While the News Corp. phone hacking scandal involves everyone from international soccer star David Beckham to the British royal family, an even more sensitive charge was added Tuesday — the hacking of national security information.
The Guardian reported that the London Metropolitan Police are investigating whether private detectives working for News Corp. hacked into the computers of government officials responsible for Northern Ireland.
The story alleges that detectives working for News International, News Corp.’s UK publishing arm, hacked into the computer of Peter Hain, a military police officer and the former Northern Ireland secretary, and those of other Northern Ireland agents.
Those computers contained sensitive intelligence information.
Northern Ireland has long been a touchy subject in the United Kingdom, and Hain oversaw negotiations between the province and the British government.
News International has been at the center of the scandal as it used to count the News of the World as one of its newspapers. Employees of the now-shuttered tabloid — as well as private detectives it hired — stand accused of hacking thousands of victims.
This is not the first time intelligence matters have been brought into the hacking scandal. Ian Hurst, a former British Army officer, has accused the News of the World of hacking his email account to search for Irish Republican Army informants.
Neither News Corp. or Hain’s office has commented publicly because of the ongoing police investigation.
Meanwhile, the Leveson inquiry into phone hacking and broader media practices continues to produce new accusations and revelations about the history and extent of hacking.
Paul McMullan, a former News of the World reporter, testified Tuesday that the tabloid’s editors were aware of the hacking and condoned it.
McMullan pointed the finger at both Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks, whom he dubbed the "scum of journalism." Brooks was editor of the News of the World from 2000 to 2003, and eventually moved up the ladder to become chief executive of News International. A close friend of the Murdochs, she resigned in July and was arrested in connection with the scandal.
Coulson succeeded Brooks as editor and later went on to work for British Prime Minister David Cameron. He resigned from that post in January because of the scandal, and was also later arrested.
McMullan insisted hacking was the right thing from a free speech perspective, as it gave the public information it wanted. However, both Brooks and Coulson have tried to distance themselves from the reporters and investigators who stand accused.