An e-mail trail has emerged revealing that James Murdoch, News Corp.’s Deputy COO, was warned about the potential scope of phone hacking, but Murdoch has written to Parliament claiming that he did not read the full e-mail chain.
Questions about what Murdoch knew and when he knew it have plagued the chief of News Corp.’s international operations since the scandal broke open in July. Former employees have insisted they informed him of the potential that hacking was widespread, but he has repeatedly denied those claims.
This latest bit of evidence further muddies the picture.
Colin Myler, the final editor of the News of the World, the British tabloid at the center of the scandal, sent an e-mail to Murdoch on June 7, 2008, requesting a meeting with him. In the e-mail, Myler writes that the case of Gordon Taylor, the former head of the Professional Football Association and a hacking victim, “is as bad as we feared.”
Another e-mail in that chain from Julian Pike, a partner at law firm Farrer & Co, says that Taylor “wants to demonstrate that what happened to him is/was rife throughout the organization.”
While this does not prove that hacking was in fact “rife” — something that now seems apparent — this does demonstrate Murdoch was warned about that possibility. Murdoch has denied such a warning to Parliament in an effort to explain why News International, News Corp.’s British publishing arm, did not take greater steps to correct the transgressions.
In a letter to Parliament, Murdoch continued his denials, writing, “I am confident that I did not review the full e-mail chain at the time or afterwards, nor do I recall a conversation with Mr. Myler that weekend.”
He added “I would also like to take this opportunity to reaffirm my past testimony that I was not aware of evidence that either pointed to widespread wrongdoing or indicated that further investigation was necessary.”
Why did this information just come to Murdoch’s attention? He didn’t see the full e-mail chain until Dec. 7 of this year, as the examination of his company’s internal documents continues.
And what of the meeting between Myler, Murdoch and former News of the World lawyer Tom Crone? Murdoch has stated he was not told about the “For Neville” e-mail, which demonstrated that hacking extended beyond one “rogue reporter.” He says he just authorized a larger settlement for Taylor.
Taylor, one of several thousand hacking targets, was awarded about $1.2 million.
One bit of good news that has emerged recently for News Corp. is that it remains unclear who deleted the voicemails on Milly Dowler's phone. Dowler's case ignited the hacking conflagration when the Guardian's Nick Davies reported that the News of the World had deleted voicemails on the kidnapped girl's phone, leading her parents to believe she was still alive. She wasn't.
Recent evidence suggests the News of the World was not responsible for the Dowlers' false hope, though this doesn't erase the evidence of extensive hacking.