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Part of the hair-raising pleasure of observing British politics is the skill with which rhetoric -- learned at the Oxford and Cambridge debating societies, which are the launch pad for careers in politics -- is deployed.

There's a classic name for this one, lobbed by Cameron, which only a Brit would know, having read it in the original Greek how-to by silver-tongued Demosthenes. Like the double-half-hitch-Tongue-Fu-Phi-Epsilon-whammy.

Cameron asserted this in his speech to Parliament today, and the salient bit which raised the hair on my arms was how he reframed what could easily be seen as a coverup -- his chief of staff's refusal to be briefed on hacking and/or his employee, Coulson -- as the right and proper thing to do.

No 10 has now published the full email exchange between my chief of Staff and John Yates and it shows my staff behaved entirely properly.

Ed Llewellyn’s reply to the police made clear that it would be not be appropriate to give me or my staff any privileged briefing.

The reply that he sent was cleared in advance by my Permanent Secretary, Jeremy Heywood.

Just imagine, Mr Speaker, if they had done the opposite and asked for, or acquiesced in receiving privileged information – even if there was no intention to use it.

There would have been quite justified outrage.

To risk any perception that No 10 was seeking to influence a sensitive police investigation in any way would have been completely wrong.

Mr Yates and Sir Paul both backed this judgment in their evidence yesterday.


I am almost certain that Yates and Sir Paul said nothing of the kind. And I'm certain my fiancé is on the case, since parsing who is lying seems to be his mandate at this point.

On the other hand, a reasonably trustworthy straight arrow leftish pundit says:
In another easily-missed aside, Cameron argued that Llewelyn was guiding the police towards not acting improperly.

It was by no means easily missed but stood out as some sort of pixelated and vibrating version of another reality.

I wonder what it does mean?
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Jay Rock, Senate commerce committee chair, asks Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal, to investigate Rupe's road dog of 50+ years, Hinton, who resigned in the phone hacking fallout from Dow Jones Friday.

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...cripples the inquiry by adding the BBC, one of Murdoch's betes noire, to the list of press suspects to be investigated. The Guardian and the Independent, who have lead the phone hacking inquiry, are also to be added to the list of media to be investigated by the judicial inquiry Cameron himself set up two weeks ago to contain the phone hacking scandal.

"And not just at NI but also ... the BBC, the Independent and the Guardian. This is a cathartic moment to sort it out and put it on a proper footing."

This also makes the inquiry untenable in terms of getting it done with dispatch.

The inquiry has been divided into two parts, with the investigation into hacking allegations to start only after criminal allegations have been settled.

In other news of tiny nuggets that are likely flashpoints, the BBC reports that Murdoch has given his lawyers, Harbottle and Lewis, permission to respond to police and judicial inquiries. Harbottle are the people who sat on incriminating hack/bribery emails for years. Harbottle screamed bloody murder Tuesday after the Murdochs' testimony that Harbottle's response to inquiry was limited by attorney-client privilege. In a statement, Harbottle implied that if NI released them from the confidentiality privilege, the story would be very different from the Murdochs' testimony. At issue was the Murdochs' insistence that in every case of malfeasance, they were relying on the advice of counsel -- among other things, on the defense that the hacking was confined to one rogue reporter and that nothing else, including police bribery, apparently, had gone down.

Along with Scotland Yard and its allegations against Cameron, I think Harbottle will be the source of serious allegations against the Murdochs.

I'm hoping this is the beginning of the holy shit story.
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Ok, Spideysense points out that my fiance, Nick Davies, who has been in the lead on the phone hacking story for years and broke the Dowler story two weeks ago, does not have a byline on any story for the past four or five very, very exciting days, since his appreciation of Sean Hoare, the former NotW reporter who was the NYT source on phone hacking, who found dead last week.

Either Murdoch has suicided Nick, in which case the police would have called us, or, as I suspect, he is closeted with leaking Scotland Yarders getting the goods on Cameron. Former Yard chieftains Stephenson and Yates are reportedly furious that while they had to resign for hiring a tainted NotW exec (Wallis), Cameron, who did the same (Coulson), doesn't seem to think he does.

This, as I point out elsewhere, is the point at which Watergate started to get serious -- when the FBI informant, Mark Felt, contacted Woodward and started to guide the coverage.

Yeah, baby. Age and treachery will always overcome youth and talent.

I await with trembling pleasure my fiance Nick Davies' next byline.

Here it is. It's the second byline here. I have to figure out what that means.

It definitely sounds like a Harbottle leak, based on the "Neville" email.

