September 13th, 2011
09:04 AM ET

Phone-hacking scandal's far-reaching tentacles

As the UK parliament's inquiry into News of the World phone-hacking scandal continues, there's a lot of back-and-forth going on with regards to who knew what was happening - and when.

Immediately after the major players testified in July, it appeared that a bit of a calm before the storm was on the horizon. Things went silent for a bit. But that's changed now as new allegations, arrests and concerns have brought about new questions and evidence in the case.

To start with, a former lawyer for News of the World testified that News Corp. executive James Murdoch must have known that illegal phone hacking at the News of the World newspaper was not confined to the single journalist who was imprisoned for it. Tom Crone, who was legal manager of the paper, said Murdoch would only have given Crone authority to settle a lawsuit against News of the World if he had understood that there had been more illegal eavesdropping.

That kind of testimony and other new pieces of evidence alleging widespread knowledge about phone-hacking practices have led to serious questions about testimony given to the UK parliament in July.

And it appears the parliament is acting on those concerns by recalling Former senior News Corp. executive Les Hinton to testify, a spokesman for the panel said Tuesday.

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee is also "highly likely" to recall News International chief executive James Murdoch - who gave evidence before the parliamentary committee in July alongside his father Rupert - to face fresh questions from lawmakers, the spokesman said.

Since the scandal has been broken open more than a dozen people have been arrested. All are currently free on bail. Former News of the World Editor Rebekah Brooks was arrested, becoming the highest-profile figure to be held over the scandal. Dow Jones' chief executive Les Hinton stepped down after working with News Corp. for 52 years.

The scandal has also forced the country's top police officer to resign, closed its best-selling newspaper, shuttered parts of the Murdoch empire and called Prime Minister David Cameron's judgment into question. Sean Hoare, a former News of the World employee, and one of the first journalists to go on the record and allege phone hacking at News of the World was found dead.

It's a lot to wrap your head around - and there are a lot of people and institutions greatly impacted by the scandal. So we're going to break it down and take a look at the key players under fire, the tentacles of Rupert Murdoch's operations, who's implicated, what the scandal could mean for all of them and where the whole scandal stands right now.

How this all started

Murdoch closed News of the World, less than a week after it came out that reporters working for him had illegally eavesdropped on the phone of a missing girl, Milly Dowler, and deleted some of her messages to make room for more. She was later found dead.

Timeline: How scandal unfolded

Closing the paper has not put an end to the scandal, which has exposed the close links the British press has with both politicians and the police.

Police in the United Kingdom have identified almost 4,000 potential targets of phone hacking in documents recovered from a private investigator working for the paper.

The FBI initiated investigating News Corp. after a report that employees or associates may have tried to hack into phone conversations and voice mail of September 11 survivors, victims and their families.

The key players:

To understand the scandal, you've got to be able to understand the tentacles of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., which encompasses Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and Harper Collins publishers in the United States. News International - a British subsidiary of News Corp. - owns The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times in Britain. And then there are the allegations of political and police officials being a part of the scandal. They're important to factor in here too.

So let's dive into the big players.

Rupert Murdoch

He's the man at the top of a collapsing international media conglomerate right now. With a phone-hacking scandal engulfing his massive media empire, Murdoch has been apologizing to the British public with full-page advertisements in seven national newspapers.

But apologies alone don't appear to be solving the crisis Murdoch is facing.

Professor John R. Kimberly, who also co-authored "The Soul of the Corporation: How to Manage the Identity of Your Company" says, "ironically Rupert Murdoch is caught in a web of his own making."

GPS: The fall of the house of Murdoch

"His British assets and actions already under siege, the mogul must now answer before a judge for a tangled media scandal. And the consequences are reaching across the Atlantic," Time.com's Nick Assinder writes.   "Is this the beginning of the end of the house of Murdoch?" he asks.

The biggest question seems to be how this will all play out for Murdoch and as Time.com puts it: Whether Murdoch's struggle to preserve his influence can persevere through the scandal.

During his testimony to the UK Parliament committee Murdoch maintained that he couldn't know all of the goings on at his different media arms.

That testimony made some legal experts question whether that could be true.

Or in some cases others wondered whether that was just the way that Murdoch operated.

James Murdoch

News Corp. deputy Chief Operating Officer James Murdoch, who is Rupert Murdoch's son, was called to answer questions from the U.K parliament over the scandal.

It was the son who made the decision to shut down the News of the World. And now the heir apparent to the empire may in fact face some of the harshest criticism as he has toes dipped in both sides of the pond. It could be a case of "Double Trouble" as Time.com puts it.

"James is a heavy favorite to one day succeed his father as News Corp.'s chief executive," Time.com's Nick Carbone writes. "But how far will James – and the company – fall if legal charges are brought forth?

It may be far - depending on how the next round of testimony goes. A slew of new information and evidence has called into question how truthful the younger Murdoch was during his testimony.

