Reporter’s letter ties Murdoch execs to hacking

LONDON, (Reuters) – Many senior executives at Rupert  Murdoch’s News of the World knew about phone hacking at the  British tabloid, according to a 2007 letter written by a  reporter which contradicts James Murdoch’s denials and drags  Britain’s prime minister back into the scandal.

Clive Goodman

The claims put new pressure on James Murdoch, who runs News  Corp’s European operations, and further hurt his chances of  succeeding his father, Rupert, as chief executive. In a letter written four years ago in an appeal against his  dismissal from the tabloid, former royal reporter Clive Goodman  said the practice of hacking was openly discussed until the  then-editor Andy Coulson banned any reference to it.
Coulson, who has repeatedly denied all knowledge of the  practice, went on to become the official spokesman for Prime  Minister David Cameron, a move which took the affair into the  political arena and forced the government to turn on Rupert  Murdoch after years of courting his favour.

“This practice was widely discussed in the daily editorial  conference, until explicit reference to it was banned by the  Editor,” the Goodman letter said, published as part of a  parliamentary investigation into hacking. “Other members of  staff were carrying out the same illegal procedures.”

Goodman, who was jailed in 2007 along with private  detective Glenn Mulcaire, said he had been told he could keep  his job if he agreed not to implicate the newspaper — but was  fired nonetheless after being sentenced to prison.

The committee investigating the hacking scandal said on  Tuesday it would probably recall the younger Murdoch to give  further evidence after receiving the Goodman letter and  statements from other parties which contradicted his previous  testimony. “I think it is very likely that we will want to put those  points to James Murdoch,” said committee head John  Whittingdale, adding that it was unlikely to recall Rupert  Murdoch.

Tom Watson, the parliamentarian who has most doggedly  pursued the scandal, told Sky News it could be months if not  years before the full picture of what had happened at the  newspaper emerged. “If this letter is accurate, the whole  foundation of the company’s defence collapses,” he said.

Allegations of widespread hacking at News Corp’s British  newspaper arm, and in particular reports that journalists had  used investigators to hack in to the voicemails of murder  victims, sparked an uproar in Britain that dominated global  headlines for almost the whole of July.

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