As the News of the World phone hacking scandal morphed into an internationally significant story earlier this summer, one newspaper in particular – the Guardian – stood at the center of the storm. It seemed the British daily uncovered a new salacious detail every day, and, on some days, every hour.
Now Scotland Yard wants to know how The Guardian pulled it off. The Metropolitan seeks a court order to make the newspaper’s reporters reveal their confidential sources under the Official Secrets Act, the Guardian reports.
The implication is that the reporters developed sources within the police department who leaked information and documents, which the Met would claim is a major security breach. The police have also begun investigating one of its own for violating the act.
Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger has expressed the paper’s readiness to fight the order.
The Met’s claims stem from stories regarding not just details of the scandal that emerged, but their own ineptitude in pursuing those details.
It was the Guardian that broke the story of Milly Dowler, a 13-year old girl whose phone was hacked after being kidnapped and later murdered. Her story transformed the entire scandal, leading to the resignation of not just journalists at the News of the World and its parent company News International, News Corp.’s British publishing subsidiary, but also at Scotland Yard itself.
Met commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson and assistant commissioner John Yates both stepped down amid public outcry over the mishandling of the case and questionable governmental relationships with News Corp. employees.
The Guardian notes that the Official Secrets Act has rarely been used to prosecute journalists, and that when it has it has not worked. However, Ifithe police succeed this would represent a major blow to press freedom,