Tag Archives: Brooks

To catch people like Rebekah Brooks & Bob Diamond we need strict liability

In her memo to her own staff over the hacking scandal Rebekah Brooks wrote “We were all appalled and shocked when we heard about these allegations yesterday………I have to tell you that I am sickened that these events are alleged to have happened…………..Not just because I was editor of the News of the World at the time”.    In similar mode Bob Diamond, former chief executive of Barclays, declared to the parliamentary commission on banking standards that he felt “physically ill” when he learnt that Barclays employees had been making false rate submissions in the Libor scandal and that he was “disappointed because many of these behaviours happened on my watch”.    These testimonies make it absolutely clear that we need new rules which target personal managerial responsibility when something disgraceful happens.
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How can the excessive power of the Murdoch press be brought to heel?

The current hacking trials aren’t even half the issue.   The hard, unavoidable fact remains that the power of the Murdoch press – the real unspoken stain behind the Brooks-Coulson trials – is undiminished and has still not been broken.   It is best illustrated by the run-up of events to the long-planned Murdoch campaign to take over BSkyB, a scheme that would have added some £8bn to the Murdoch empire as well as giving him a virtual stranglehold over the British media.  It began with Murdoch’s calculation in 2009 that a switch of the Sun to the Tories would make them indebted to him – perhaps even outlined in an informal deal – over his BSkyB objective.   The game plan then began with James Murdoch meeting Cameron at a hotel in London in September 2009 to tell him that the Sun was switching sides.
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The hacking trials go on, but corrupt power of Murdoch media remains untouched

The Brooks-Coulson trial was very narrowly focused on the hacking issue.   It did not include the earlier police inquiries into the News of the World’s (NoW) involvement in blagging confidential records and bribing corrupt police for information in the late 1980s and 1990s.   The jury was not shown Brooks’ evidence (no doubt a slip on her part, telling the truth) to the parliamentary media committee in March 2003 that her journalists had paid police for information in the past, which is of course a criminal offence.   Ironically Select committee evidence is not admissible in court because of the rules protecting parliamentary privilege.   Above all, the trial excluded the illicit and ruthless use of power by which the Murdoch press, and especially Brooks, destroyed individuals and suborned governments.
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Rebekah Brooks and Milly Dowler

Now that the case is over, it is worth noting some of the details which hitherto could not be reported.   Milly Dowler was a child who was abducted and then killed by a predatory paedophile.   News of the World (NoW) journalists chanced on a voicemail which suggested she might still be alive and working in Telford.   They did not however tell the police who were searching for her.   When the police search failed to locate her, those same journalists, needing confirmation of the story, demanded that the Surrey police (Milly was a Surrey schoolgirl) corroborate the story for them.   They quoted the voicemail both in phone calls and in email, and both those calls and messages have been retained in the Surrey police records.

The prosecution case was that Brooks as NoW editor must have been told about this potentially enormous scoop and its provenance.  It was suggested that she must have been consulted about the very risky decision to hide information from the police.   How could she not have known, it was argued, that 7 of her journalists were working on this story, including both her news editor and her managing editor, both of whom had rung the Surry police and quoted the voicemail?   It was even more incredulous when she herself was running a big national campaign to protect children from predatory paedophiles.

Brooks denied it all.   She had been on holiday that week in Dubai and, she said, nobody had sought to tell her anything about this matter of Dowler at all.    She had however whilst on holiday been using a News International phone, and the phone bill preserved in the company’s records showed she had rung the desk, then occupied by her deputy Andy Coulson, for 38 minutes on the Friday she was in Dubai and then again on the Saturday as the police were being pressed hard to confirm the story.   She texted Coulson as well.   Also, as it happened, she and her (then) husband had been joined on holiday by a British tourist who later witnessed in court that she had had lengthy phonecalls, including one where she said she had to make a call about “the missing Surrey girl”.

Brooks said she could not remember that.   She insisted that she was unaware of the whole saga.   She had never read about it, she said, even when she returned to NoW the next week, and not looked at the story that her own paper had published including the quotation of the voicemail verbatim.   She never knew, she said, that her managing editor was still pressing the Surrey police to confirm the whole story.

She was acquitted.

Dealing with an out-of-control News International demands far more than Coulson being sent to prison

Coulson is only a medium-sized cog in the web of industrial scale phone-hacking, lying, deceit, and intimidation that is Murdoch’s News International.   If this was any other company rather than one of themselves, the newspapers would be raising a hue and cry demanding a full public inquiry , resignations or sackings of key executives in the boardroom, and the break-up and restructuring of a disgraced and discredited corporation.   When did Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks first know about phone-hacking in the organisation, when did they find this out and how, and what exactly did they discover and what action did they take?   How is it that the police blocked for years on investigating clear signs that phone-hacking extended far beyond the alleged single rogue journalist?   Why have the police so brazenly failed to carry out their own inquiry into how they so badly misled the public and even failed to warn most of the victims of the illegality that was being perpetrated on them?   How can an organisation that so ruthlessly broke the law for years on end, and repeatedly lied to cover it up, be allowed to continue operating in such a sensitive area of public life as providing news coverage for the nation?
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Only top bank execs in handcuffs + prison will stop scandals