Sounds like the Guardian is going after inconsistencies in the Murdochs' testimony, which is, after all, the main meat. James' payout to a hacking victim -- in which the incriminatory email and other records were sealed -- is the criminal allegation against James, as well as, apparently, the basis of an inquiry by the British Serious Fraud office which would apparently characterize the misallocation of corporate funds -- hush money -- as fraud of shareholders. Hottttttt.
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One front of phone hacking fallout is the prime minister's having hired one of the alleged NotW hackers as communications director, first for the Conservative Party and then as the news director for the Prime Minister.

The opposition leader Miliband and others are trying to make something out of this, which is a serious error of judgment on the part of Cameron, who has stubbornly defended both Coulson, the editor in question, and his decision to hire him.

What is emerging is that Cameron's enemies -- now, most formidably, Scotland Yard itself -- are trying to make stick is the fury of the Scotland Yard executives, who, using a defense similar to Murdoch and Brooks -- we're not the only dirty dogs in this fiasco -- are disclosing details of their relation with the prime minister in their testimony before Parliament.

Their explicitly expressed anger is that if their two senior officers, Stephenson and Yates, the two senior police officers in Britain, had to resign because they hired an NotW executive (Wallis), why should the Prime Minister, who hired an even skankier NotW executive (Coulson), not resign also?

What both Stephenson, who resigned on Sunday, and Yates, ditto, told Parliament on Monday is that they both warned the prime minister's chief of staff about phone hacking matters, and the chief of staff asked them explicitly not to contaminate the prime minister with such information.

The prime minister -- and this is the very nice thing about making a cop your enemy -- was forced to release the text of emails between Yates and the chief of staff indicating the sort of menacing euphemisms these people used with each other.
Cut for the quote )

Cameron is also accused of innappropriate discussion of the BSkyB satellite TV takeover with the Murdochs.

And, quite murkily, but potentially most damaging, in Parliament today, an MP has alleged that a government official was hacked during Coulson's tenure as director of the Cameron government media service.

Finally, I forgot who, is trying to make something out of the fact that Coulson, while government news media director, consulted with his former NotW colleague, Wallis, who was also on retainer at Scotland Yard. If Wallis' two jobs overlapped, and/or if Scotland Yard info was tendered by Wallis, or vice versa 10 Downing Street info by Coulson, this would be potentially serious.

I think if Cameron's got Scotland Yard pissed off, and its well-liked former assistant commissioner Yates is encouraging his former colleagues to release confidential information after his abrupt resignation from the force, that the prime minister is in big trouble. Leaks from Scotland Yard will bring him down; I suspect the Mandarin's phone hacked story brought to bear in Parliament today is a leak from Scotland Yard.

Do they always get their man?
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As I predicted, US shareholders and execs at News Corp. are watching Rupe's testimony closely. They're discussing retiring him as CEO, and letting him stay on as chair, promoting Carey to CEO.http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-07-18/news-corp-said-to-consider-naming-chase-carey-as-ceo-suceeding-murdoch.html

Meanwhile, the independent directors of News Corp. are lawyering up.

Bloomberg pundits parse the Murdochs' testimony, saying stock rallied, James has positioned himself well for succession, and that we should buy News Corp. stock.

Who thinks James was gunning for succession in that appearance? After all the speculation about how he's going to have to step up to possible criminal charges for the L700K settlement payout to one of the hackers.
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Labour MP Farrelly, a former reporter/editor for the Observer, queries Trix:

Paul Farrelly is asking about Jon Chapman, the legal adviser who recently left the company. Did Chapman asks Harbottle & Lewis to sit on the evidence suggesting wrong-doing.

Brooks says Harbottle & Lewis are a respected legal firm. Chapman was a respected lawyer. He would not have done that.

Q: Chapman seems to be the fall guy? Did he act alone?

Brooks says Chapman would say, if asked, that when they looked at the file, they would have felt that the Harbottle & Lewis letter saying there was no evidence of wrongdoing was correct.

Q: Did you ask other editors in 2009 not to give the phone hacking story much play?

Brooks says she would have discussed industry matters with people like [Daily Mail editor] Paul Dacre. But she does not recall specifically phoning him up to discuss this.

(That seems to be a reference to this story.)


One basic defense, emanating apparently from Rupe himself, is that all the British newspapers hack phones and bribe police. Dacre has been told, in no uncertain terms, that Rupe was not going to be the only dirty dog. How this exonerates you from illegal activity, and also encourages your rival not to cut your balls off, I do not understand.

Brooks repeatedly made threatening reference to Farrelly's former employment as a reporter, suggesting that he or his former employer were also guilty of illegal dark arts.

