Will Hackergate Become Murdoch's Watergate?
One day after Rupert Murdoch's News Corp shut down the 168-year-old News of the World, its most profitable newspaper, following allegations of illegal snooping by a private detective and reporters working for it, it appeared that the company had not shut down the scandal. Indeed, Prime Minister David Cameron said today (Friday) that police were likely to question Murdoch's son James, News Corp's deputy COO, and Rebekah Brooks, the head of News International, the umbrella group for Murdoch's U.K. news operations. Scotland Yard, he indicated, would want to ask them about their role, if any, in the spying, which mostly involved accessing the voicemail of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of British citizens, many of them prominent celebrities and politicians, but also other ordinary citizens, including a murdered child and soldiers slain in Iraq. "It won't be a question of whether they have jobs or whether they are going to resign from those jobs, it's a question of whether they are going to be prosecuted, whether they are going to be convicted, whether they are going to be punished. That is what is going to happen," he said. In what is likely to be the first of many mea culpas, the prime minister conceded that he may have promoted a close relationship between himself and the two Murdochs. "The regret I have -- the problem we are all now identifying is that leading politicians feel so strongly about wanting that relationship -- not just with the Murdochs but with every broadcasting organization, we don't actually stop and spend enough time asking -- 'is this organization behaving properly?'" Cameron has come under fire for defending his former press secretary, Andy Coulson, who was editor of News of the World at the time much of the voicemail hacking was being conducted. Although he resigned from his government job in January, Coulson has consistently denied that he knew anything at all about the hacking -- something disputed by several former News of the World reporters who worked for him. This morning, Coulson was arrested on charges of conspiring to intercept communications and on making "inappropriate payments to police." In his statement announcing the shutdown of News of the World , James Murdoch appeared to acknowledge that he had approved making millions of dollars in settlements to victims of the phone hackings in order to thwart a criminal investigation. "The company paid out-of-court settlements approved by me. I now know that I did not have a complete picture when I did so. This was wrong and is a matter of serious regret." But Labor MP Tom Watson, one of the most prominent voices in Parliament to condemn the hacking, said today, "News International has entered the criminal underworld... James Murdoch should be suspended from office while the police now investigate what I believe was his personal authorization to plan a cover-up of this scandal."