Parliament released new documents in August that cast doubt on the veracity of testimony he gave to lawmakers about News International's role in the phone hacking scandal.

James Murdoch has denied having known about an e-mail that included transcripts of 35 hacked conversations. The e-mail is believed to have been intended for Neville Thurlbeck, who was then chief reporter for the now-defunct tabloid, News of the World.

Rebekah Brooks

So just who is Rebekah Brooks? The youngest ever editor of a U.K. newspaper, described as both "ruthless" and "charming" and known for her "tenacity as a reporter," she forfeited her stellar rise through Rupert Murdoch's media empire when she resigned on Friday. She was arrested Sunday on charges related  to the scandal.

She held the top job at News International, the News Corp.'s British subsidiary, for two years after editing the country's best-selling daily tabloid, The Sun, and it's best-selling Sunday tabloid, News of the World.

Brooks appeared before members of Parliament  alongside her former boss, media baron Rupert Murdoch, and his son James, an executive of News Corp.

Andy Coulson

BBC business editor Robert Peston has claimed that News of the World e-mails showed former royal correspondent Clive Goodman "was requesting cash from the newspaper's editor, Andy Coulson, to buy a confidential directory of the royal family's land line telephone numbers, and all the phone numbers - including mobiles - of the household staff."

Goodman was sent to prison in 2007 for illegally intercepting royal family voice mail. Coulson insisted he knew nothing about the crime, but resigned as editor because it happened on his watch.

Coulson then went on to become communications director for David Cameron, now Britain's Conservative prime minister, but resigned from that post earlier this year because of fallout from the phone-hacking scandal. He was questioned by police and released on bail until October.

A new letter released to parliament in August reveals that while fighting his dismissal from the paper four years ago, former royal correspondent Clive Goodman alleged that "other members of staff were carrying out the same illegal procedures."

The letter, provided to the committee by law firm Harbottle & Lewis, goes on: "This practice was widely discussed in the daily editorial conference, until explicit reference to it was banned by the Editor."

The editor at the time was Andy Coulson, who has denied knowledge of illegal practices while he was at the helm of News of the World.

British Prime Minister David Cameron

British Prime Minister David Cameron has been among those publicly decrying the hacking, blasting Murdoch's company Wednesday as he launched a high-powered judge-led investigation into the nation's press. He was part of the wide-ranging investigation into the British press which led to Murdoch's News Corp. withdrawing its bid to take over British satellite broadcaster BSkyB.

News Corp. executives need to focus "on clearing up the mess and getting their house in order," Cameron said.

Yet he has his own ties to the scandal, given his relationship with Andy Coulson.

Analysis: Hacking scandal is bad news for UK prime minister

The scandal has prompted questions over the British prime minister's judgment in hiring Coulson after he resigned as editor of the News of the World because of the allegations.

Speaking shortly before his former aide's arrest was announced, Cameron went on the defensive at a Downing Street news conference Friday, saying: "The decision to hire him was mine, and mine alone."

He said he gave Coulson a second chance after receiving assurances that he had not been involved in wrongdoing at the newspaper.

Les Hinton

The chief executive of Dow Jones stepped down from his post Friday after being with News Corp. 52 years. During much of that time he played a critical role in Murdoch's media empire.

But after Rebekah Brook's departure, he was the next company executive to emerge with a target on his back.

Before heading up Dow Jones, Hinton preceded Brooks as the executive chairman of News International during the same years News of the World was allegedly hacking into voice mails of British celebrities and politicians, as well as a murdered teen girl and the father of a bombing victim.

"The pain caused to innocent people is unimaginable," said Hinton. "That I was ignorant of what apparently happened is irrelevant and in the circumstances I feel it is proper for me to resign from News Corp, and apologize to those hurt by the actions of the News of the World."

He believed the "rotten element at News of the World had been eliminated" by the time he left News International to go to Dow Jones, he said.

Hinton will be recalled by the parliamentary committee in the hopes of trying to get a better understanding of what he knew and when and whether that matches up with what the Murdoch's said during their testimony.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Paul Stephenson and Assistant Commissioner John Yates

Britain's top police officer, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Paul Stephenson, resigned in light of close links between the police and journalists they were supposed to be investigating.

Time.com: Why the police chief's resignation is problematic for PM Cameron

Additionally, the British police officer who ruled two years ago that there was no reason to pursue an investigation into phone hacking by journalists resigned, the second top Metropolitan Police officer to quit in less than 24 hours.

Assistant Commissioner John Yates was due to be suspended when he quit, the Metropolitan Police Authority said - also apparently related to the scandal.

So, what happens next?

For now, we know that at the least Hinton is being recalled to testify before the  parliamentary committee. The Culture, Media and Sport Committee is also "highly likely" to recall News International chief executive James Murdoch - who gave evidence before the parliamentary committee in July with his father Rupert - to face fresh questions from lawmakers.

