It’s a Bank Holiday edition. No celeb deaths. No tsunami. So the front-pages have been “in salt” for some time.
So to the Independent’s big splash (but no tsunami):
Gordon Brown’s Downing Street emails ‘hacked’
Computer crime by press may be as widespread as phone scandal
Despite the “Exclusive” tag, this is as surprising as stale Christmas cake. The “evidence” is cited as:
- Mr Brown’s private communications, along with emails belonging to a former Labour adviser and lobbyist, Derek Draper, have been identified by Scotland Yard’s Operation Tuleta team as potentially hacked material.
Well, actually chaps, that doesn’t come as a shock.
The simple fact that any dirt on Draper oozed out in the pollution propagated by Paul Staines, a.k.a. “Guido Fawkes” should tell us it came by devious means. Total masochists should pursue the thread by reviewing Staines’ own “Derek Draper” tag. What we didn’t know then, but fully appreciate now, is that Fawkes is an orifice through which Tory HQ and the bits that even Murdoch couldn’t excrete were deposited in public view.
- Mr Brown has previously accused News International of accessing parts of his private life including his bank accounts. He said he “could not understand” why he had the protection and defences of a chancellor or prime minister, and yet remained vulnerable to “unlawful or unscrupulous tactics”.
Well, that’s news as recent as last July. The Guardian was far more explicit then, and tied in:
- Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator who specialised in phone hacking for the News of the World,
- the Sunday Times who “blagged” the Abbey Nat on six occasions and Brown’s lawyers, Allen & Overy at least once.
The Guardian noted:
Brown joins a long list of Labour politicians who are known to have been targeted by private investigators working for News International, including the former prime minister Tony Blair and his media adviser Alastair Campbell, the former deputy prime minister John Prescott and his political adviser Joan Hammell, Peter Mandelson as trade secretary, Jack Straw and David Blunkett as home secretaries, Tessa Jowell as media secretary and her special adviser Bill Bush, and Chris Bryant as minister for Europe.
The sheer scale of the data assault on Brown is unusual, with evidence of “attempts” to obtain his legal, financial, tax, and police records as well as to listen to his voicemail. All of these incidents are linked to media organisations. In many cases, there is evidence of a link to News International.
And, of course, there is no greater defender of News International’s “freedom of the press” than Staines/Fawkes — there’s another tag for that one.
A bit further back Damian Green, then Opposition Tory immigration spokesman was arrested because a Christopher Galley had been filching Home Office papers and passing them to Green. That was in breach of Galley’s Official Secrets Act signature. One account has it that Green was leading Galley along by promising promotion in Tory circles. Again, by no coincidence, Galley went on to be “employed” by … you guessed it! … Staines/Fawkes!
Where the Independent story is correct is linking to the very serious cyber-attack on Peter Hain at the Northern Ireland Office. Again, that is no “new” news. Shaun Woodward, Hain’s successor at the NIO, was asking the questions last autumn:
… if the Metropolitan police’s investigation – as part of Operation Tuleta – proves conclusive, the consequences could be very grave. Since its inception in the 70s, the secretary of state for Northern Ireland has been privy to some of the nation’s most closely guarded secrets, so this touches on all aspects of national security. Was it an attempt to breach secure email accounts of the Northern Ireland Office? Did private detectives read confidential communications between the secretary of state and the prime minister? Was a Trojan computer virus used to try to gain access to other third parties with whom the secretary of state was in email contact? What of foreign governments, if the attack was on Peter’s secure account? …
So we need urgent answers to these fresh hacking questions. Was Peter Hain’s computer hacked? Was mine as his successor? What information, deliberately or otherwise, may have been passed to those engaged in Irish-related terrorism today? If proved, any such criminal actions would put at risk not only the politics of Northern Ireland but the peace process itself.
The Leveson inquiry must now look into this issue. If true, it represents a new dimension to the irresponsibility of those in the media who have systematically put themselves above the law.
Ah, Malcolm hears you say, but Hain’s private life was a legitimate subject of enquiry. Except that wasn’t the point of the hacking. It also involved targeting PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde. Any comic relief was that:
DUP MP Ian Paisley Jnr has claimed his mobile phone was hacked when he was a junior minister in Belfast.
For those who missed it on its first outing, Malcolm addressed the murky links between News International and ex-employee hackers of the notorious Force Research Unit, at Thiepval Barracks, in Lisburn, in previous well-visited posts.