danger for James Murdoch, who claimed to Parliament that he did not know hacking at the paper was widespread until 2010.

Strategic Culture Foundation / Wayne Madsen Report, Rupert meets the spymasters, Wayne Madsen, Aug. 19, 2011. If the civilian phone hacking scandal involving Rupert Murdoch's News International editors and reporters is any indication of the state of offensive information warfare today, the capabilities of the U.S. Cyber Command, co-located with the U.S. National Security Agency at Fort Meade, Maryland, are likely light-years ahead of those of Murdoch's media empire. It is the built-in software and hardware trap doors, engineered by NSA and placed into most of the commercial computer and communication systems in use today, that allows corporate entities like Murdoch's News International and News Corporation to take advantage of security vulnerabilities to hack into the emails and voice mails of those considered political enemies of the neo-conservative cause, a movement that is championed worldwide by the likes of Murdoch. Murdoch and his minions have managed to set back for decades the notion of privacy.

Truthout, Me and Piers Morgan: Hacked and Attacked, How Morgan's Fabricated Story Almost Ruined This Reporter, Greg Palast, Aug. 8, 2011. I am not surprised that Piers Morgan has been outed for hacking phones (listening, in one case, to personal messages between Heather Mills and Paul McCartney). I learned about the creepy antics of this one-man TV-host crime spree the hard way: as a victim of his crime-and-slime form of "journalism." On September 29, 1998, Piers Morgan's Mirror ran a screaming full page headline: SEX SCANDAL ROCKS LABOUR CONFERENCE. His paper had caught a rival paper's reporter who'd broken into the hotel room of a comely young rising star of the Labour Party. The reporter was caught there half undressed. I was that reporter. And the story was a complete load of crap.  But Piers Morgan, "editor" of the Mirror, ran the report on Page One, and pages 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6—even though he knew it was fabricated.  He knew because he had fabricated it.

Privacy / Surveillance Threats

Truthout / Buzzflash, It’s Not Just  News Corp.: Is Comcast Spying on You Every Day? Elliott Cohen, Aug. 18, 2011. When Guardian reporter, Nick Davies, broke the story that Rupert Murdoch's News of the World had been hacking British citizens' voicemail messages, including those of a murdered teenager, there was a public outcry. Unfortunately, this is the tip of a glacial iceberg that has the potential to bring down a lot more than the News of the World. Last year, without due public debate and input, the FCC and Justice Department approved a merger between Comcast and NBC Universal that gave the Internet cable giant control over the programming of NBC news. At the same time, Comcast as well as all other telecom companies are required to cooperate with the federal government in providing the facility for government to search through all electronic communications sent down their pipes. So presently, the government can hack everyone's phone and email conversations.

ThinkProgress, Revealed: Fake Facebook Identity Used By Military Contractors Plotting To Hack Progressive Organizations, Lee Fang, Aug 18, 2011. Earlier this year, ThinkProgress obtained 75,000 private emails from the defense contractor HBGary Federal via the hacktivist group called Anonymous. The emails led to two shocking revelations. First, that an assortment of private military firms collectively called “Team Themis” had been tapped by Bank of America to conduct a cyber war against reporters sympathetically covering the Wikileaks revelations. And second, that late in 2010, the same set of firms began work separately for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a Republican-aligned corporate lobbying group, to develop a similar campaign of sabotage against progressive organizations, including the SEIU and ThinkProgress.

Glenn GerenwaldSalon / Unclaimed Territory, A prime aim of the growing Surveillance State, Glenn Greenwald, Aug. 19, 2011. This year, the Obama administration began demanding greater power to obtain Internet records without a court order. Meanwhile, the Chairwoman of the DNC, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, is sponsoring a truly pernicious bill that would force Internet providers "to keep logs of their customers’ activities for one year." And a whole slew of sleazy, revolving-door functionaries from the public/private consortium that is the National Security State -- epitomized by former Bush DNI and current Booz Allen executive Adm. Michael McConnell -- are expoiting fear-mongering hysteria over cyber-attacks to justify incredibly dangerous (and profitable) Internet controls. As The Washington Post's Dana Priest and William Arkin reported in their "Top Secret America" series last year: "Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications." That is a sprawling, out-of-control Surveillance State. One must add to all of these developments the growing attempts to stifle meaningful dissent of any kind -- especially civil disobedience -- through intimidation and excessive punishment.

 

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