Phone Hacking ‘Widely Discussed’ at News of the World, Says Jailed Reporter

Ex-Journal publisher Les Hinton invited to update testimony amid new allegations that seem to undercut it

Phone hacking was "widely discussed" at News of the World editorial meetings until former editor Andy Coulson banned references to it, according to a just-released letter from the paper's former royal correspondent, who was jailed over phone hacking in 2006.

In another development Tuesday, the British Parliament said it would ask several former News Corp. employees to testify next month and would write to others — including former Dow Jones CEO and Wall Street Journal publisher Les Hinton — to ask if they wish to amend or expand on their past testimony about the scandal.

The announcement came after the letter released Tuesday seemed to undercut Hinton's testimony.

In a letter written to News Corp. human resources four years ago to protest his firing for hacking, Clive Goodman argued that "other members of staff were carrying out the same illegal procedures" and that the practice was discussed in meetings until "explicit reference to it was banned by the Editor."

That editor, Coulson, later resigned over Goodman's hacking, and was hired as an aide to Prime Minister David Cameron. Cameron has tried to distance himself from the scandal by calling for multiple investigations.

Hinton was sent a copy of Goodman's letter but failed to pass it to police, the Guardian reported. Hinton testified to parliament that he believed Goodman acted alone and had received no evidence to the contrary — despite Goodman's letter contendeding that the practice was widespread.

Hinton, who previously served as head of News International, News Corp.’s British publishing division, also led an internal investigation into allegations of hacking.

Besides Hinton, Parliament said it would also ask former News of the World editors Coulson and Rebekah Brooks and former managing editor Stuart Kuttner if they wished to change or expand on their testimony. All have resigned from News Corp. in the scandal, and Coulson resigned from Cameron's administration as well. All three have also been arrested as part of the police's investigation into alleged phone hacking and bribery within the past two months.

Goodman's letter was published Tuesday by the House of Commons' culture, media and sport select committee. It was dated March 2, 2007, soon after he was released from a four-month sentence.

Among those the committee will ask to testify Sept. 6 is the paper's former attorney, Tom Crone, the subject of one of the most potentially embarrassing allegations in Goodman's letter.

"Tom Crone and the editor promised on many occasions that I could come back to a job at the newspaper if I did not implicate the paper or any of its staff in my mitigation plea," Goodman wrote. "I did not, and I expect the paper to honour its promise to me."

Crone has been both the accused and an accuser. He and former News of the World editor Colin Myler openly questioned the veracity of James Murdoch’s testimony before Parliament. Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corp. Europe & Asia, testified alongside his father Rupert Murdoch, who is chairman and CEO of News Corp.