Monday, October 04, 2010

Phone-hacking scandal: Andy Coulson 'listened to intercepted messages'.

The story that Andy Coulson, former editor of the News of The World and now Head of Communications for David Cameron's coalition, did not know of the blatant illegality being carried out in his own news room was always hard to believe.

Now, a journalist who worked under him has come out and stated that Coulson not only knew that his journalists were listening in to celebrities messages, but that he even listened to recordings of them himself.

Coulson has always denied knowing about any illegal activity by the journalists who worked for him, but an unidentified former executive from the paper told Channel Four Dispatches that Coulson not only knew his reporters were using intercepted voicemail but was also personally involved.

"Sometimes, they would say: 'We've got a recording' and Andy would say: 'OK, bring it into my office and play it to me' or 'Bring me, email me a transcript of it'," the journalist said.

The claim, due to be broadcast tomorrow night, goes beyond earlier statements by Coulson's former colleagues.

Sean Hoare, a showbusiness reporter, told the New York Times Coulson had "actively encouraged" him to intercept voicemail.

Paul McMullan, who handled investigations, told the Guardian illegal activity was so widespread in the newsroom that Coulson must have known about it. Coulson has denied all the claims.

Channel Four's anonymous witness, whose words are spoken by an actor in the programme, says: "Andy was a very good editor.

"He was very conscientious and he wouldn't let stories pass unless he was sure they were correct ... so, if the evidence that a reporter had was a recorded phone message, that would be what Andy would know about.

"So you'd have to say: 'Yes, there's a recorded message.' You go and either play it to him or show him a transcript of it, in order to satisfy him that you weren't going to get sued, that it wasn't made up."

Coulson resigned from the newspaper after his royal journalist, Clive Goodman, was jailed after listening to the personal voice-mail messages of three members of the royal staff. Coulson claimed as he stepped down that this was a case of one bad apple and that the practice was not widespread.

Many people have come forward since the New York Times started investigating this and have stated that Coulson's version of events was untrue.

Indeed, there are even reports that the News of The World issued threats to make sure that all investigations stopped at Goodman.

Adam Price, one of the MPs from the media select committee which last year investigated the phone-hacking scandal, described how he stopped voting to compel News International's chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, to be called as a witness.

"I was told by a senior Conservative member of the committee, who I knew was in direct contact with executives at News International, that if we went for her, they would go for us – effectively that they would delve into our personal lives in order to punish them."

This story really isn't going to go away. Cameron appears to think that he can make out that this is a case of Labour MP's attempting to put pressure on his Head of Communications for political reasons. And that might play out well within his own party.

But, to the rest of us, this whole thing is beginning to stink. Too many people have come forward, and they are all saying essentially the same thing. Coulson knew.

Click here for full article.


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