Many years ago when I was living in France and during a prolonged period of French atomic weapon testing on the Moruroa atoll, the Greenpeace ship, Rainbow Warrior, was blown up in a New Zealand harbour. Initially, it was thought to be an accident.
Now, as soon as this happened, I thought “who has most to gain from the sinking of this protest ship?”
I immediately said, “The French” to my partner. It’s in their interest to get that pesky ship put of their test zone.
Many years passed until finally some French Secret Service agents were collared for the dastardly deed. President Mitterand, it turns out, authorised the bombing and thus the death of the Portuguese Dutch photographer, Fernando Pereira.
- The news this week is that the sleaze-paper, News of the World (NOTW), part of the nationality-challenged Rupert Murdoch’s empire, hacked many prominent people’s phones in order to gather information. (News of the World ‘bugging’ claim – Wednesday 8th)
- Later, the news was that there was going to be a huge investigation by the police into the allegations. (Police to probe phone hack claims – Thursday 9th). In fact, PM Brown said, “This raises questions that are serious and will obviously have to be answered.”
- A few hours later, and the massive investigation was finished! (New phone hack inquiry ruled out – Thursday 8th) Second top Met Cop John Yates said, “No additional evidence has come to light since this case has concluded. I therefore consider that no further investigation is required.” He also said, “This investigation has not uncovered any evidence to suggest that John Prescott’s phone had been tapped.”
Warning: sarcasm alert! I think it’s amazing that Yates & Co. has managed to sift through all of this evidence in less than half a day! It’s fantastic! If only all enquiries were this fast! Arms to Iraq! Iraq War! Cash for Questions! G20 Tomkinson Death and Kettling tactics! You know, things would be so much better.
Who Has Most to Gain?
Going back to my Rainbow Warrior experience, this is the thought that now crosses my mind. In situations like this, forget the morals and any issues of integrity, personal or national, that arise. Just look at the question in it’s starkness. Who has most to gain?
Well this question really has several parts, or vantage points, if you like, that all supply an answer to the above question.
- Obviously, The Guardian now gains from extra publicity, their oxygen of business.
- NOTW originally gained by getting stories, the same oxygen of their business.
- Robert Preston here (News of the World bugged Sun editor), reveals that all papers were (and still are?) using such tricks. It’s all their oxygen.
A key sentence in Robert Preston’s piece (News of the World bugged Sun editor) is near the bottom. See if you can find it!
This is the relevant chunk, showing the information source as Richard Thomas, recently retired Information Commissioner and quoted verbatim from Preston’s blog. Thomas did a huge investigation into phone hacking which were presented before our Parliament, our representatives, in 2007. This is the chunk below (remember, see if you can see the key bit!!):
A good deal of this trade in personal confidential information has already been exposed by Richard Thomas, who has just retired as information commissioner.
In a series of reports and in evidence to the House of Commons culture, media and sport committee, he made a series of disclosures about newspaper activities that he regarded as “prima facie” illegal.
Here’s a statement from him to MPs that he gave in March 2007, which refers to the results of an investigation he carried out into the business relationship between the press and a firm of private investigators (the investigation was given the codename Operation Motorman):
“The first thing I would need to share is that the 3,000 or 4,000 transactions identified… came from a total of 13,000 transactions in this one operation alone. We were careful only to put forward those where there was some sort of hard evidence of the transaction being positively identified as involving a journalist for a newspaper”.
And this is what he cited as the evidence of payments being made by journalists for the information:
“We did have, and we do have still, the statements, the bank statements, the invoices – some of these well-known proprietors were including information such as ‘payment for confidential information’, payment for ‘blagging’ [obtaining information by deception] in some cases – so there was what I might call hard ‘prima facie’ evidence.”
However the degree of detail obtained by him about this trade was startling.
Where did the money end up? Well, a flow-chart produced by the office of the information commissioner shows the press employing private detectives who in turn deal with phone companies, call centres, the DVLA and what’s described as “police source”.
Did you spot the last bit of the sentence? I’ll paraphrase now for emphasis…
Where did the money (paid for hacked information) end up? The information commissioner shows the press employing private detectives who deal with (…) a “police source“.
And there we have it!
Now we know why Yates’ “investigation” finished so quickly. The former information commisioner tells us in words presented to parliament – to protect the police!
Just remember, this current government has ramped up the “fear factor” over terrorism so much, that the police and other services have unparalled access to all sorts of electronic information. In fact, by law, telecoms companies are required to keep it….
In this week’s events we’ve seen the Police investigate an event of which they were one of the prime information sources (according to Thomas) and declared “no case to answer”. They are investigator, judge, jury and imprisoner.
As I’ve predicted many times in these pages, (and I’m only using history as a guide here, remember – I’m not a fortune teller), when the police are given unbridled power, that power will be abused either by an individual or the organisation as a whole.
The police now have power of arrest for virtually anything – e.g. by law, I’m not allowed to take their photo! I can be arrested and searched without reason and imprisoned for the same reasons indefinitely. Just look. It’s all there, all passed in the last few years.
But if this case and previous ones are anything to go by, it appears that if an “investigator” can’t get the information they want, they pay the police for it!
What have we got here – the Rockford Files!
And afterwards, the Police say “no case”. “Case closed”. “No further information”.
Our chickens have come home to roost, and no-one’s noticing!
Actually, someone’s noticing.
The police have decided to do nothing because, as they say no NEW information is about (this is now being mis-quoted as in “There is no information that John Prescott’s phone was tapped” instead of “There is no NEW information that John Prescott’s phone was tapped” – which is a different thing altogether and those saying it, know it!)
- However, it’s now emerging that many “stars” and “personalities” are planning to sue the NOTW and other papers. See Stars ‘may sue’ over phone claims
- Also, the DPP has launched an inquiry.
- The PCC likewise.
- Parliament too.
- And calls for the police to do the right thing and investigate properly are mounting.
I watch with anticipation from my little tank. I’ve a feeling, and I hope, that this one will run and run and that hopefully, some proper rein will be put on our law enforcement folk. Unlike most people, I don’t consider this a press freedom issue – I consider it a key part of all our freedoms.
See these links: