U.K. To Question Key Figures In Tabloid Scandal
Rupert Murdoch, his son James and the media mogul's former U.K. newspaper chief Rebekah Brooks face a grilling from lawmakers Tuesday about the intensifying phone hacking scandal, which has spread from the family empire to the top ranks of U.K. police and even to the prime minister's office.
Politicians will seek more details about the scale of criminality at Murdoch's News of the World tabloid, while the Murdochs will try to avoid incriminating themselves or doing more harm to their business without misleading Parliament, which is a crime.
Lawmakers are also holding a separate hearing to question London police about reports that police took bribes from journalists to provide inside information for tabloid scoops and why the force decided to shut down an earlier phone hacking probe after charging only two people.
Detectives reopened the case earlier this year and are looking at a potential 3,700 victims.
The London police force said Tuesday it had asked watchdog to investigate its head of public affairs over the scandal — the fifth senior police official being investigated. The force asked the Independent Police Complaints Commission to look at Dick Fedorcio's role in hiring a former News of the World executive as an adviser to the police.
Fedorcio also is due to be questioned by lawmakers Tuesday, along with police chief Paul Stephenson and assistant commissioner John Yates, who both resigned over allegations of too-close ties to Murdoch journalists.
But it's the appearance by the Murdochs and Brooks that is drawing a level of interest that is unheard of for a Parliamentary committee, whose work usually goes little noticed.
Members of the public and journalists lined up hours ahead of time in hope of a spot in the small committee room, which holds about 40 people. More will be able to watch in an overspill room, and Britain's TV news channels are anticipating high ratings for the appearance.
Prime Minister David Cameron cut short a visit to Africa and is expected to return to Britain for an emergency session Wednesday of Parliament on the scandal.
In a further twist, a former News of the World reporter Sean Hoare who helped blow the whistle on the scandal was found dead Monday in his home. Police said the death was "unexplained" but is not being treated as suspicious. A post-mortem was being conducted Tuesday. Hoare was in his late forties.
Brooks' spokesman, David Wilson, said police had been handed a bag containing a laptop and papers that belong to her husband, former racehorse trainer Charlie Brooks. Wilson said the bag did not contain anything related to the phone hacking scandal and he expected police to return it soon.
The bag was found dumped in an underground parking lot near the couple's home on Monday, but it was unclear how exactly it got there. Wilson said Tuesday that a friend of Charlie Brooks had meant to drop the bag off, but he would say only he left it in the "wrong place."
Murdoch shut down the News of the World tabloid that Brooks once edited after it was accused of hacking into the voice mail of celebrities, politicians, other journalists and even murder victims. Still, the closure has done little to end a string of revelations about the murky ties between British politics and the country's tabloid media.
The scandal has prompted the resignation and subsequent arrest of Brooks and the resignation of Wall Street Journal publisher Les Hinton, sunk Murdoch's dream of taking full control of lucrative satellite broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting and raised questions about his ability to keep control of his global media empire.
Rupert Murdoch is eager to stop the crisis from spreading to the United States, where many of his most lucrative assets — including the Fox TV network, 20th Century Fox film studio, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post — are based.
In New York, News Corp. appointed commercial lawyer Anthony Grabiner to run its Management and Standards Committee, which will deal with the scandal. But News Corp. board member Thomas Perkins told The Associated Press that the 80-year-old Murdoch has the full support of the company's board of directors, and it was not considering elevating Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey to replace Murdoch as CEO of News Corp.
In New York, News Corp.'s widely traded Class A shares fell 68 cents to $14.97 Monday down 17 percent since the scandal reignited on July 4.
Britain's Independent Police Complaints Commission also is looking into the phone hacking and police bribery claims, including one that Yates inappropriately helped get a job for the daughter of a former News of the World executive editor, Neil Wallis. Wallis, who was hired as a PR consultant to the police, has been arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications.
Police confirmed that a second former News of the World employee was employed by Scotland Yard. Alex Marunchak had been employed as a Ukrainian language interpreter with access to highly sensitive police information between 1980 and 2000, the Metropolitan Police said.
Scotland Yard said it recognized "that this may cause concern and that some professions may be incompatible with the role of an interpreter," adding that the matter will be looked into.
Meanwhile, Internet hackers took aim at Murdoch late Monday, defacing the sites of his other U.K. tabloid, The Sun, and shutting down website of The Times of London. Visitors to The Sun website were redirected to a page featuring a story saying Murdoch's dead body had been found in his garden.
Internet hacking collective Lulz Security took responsibility for that hacking attack via Twitter, calling it a successful part of "Murdoch Meltdown Monday."
Lulz Security, which has previously claimed hacks on major entertainment companies, FBI partner organizations and the CIA, hinted that more was yet to come, saying "This is only the beginning."
It later took credit for shutting down News International's corporate website. Another hacking collective known as Anonymous claimed the cyberattack on The Times' website.
This program aired on July 19, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.