Unasked questions about national security and phone hacking

English: Vauxhall Bridge. View of Vauxhall Bri...

English: Vauxhall Bridge. View of Vauxhall Bridge from west of the river, also showing the MI6 and luxury apartments on either side of the bridge. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since the Leveson Inquiry and the Phone Hacking trial, a number of unasked and unanswered questions have emerged. These questions are around phone hacking and national security. Peter Clarke became involved because the phone hacking had compromised the Royal Family security.[1] The survival of the direct heir to the throne is a national security issue. What about the ministers? We saw in the Phone Hacking trial how Andy Coulson influenced David Blunkett for a story about his relationship with Kimberly Quinn. However, what if instead of Andy Coulson it was an intelligence agency from another country seeking that influence? If the tabloids could do this, then foreign intelligence agencies or criminal gangs could. Moreover, if the intelligence agency had hacked Mulcaire and Coulson or if they controlled them, how would the MI6 or MI5 know? This is not to suggest a grand conspiracy or that intelligence agencies were involved. Instead, it is to point out that if Murdoch’s minions could do this, there is nothing to stop someone from doing it to them.

Were there multiple audiences for the phone hacking information?

When journalists write stories, there is always material that is unused. Was this material withheld or traded for influence? Charlotte Church testified that she was encouraged to waive her appearance fee for Rupert Murdoch’s wedding. She said she was promised good press coverage from News Corporation. What has happened to the information was obtained but never used? Where is it now? Was it traded to other sources? At the Leveson Inquiry, Rupert Murdoch said he traded stories for influence.[2] If the newspaper obtained information that it could not use, was that traded to others? If Rupert Murdoch found something useful for a different audience, did he trade it or use it? If editors had information about a target that interested other audiences, was information passed to Rupert Murdoch to use?

Were News Corp political and economic opponents targeted?

A possible target could have been Vince Cable. Was he targeted during the BskyB bid? Companies pay large sums for information that will give them an advantage in the market. All do this with legal means but some will be tempted to use illegal or potentially illegal methods to obtain this information.[3] For example, investment companies will want to know if a corporate director is unreliable. A politician may want to know if their opponent is having an affair.[4]

When did the government know?

What we do not know is whether Ministers told the government when they had been approached for stories.[5] If Ministers know personal information has been leaked to the press, what is the protocol to alert the security services? If personal information has been leaked, then other information could be leaked. These questions raise the concern over the government’s ability to protect the regime, the monarchy, but not private citizens. The police claimed that phone hacking was a low priority as anti-terrorism was a higher priority. Or, was it to protect their sources, methods, and reputations? What we do know is that the police did not take an interest in the national security issues raised by phone hacking.


[1] It would appear the police failed to protect the royals. Moreover, we know that officers violated their oath to the crown by revealing details about the royal family and their telephone numbers. If the national security agency did not know about the phone hacking, are they ineffective and inattentive to protecting its senior politicians and the royals from potential political blackmail? It would also appear the government has learned from this case as the National Crime Agency has been created and has begun to take on roles previously given to the police. A further question from by phone hacking is the relationship between MI6 and MI5 in protecting the regime and the Monarchy. Despite these critical questions, it is probably true that the security agencies would rather appear incompetent in public so as not to reveal their sources and methods and the extent to which they do protect the regime and its ministers and by extension the public. See Peter Clarke’s testimony to Leveson. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/leveson-inquiry/9115480/Peter-Clarke-phone-hacking-inquiry-was-not-a-priority.html

[2] What is interesting to note is the number of politicians that write for News Corp and how few of them pursued legal cases in response to phone hacking. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/05/05/rupert-murdoch-s-political-trap.html

[3] http://www.ethicalinvestigator.com/due-diligence/

[4] In the United States, we have the well-known case in which Barack Obama, taking a page out of Lyndon Johnson’s playbook, was able to benefit from a person being encouraged to unseal legal documents to reveal salacious and damaging details from a political opponent’s divorce hearing. (http://humanevents.com/2012/08/01/ann-coulter-obamas-signature-move-unsealing-private-records/). One only need note that David Axelrod now works in the UK political scene.

[5]In less polite company, one might suggest that the approach was very close to blackmail although this is too strong of word for describing the way the tabloid press operate as they act in the public interest in all their work.


About lawrence serewicz

An American living and working in the UK trying to understand the American idea and explain it to others. The views in this blog are my own for better or worse.
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