When hundreds of British officials, celebrities, and even royal princes had their cell phones hacked by a powerful newspaper, Scotland Yard looked the other way, said Don Van Natta Jr., Jo Becker, and Graham Bowley in The New York Times. In 2006, “Britain’s revered police agency” had evidence indicating that reporters at the News of the World, a tabloid owned by media magnate Rupert Murdoch, had illegally accessed hundreds of private phone messages and used them as fodder for stories. Yet detectives focused only on the hacking of cell phones belonging to Prince Harry and Prince William. They did not even alert hundreds of other apparent victims that their privacy may have been compromised. Nor did detectives question management at News of the World. Had it pursued the case, Scotland Yard would have uncovered a huge conspiracy. “A dozen former reporters” and editors at the tabloid told us that hacking into private phone messages was routine. Yet only two people were charged with crimes: a reporter who wrote stories about the royals and the hacker who assisted him.
Scotland Yard is shocked, shocked at these revelations, said Nick Davies in the London Guardian. Assistant Commissioner John Yates even complained that The New York Times should have alerted authorities to the allegations. Yet it’s unclear “why Scotland Yard detectives would need American reporters to introduce them to journalists in London.” One journalist with whom they were surely familiar is Andy Coulson, editor in chief of the News of the World during its hacking heyday. Coulson is now Prime Minister David Cameron’s “chief spin doctor.” Coulson has insisted he knew nothing of the hacking. Yet sources told The New York Times about “dozens if not hundreds of meetings” at which phone hacking was discussed with Coulson. Why was he never questioned?
Because Scotland Yard bigwigs recognize that, “as the biggest-selling Sunday newspaper in the world,” the tabloid “wields enormous power,” said Chester Stern, also in the Guardian. There is “undoubtedly a cozy relationship between the Yard and all of Rupert Murdoch’s News International titles”—including London’s Sunday Times and the News of the World.
Scotland Yard has relied on tips from Murdoch papers before, said Steve Richards in the London Independent. In 2006, Assistant Commissioner Yates seized on a Sunday Times story to investigate whether Tony Blair’s government had traded knighthoods for political donations. Yates became “something of a media hero for tormenting Blair.” Yet in the end, there was no evidence of wrongdoing and nobody was charged. It’s a bit hard to believe Yates now when he tells us that he can’t investigate an official of the Cameron government based solely on a New York Times story. A new police investigation “is urgently necessary”—both into the hacking case and into Scotland Yard’s role.
Please, said Benedict Brogan in the London Daily Telegraph. This whole story is just “reheating leftovers.” The Labor Party and its leftist allies in the press are hyping it to take “a free hit at David Cameron.” After all, “Tories plus Murdoch plus bugging is one of Labor’s favorite conspiracy flavors.” This isn’t scandal—just “politics.”