One lawyer said Farrelly landed "the killer punch", getting the Murdochs to admit they're now paying the legal fees for the detective whose 11,000 pages of notes of phones hacked on behalf of NotW lay in garbage bags on Scotland Yard's evidence shelves for -- six years?
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These are the lawyers who sat on the incriminating stash of NotW e-mails (I believe) for four years. Rupe and James frequently testified today that they relied on the advice of counsel to assert that the investigation was over and there was no further "emerging evidence". Harbottle and Lewis quickly issued this denial:

Harbottle & Lewis said in a statement issued this evening:

News International representatives referred to our advice in their statements today before the Parliamentary Select Committee, both as a result of questioning and on their own account.

We asked News International to release us from our professional duties of confidentiality in order that we could respond to any inaccurate statements or contentions and to explain events in 2007.

News International declined that request, and so we are still unable to respond in any detail as to our advice or the scope of our instructions in 2007, which is a matter of great regret.

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Guardian insta-pundit #2:

Perhaps Rupert Murdoch doesn't read the Guardian. Whatever his newspaper reading habits are, one thing is clear; the great old man of newspapers looked hopelessly out of touch in the early stages of the father-and-son grilling in front of MPs today.

There were the marathon pauses; the one-word answers; the look, again and again of mystification. He tried, several times, to defer to James, who clearly had plenty of answers at his fingertips. His hand beat the desk several times to emphasise the occasional long answer. But above all, Rupert Murdoch knew nothing about phone hacking – and he didn't look like he was acting either.

Rupert did one to make one point clear, though, making an ill-timed intervention at the beginning of the hearing, interrupting his son's flow. "This is the most humble day of my life," the patriarch interjected. We understood the message: show contrition – yet it was so artlessly done, it showed nothing of the sort.

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Rebekah Brooks, the flame-haired editrix, basically said she was shocked, shocked to discover her managing editor was paying detectives to hack phones.

I didn't catch her testimony, only the parting shot, in which she asked the committee to invite her back when the charges against her have been settled. This sounds like extortion to me.
Brooks is asked if she has anything to add.

She wants to make a request to the committee that, when she is free from the legal constraints that she says she is under today, they will invite her back to answer "in a more fulsome way".

The answer from committee chairman John Whittingdale is yes. Her appearance in front of the committee is over now.


Again, why would a reponsible executive promote to the highest reaches of the company someone who claims not to know what the managing editor of her paper was doing, and threatens to expose others the minute she has stopped defending herself against hacking and police bribery charges, implying she is singing like a bird to the police?
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The Guardian's insta-pundit review of the Murdochs' testimony:

In brief, here was Andrew Sparrow's view of the Murdochs:

Rupert Murdoch

"Most humble day of my career" was the soundbite he gave us, but humility wasn't really what anyone will remember. It will be the short, gruff answers, delivered as if he was not entirely clear what had been going on. Was it because he's 80 and he can't hear very well any more, or was it because he didn't really want to engage? Probably a mixture of the two. But he did seem unflappable when the "foam hacker" struck. Tough bugger.

James Murdoch

Evasive, but in a way that was smooth and articulate. He kept telling the MPs how good their questions were and launching into long answers that weren't always particularly illuminating.


All in all, I think they set themselves up to be fired as incompetent by the boards of News Corp., and as active in a conspiracy to cover up crimes in any future legal action by the U.S. Department of Justice and the British Serious Fraud Office. Rupe's saying he only paid attention to what happens at the Wall Street Journal is the flaming rocket Eric Holder will see heading toward his backside.
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I only caught the last and most xciting part of ITN's live stream of the Murdoch hearings in the House of Commons. It much amuses me as you will have guessed, to have the freedom to pit my nose for news against the others, and so, before I go and read the extensive live blog transcripts at the Guardian, I am going to lay down my impressions.

I was impressed by James' demeanor. He acts forthright very well. His stepping in to clarify the bumptious and yet out-of-it remarks of the Wendinator's shar-pei, his honorable father, the artist formerly known as Rupert Murdoch, tells at least half of the tale. (You were wondering why News Corp. is looking into China as its next venue? Now you know.)

What I thought was monstrous was how James, who is clearly the only compos mentis person present, kept referring to a sewage of events as "emerging evidence", as if he were a cop investigating something far away for which he bore absolutely no responsibility. I do think it's the only way he could have played it. But it was bad.
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With a wife like this, who needs a Wackenhut?

Some kind of violence or mishap has interrupted the live coverage of the Murdoch testimony. The last thing I saw was Wendi, nee Deng Wende, rising to hit someone along with others in a crowd.
I suspect someone was heading toward Rupe, seated at the table in front of her.

Jane Martinson reports from the hearing: "He was sitting four rows back, calmly walked up with a plate of shaving foam - smacked it in Rupert's face - Wendi intervened."

Room has been cleared, Rupe laved, and inquisition continues.

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Mr. and Mrs. Trix

The flame-haired editrix has a husband, her second.

