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Murdoch on the Ropes

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Boy, this is about as sleazy as it gets....

Imagine that your 13-year old daughter has been kidnapped and you have no idea where she is. So you frantically call her cell phone over and over, clinging to the faint hope that she might still be alive. And, then, a miracle happens; you notice that messages on her phone have been deleted, signalling that she's still alive but unable to call back.

What a relief! Suddenly, you are overcome with feelings of joy and gratitude knowing that your child is still alive.

But then, something terrible happens. You find out that your daughter's been dead all along. You only thought she was alive because some sleazeball working for a Murdoch tabloid had been fiddling around with her phone messages so he could get the inside story.

Here's the story from The Guardian:
"....the journalists at The News of the World then encountered a problem. Milly's voicemail box filled up and would accept no more messages. Apparently thirsty for more information from more voicemails, the paper intervened -- and deleted the messages that had been left in the first few days after her disappearance. According to one source, this had a devastating effect: when her friends and family called again and discovered that her voicemail had been cleared, they concluded that this must have been done by Milly herself and, therefore, that she must still be alive. But she was not. The interference created false hope and extra agony for those who were misled by it." (The Guradian)

Is that the most heartless thing you've ever heard or what?

And the Milly Dowler incident is just the tip of the iceberg. Investigators are now trying to figure out whether the News of the World tabloid (NoW) hacked the phones of relatives of dead soldiers, terrorist victims and other murder victims.

Get the picture? Murdoch is in the bereavement business; and business is good! Personal suffering doesn't matter. What matters is eyeballs on the screen and papers sold. That's what really counts; the bottom line.

Here's a little background on the phone hacking charges from the UK Guardian:

"The Metropolitan police holds evidence that could prove hundreds of people had their phones hacked by News of the World, Scotland Yard told the high court, a far greater number than had previously been believed.

"Barristers for the Metropolitan police said notes seized from Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator on the paper's books, showed he made a note of 149 mobile phone pin numbers and around 400 unique voicemail numbers. Both are used to access messages left on mobile phones.

"Jason Beer QC, for the Metropolitan police, told a high court hearing the figures were: 'a snap shot in time as of last week.' Until Friday, the police had maintained Mulcaire kept a record of just 91 pin numbers.

"The true extent of the investigator's activities is only now becoming apparent as Operation Wheeting, the new police investigation into phone-hacking at the News of the World which began in January, continues. Mulcaire's targets included the actor Jude Law, who is suing the paper for breach of privacy." ("Police uncover evidence of hundreds more hacked phones," Guardian)

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And who is this Glenn Mulcaire character who was on the company payroll? Here's a clip from the Associated Press that helps to fill in the blanks:

"Glenn Mulcaire, a private detective employed by News of the World, and former News of the World reporter Clive Goodman have already served prison sentences for hacking into the phones of royal officials. Mulcaire issued an apology Tuesday to anyone who had been hurt by his actions, but said there was no intention of interfering with a police investigation.

"'Working for the News of the World was never easy. There was relentless pressure. There was a constant demand for results,' Mulcaire said." ("UK phone hacking targets more slain schoolgirls," Gregory Katz, AP)

Nice, eh? And this guy was getting paid by Murdoch's NoW?

So the phone hacking goes way-back to 2002 (at the very least) and involves some very unsavory people like Mulcaire, right? Doesn't that suggest that it was company policy?

For those who believe that Murdoch "didn't know" what was going on at News of the World, take a look at this blurb from Bloomberg:

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"Another Labour lawmaker, Tom Watson, demanded action against James Murdoch, Rupert's 38-year-old son, who runs News Corp.'s European operations....

"'Cover-Up'

"Watson referred to the News of the World's statement to a parliamentary committee in 2009 that James Murdoch had approved a 700,000-pound payment to a phone-hacking victim that was accompanied by a non-disclosure agreement. The company had been trying to organize a 'cover-up,' the lawmaker said.

"It is clear now that he personally, and without board approval, authorized money to be paid by his company to silence people who'd been hacked,' Watson said. 'This is nothing short of an attempt to pervert the course of justice.'" ("Murdoch Gets Dangerous for Cameron," Bloomberg)

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Mike is a freelance writer living in Washington state.


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