Phone hacking: all in this together
Clive Goodman‘s explosive letter poses fundamental questions for the whole phone-hacking controversy
On 26 January 2007, Clive Goodman, the News of the World‘s royal editor, pleaded guilty to illegal phone hacking and was jailed for four months. On the same day, private investigator Glenn Mulcaire also pleaded guilty and was jailed for six months. A few days later, on 5 February 2007, News International‘s executive chairman Les Hinton – a man of whom Rupert Murdoch told MPs last month “I would trust him with my life” – sacked Mr Goodman in a “Dear Clive” letter. On 2 March, Mr Goodman replied to NI’s human resources director, copying his letter to Mr Hinton, to set out his grounds for appeal against the sacking.
No editorial comment on Mr Goodman’s letter, published on Tuesday by the culture, media and sport select committee, can risk interfering with ongoing investigations and possible legal proceedings. Suffice it to say that the letter from Mr Goodman pulls few punches. His sacking, Mr Goodman wrote, was perverse because the phone hacking which he had conducted on three employees of the royal family was “carried out with the full knowledge and support” of individuals whose names have been redacted from the published text but who must have been NI editorial executives.
Mr Goodman’s next claim is every bit as striking. His sacking was inconsistent, he argues, because named but redacted individuals “and other members of staff” were themselves carrying out “the same illegal procedures”, some of them also with Mr Mulcaire. And then this bombshell: “This practice was widely discussed at the daily editorial conference, until explicit reference to it was banned by the Editor.”
That editor was Andy Coulson, who was later taken on as David Cameron’s communications chief, until he resigned in January 2011. Almost as an afterthought, Mr Goodman then observes that his defence team meetings had almost always been attended by News International’s legal manager too, that he continued to be given responsible tasks by NI while suspended, that he was employed by NI throughout most of his sentence, and that he had been promised his NoW job back “if I did not implicate the paper or any of its staff” in his mitigation plea.
Mr Goodman’s explosive letter poses very fundamental questions for the whole phone-hacking story of the past four and a half years. In the first place, it claims that the practice of phone hacking at the News of the World was not the rogue operation that NI has always insisted, but was known about, supported and paid for by named NI executives. Second, it claims that other reporters at the News of the World were doing the very same thing, and that NoW executives not only knew about this too, but discussed it openly among themselves in editorial conferences until they got scared. Third, it claims that NI was actively involved in preparing the defence and in supporting Mr Goodman in the face of phone-hacking charges.
In short, Mr Goodman’s letter provides a version of events wholly at odds with the one that NI executives, from Rupert and James Murdochdownwards, have repeatedly offered but from which they have been compelled to make successive retreats. NI continues to insist that one bad apple was responsible for the phone-hacking scandals. Later revelations have increasingly suggested a reckless culture, self-confidently untouchable. Another angry document, this time from NI’s solicitors, gave this process another sharp twist, making James Murdoch’s recall before MPs unavoidable. The new revelations pose a big threat. Four days after Mr Goodman’s letter, on 6 March 2007, the normally hands-on Mr Hinton told MPs: “I believe absolutely that Andy did not have knowledge of what was going on.” That claim is not compatible with Mr Goodman’s. They can’t both be right. Past and present News International grandees, from the Murdochs down, can only be getting more nervous. And the same now goes for Mr Cameron too.
- Hacking widely discussed claim (ikners.com)
- Phone hacking: all in this together | Editorial (guardian.co.uk)
- Phone hacking: all in this together – The Guardian (news.google.com)
- Phone Hacking: News Of The World Reporter Clive Goodman Alleges Huge Cover-Up, Wide Knowledge Of Hacking (jhaines6.wordpress.com)
- Hackergate: Letter reveals major cover-up at ‘News of the World’ (dangerousminds.net)
- Letter Raises New Questions About Internal Inquiry at Tabloid (thelede.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Phone hacking: ‘orchestrated cover-up’ of hacking at News of the World (telegraph.co.uk)
- Phone hacking: ‘orchestrated cover-up’ of hacking at News of the World – Telegraph.co.uk (news.google.com)
- Guardian: Disgraced NoW correspondent said hacking was done with ‘the full knowledge and support’ of senior journalists (guardian.co.uk)
- Phone hacking: News of the World reporter’s letter reveals cover-up – The Guardian (news.google.com)