The exposure of HSBC, significantly by the US, as having engaged in massive money-laundering for years on behalf of Mexican drug cartels, terrorists and pariah states like Iran and Syria has become a test case of how the authorities deal with big-time criminality by the economic elite.    The damning report by the US Senate sub-committee of the “pervasively polluted” culture at HSBC covers the period 2004-10 when Stephen Green was chief executive (2003-6) and then chairman (2006-10).  Green, a former Anglican priest who sought to balance God and Mammon, but erred 99.9% closer to the latter than the former, later became and is still now Trade Minister in Cameron’s government.   Green has form.   He was chairman of the British Bankers’ Association during the LIBOR-rigging scandal, in which role he publicly dismissed claims that there might be something wrong and waved on business as usual – rather like the pardoner in Chaucer’s tales.
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Cameron & Hunt play fast & loose with the rules: can you believe a word they say?

It was Private Eye which surmised that the LOL sign-off by Cameron to Rebekah Brooks actually meant “lots of lies”.   Presumably meant as a joke, it was in fact quite prescient, as the latest sheaf of emails pouring out from Leveson clearly shows.   In November 2010, one month before Cable was removed from responsibility for the media, we now know that Hunt sent a brazenly prejudicial memo to Cameron indicating he was hugely partisan in favour of the BSkyB £8bn bid and demanding that Cameron should seek to control Cable to ensure the bid got a smooth passage.   The fall-out from this incriminating memo is lethal in terms of his prejudicial stance, his demeaning role as a message-boy for James Murdoch, his apparent lying to the Commons Select Committee, and what it exposes about the judgement of both the PM and Cabinet Secretary, Gus O’Donnell.   It is a vignette of how the power brokers around No.10 conspire to suborn the public interest and weave a tissue of lies to protect themselves at every step.
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Quis custodiet ipsum custodem?

After the abundant evidence yesterday portraying Cameron as in the pocket of the Murdoch clan, the latest revelations show Osborne playing up a similar role.   The first person Cameron welcomed to No.10 after he was elected in May 2010 was Rupert Murdoch.   In June 2010 the news broke that Murdoch intended to take full control of BSkyB.   We now know that Cameron met James Murdoch 12 times between January 2006 and January 2010, and then between May 2010 and July 2011 there were no less than 60 meetings between Ministers and Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch, Rebekah Brooks, and James Harding, editor of the Times.   That averages one a week, and there were more but they were not logged in this way by Downing Street.   Now we know also that Osborne had 4 meetings with Brooks during 2010, including 3 after the May general election.   Brooks also revealed that after discussing the BSkyB bid with Cameron at a dinner in December 2010, she had a more substantial conversation with Osborne at a restaurant that month.  

This array of evidence (and there may well be a lot more) is conclusive evidence of leaders of government consorting closely and at every stage with those who had launched the BSkyB bid when the public interest – the requirement that they handle this hugely significant bid with a semi-judicial integrity and detachment – dictated the opposite.   To say that this was unethical is grossly to under-state the case.   It stinks of corruption.   The issue for Leveson, and the country as a whole who have been let down and systemcatically deceived with assurances (above all from Hunt, but from the others too), is not only which heads should roll, but how to prevent such corruption ever happening again.

Who will call to account the person, the Prime Minister, who is meant to be the guardian of the nation’s welfare and to be himself the means to call to account serious wrongdoing at the heart of government?   A Prime Minister in hock to an aggressive law-breaking media organisation in ordder to keep the press on side and to curry votes for successive elections, clearly cannot do this.   Parliament needs a new mechanism for extreme circumstances such as these.   But maybe too there is a need for a constitutional innovation as the only effective means to check wrongdoing at the top of politics, and that is an elected, but non-party, President with the mandate to intervene, and where necessary publicise his/her interventions, where serious misdemeanours are becoming apparent.


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It’s not Hunt’s neck that’s now on the line, it’s Cameron’s

The evidence revealing the inappropriately close relationship between Cameron and News International in the run-up to the BSkyB bid gathered pace in the last two days with the appearance of Coulson and Brooks before Leveson.   Cameron’s insouciance about hiring Coulson to No.10 without thorough checks on what he may have known about phone-hacking at the News of the World where he had been editor, even when the Guardian later indicated in 2009 that phone hacking at the tabloid was rife, suggests that the Prime Minister was so determined to get as close as possible to the Murdoch outfit that he was quite ready to gloss over any embarrassing details that might incriminate Coulson and never raised the subject with him more than once even while the hacking saga was steadily unfolding.   The further revelation that Coulson was given only low-level security vetting, unlike his predecessors, yet on his own admission may have been given unsupervised access to top-secret documents confirms that he was exempted from proper security checks which might well have disqualified him because Cameron was determined to take him on no matter what, in order to consolidate his closeness to a media empire which he helived could keep the Tories in power for a long time.
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