(The first is an actor famous mainly for being punched out by the flame-haired editrix, when he is not acting a "hard man" in the long-running lowbrow Britsoap, East Enders).

Said husband #2, who sounds like a bookie, tried to claim a bag containing a computer, a telephone, and other papers which had been found in a garbage can in a parking lot near the Trixes' London house.

The security guard wouldn't turn it over and called the police.

Mr. Trix says the computer is his, and that by no stretch of the imagination did he bin the bag, he left the bag with a friend, who just dropped the bag off in the parking lot for Mr. Trix to pick up. Nuthin to do with nuthin, says Mr. Trix' own PR person.

This just gets better and better.


Jul. 18th, 2011 02:23 pm
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As Rupe prepares for his cross-examination before a House of Commons committee tomorrow, News Corp are said to be worrying about whether the defensive, maudlin 80-year-old's testimony will sink the ship and require his ouster as CEO from the corporation.

Here are his coaches.
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At a time when the reputation of News of the World journalists is at rock bottom, it needs to be said that the paper's former showbusiness correspondent Sean Hoare, who died on Monday, was a lovely man.

In the saga of the phone-hacking scandal, he distinguished himself by being the first former NoW journalist to come out on the record, telling the New York Times last year that his former friend and editor, Andy Coulson, had actively encouraged him to hack into voicemail.

That took courage. But he had a particularly powerful motive for speaking. He knew how destructive the News of the World could be, not just for the targets of its exposés, but also for the ordinary journalists who worked there, who got caught up in its remorseless drive for headlines.

Explaining why he had spoken out, he told me: "I want to right a wrong, lift the lid on it, the whole culture. I know, we all know, that the hacking and other stuff is endemic. Because there is so much intimidation. In the newsroom, you have people being fired, breaking down in tears, hitting the bottle."

He knew this very well, because he was himself a victim of the News of the World. As a showbusiness reporter, he had lived what he was happy to call a privileged life. But the reality had ruined his physical health: "I was paid to go out and take drugs with rock stars – get drunk with them, take pills with them, take cocaine with them. It was so competitive. You are going to go beyond the call of duty. You are going to do things that no sane man would do. You're in a machine."

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Not seen as a suspicious death.

In a subsequent interview with the BBC [former NotW reporter Sean Hoare] alleged that he was personally asked by his then-editor, Coulson, to tap into phones. In an interview with the PM programme he said Coulson's insistence that he didn't know about the practice was "a lie, it is simply a lie".

At the time a Downing Street spokeswoman said Coulson totally and utterly denied the allegations and said he had "never condoned the use of phone hacking and nor do I have any recollection of incidences where phone hacking took place".

Sean Hoare, a one-time close friend of Coulson's, told the New York Times the two men first worked together at the Sun, where, Hoare said, he played tape recordings of hacked messages for Coulson. At the News of the World, Hoare said he continued to inform Coulson of his activities. Coulson "actively encouraged me to do it", Hoare said.


Reading the magisterial 2010 Times piece yesterday, I said to myself, there's a suicide among these sources.

If I'm wrong, we're into the big time now. Murder not out of the question, as the alleged murderer Rees, who was acquitted of charges he sunk an ax into his business partner's head, was a PI hired by the NotW exec Coulson, who went on to become prime minister Cameron's communications director. Acquitted ax murderer Rees was on Coulson's NotW payroll for years, before and after two criminal trials.

Rees, who had worked for the paper for seven years, was jailed for planting cocaine on a woman in order to discredit her during divorce proceedings. After his release from prison Rees, who had been bugged for six months by Scotland Yard because of his links with corrupt police officers, was rehired by the News of the World, which was being edited by Andy Coulson.
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The officer in charge during the Menezes shooting will take the place of assistant commissioner Yates, who has resigned in the phone hacking scandal.



Jul. 18th, 2011 07:26 am
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Britain's top counter terrorism officer, Scotland Yard assistant commissioner John Yates, has also resigned in the wake of the phone hacking cover up.

Former News International chair Rebekah Brooks says she will testify before the House of Commons tomorrow as scheduled, despite her arrest on police bribery and phone hacking charges.

Former Scotland Yard commish Stephenson was to have testified today before another HoC cmtee, have to track down whether or not his resignation yesterday scotched it.

PM David Cameron is flying back early from a South African junket to make a statement, as calls for his resignation start surging after Stephenson's resignation.

Stephenson basically said the PM was more crooked than he was in his resignation speech. Having hired a tainted Murdoch exec himself, Stephenson said the prime minister's own tainted Murdoch exec was even stinkier than Stephenson's own, so stinky that Stephenson felt as top cop he couldn't share info freely with the PM. Excellent. Excellent.

Cameron, on the road in South Africa, responds to Stephenson's veiled accusations, quite clearly and effectively:


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January 2012



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