That new testimony may either help to clarify things or make them even more difficult. Whether charges will be pursued or not for these major players, it's hard to tell.

Regardless, when the dust settles, the question is ultimately: At the end of this all what will Murdoch's media empire look like? Will it be nothing more than a dismantled former conglomerate or will it eventually be able to regain its footing?

And how far will those tentacles reach across the Atlantic? Will Murdoch's big assets in the U.S. - Fox News, Wall Street Journal, New York Post, etc. - feel the impact too? Only time will tell.

soundoff (97 Responses)
  1. cheif sits on faces

    me use smoke signals, no one can hack-em smokey signal.

    July 18, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Maude

      You're dumb !

      July 18, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sherri

      You do know that your screen name is misspelled? Right? I before e, except after c. Should be 'chief' not cheif. Aside from that, your post is pretty funny though.

      July 18, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Marty rogers

    will the evil empire of Rupert Murdoch will finally collapse? hopefully but may be too late for the western world.The damage is done. Cantor much?

    July 18, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Doug J

    This is Corporate ESPIONAGE why is Corporate American media labeling it "hacking"? Murdoch/FOX has been doing this in every country in the world, mark my words! Espionage, blackmail, extortion!

    July 18, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Nodack

    Far reaching tentacles, front page news everywhere except any media Murdoch owns. Then it's buried and smoothed over.

    Nice try Murdo. Good luck with that you ruthless ugly, brainwashing, lying, cheating, criminal.

    July 18, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Luia contreras

    IT;s scary to know what this people were capable of doing what other information they might have.

    July 18, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Maude

    Stone Masons of the world be aware! You guys will eat your own young to protect the Grandmaster "the wicked one".
    Old Rupert guy is the fall guy.

    July 18, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Snoop

      You mean "freemasons", I think. Genius.

      July 18, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Lisa

    One can only hope it will reach across the Atlantic and Fox News will go off the air.

    July 18, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Snoop

      Aww.. snookums doesn't like to hear opinions contrary to her own..

      July 18, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Maude

      If it is vile, disgusting, wrong, biased and ill gotten- why should she listen to the crapola from fox news.

      July 18, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • retto

      because freedom of speach means you hear the stuff you don't like also

      July 24, 2011 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
    • retto

      * speech

      July 24, 2011 at 8:45 am | Report abuse |
  8. ProudVet1968

    When is Murdoch going to accept responsibility for all the hate that he's spread through FOX?  With great power comes great responsibility.  Seems that Mr. Murdoch has forgotten that.

    July 18, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. educatedguess

    as if CNN and NYT was either better than, or different from, fox and NoW?

    July 18, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. just a thought

    Wonder how many other news media corperations (and political organizations) are doing the same thing, but haven't been caught?

    July 18, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  11. HRM banasy

    I don't think Murdoch cares, ProudVet1968.
    With great power also comes an inconvenient conscience.

    July 18, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  12. HCX

    My wise mamma always said, "Time wounds all heels".

    July 18, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Hopeful

    Hoping they close down Fox News along with everything else related to Murdoch. That would be a good day for America.

    July 18, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Sunny

    What happens next?
    Well, a non political scapegoat would be installed, and hunted like a wild pig.

    July 18, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Michael

    Why is anyone surprised? This is all corporate behavior at its most typical–for conglomerates in general and for this conglomerate in particular. Watching all this unfold gives me great delight, and I think it's possible that the UK may finally achieve what we in America don't even dare to think about–that is, they might actually hold the CEOs legally accountable for the criminal cultures they create. And if anyone thinks that any of the Murdoch executives didn't know precisely what was going on, he or she is more stupid than anyone can imagine. Or–in case you really are that stupid–if they were in fact unaware, then they should be legally charged with criminal incompetence and negligence. Now, if only we in the US could grow the backbone to press criminal charges against the banking executives. And, to be completely fair–President Obama: Where is your justice department's anti-trust activity?

    July 18, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • us1776

      They'll get right on that anti-trust stuff right after the administration gets all the inherited GOP disaster cleaned up.

      The president inherited a collapsed financial system, a collapsed economy, 2 needless wars-for-profit totally over $4.4 Trillion dollars of total-loss spending, inherited a near $1 Trillion dollar TARP bailout, and a ton of other issues that cascaded from the above.

      So I'm sure anti-trust is on the agenda, it will just have to wait its turn.

      .

      July 18, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      You are absolutely right, the CEO is responsible – ignorance is no defence. However.... I just can't help thinking that the Murdochs will get away with this. They aren't UK citizens so there is only so much the authorities there can do. It's up to the US to bring Murdoch to justice and as you suggest I can't see that happening.

      July 18, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hopeful

      Probably headed by the Republicans who will protect Murdoch and Faux news at all costs. They'll have to rely solely on AM Hate radio and idiot bloggers. Too bad for the regular Fox station though, that actually has good programming on it.

      July 18, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
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