Did Napolitano mean that GCHQ works like Southern Investigations?

Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and Chief Executive O...

Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, News Corporation, USA and Co-Chair, Annual Meeting 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Andrew Napolitano spoke on Fox News, he tried to support Trump’s claim that Obama wiretapped Donald Trump[1] even though no one could find evidence for it.[2] He said that his sources told him no one would find evidence because the GCHQ, the UK signals intelligence agency, did it for Obama. Napolitano’s comments hit a nerve in the US as Sean Spicer the White House spokesman read them from the White House Press room podium.[3] In the UK, it was a direct slap in Theresa May’s face and a deep insult to the GCHQ[4] and the UK political establishment. However, he may not have realized what it meant since he was unaware of Southern Investigations and its relationship to Murdoch, UK journalism, and UK politicians.

For GCHQ to wiretap Trump, it would need the knowledge if not the approval of the Prime Minister Theresa May. If that happened, it would mean she had authorised acts that are illegal under UK law.[5] On the surface, this is offensive enough for most people to censure him. However, in the UK it has a deeper insult especially when we consider that it was a Murdoch employee making this comment. When we place this in the UK context, the insult is catastrophic.

In 2011, the UK phone hacking scandal exploded with a Rupert Murdoch newspaper at its heart.[6] The scandal was about illegal surveillance, phone hacking, and other illegal acts such as suborning police officers. These were called the dark arts.[7] As a result, Murdoch had to close the News of the World, withdraw the BSkyB bid and was said by a Parliamentary committee concluded to be “unfit to run a major company”. The company that the News of the World used for many of these dark arts was Southern Investigations.[8] They[9], in turn, were caught up in a number of police corruption scandals, in particular the Daniel Morgan Murder.[10] His unsolved murder is another scandal that haunts the UK political establishment. To try to get to the bottom of that scandal, Theresa May convened an Independent Panel.[11] The panel, which still has to report, looks at the role played by News International, the Metropolitan Police, and many Home Secretaries, including Theresa May.

What that claim means is that the GCHQ broke UK laws. It would also suggest that Teresa May uses GCHQ just as News of the World used Southern Investigation. What Napolitano’s claim means is Teresa May and GCHQ are accused of what Rupert Murdoch had been accused of doing with his newspapers and Southern Investigations. One would expect that Theresa May would demand a public apology. For a Murdoch employee to make this claim is an insult to the phone hacking victims, GCHQ’s honour, and Parliament’s integrity.

It will speak volumes about Theresa May’s relationship with Rupert Murdoch if she does not request one. The claim, by a Murdoch employee, holds the phone hacking victims, GCHQ, and Parliament in contempt. Perhaps She can explain to them why it does not require an apology.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlBPEpRD4jU

[2] In addition to saying it on-air, he repeated the claim in his Fox News blog. http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/03/16/andrew-napolitano-did-obama-spy-on-trump.html The blog post remains available as of 27 March 2016.

[3] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-39301422 After the UK government complained, the White House did not apologize, but they did promise not to repeat the comments. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39300191

[4] In an unusual move, they publicly dismissed the comments with a direct reference to Andrew Napolitano. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/16/gchq-denies-wiretap-claim-trump-obama

[5] https://simonmckay.wordpress.com/2017/03/16/spies-lies-and-five-eyes-why-gchq-could-not-and-would-not-have-carried-out-surveillance-on-the-presidential-candidate/

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/News_International_phone_hacking_scandal Although other papers hacked phones, News of the World was the most aggressive in doing this work going so far as to obtain the voices mails of David Blunkett when he was Home Secretary, a Ministerial post responsible for national security including policing, which would be overseeing any investigations into News of the World. The information obtained was used to pressure him about an affair. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/nov/07/david-blunkett-taped-by-news-of-the-world

[7] The “dark arts” refer to illegal activities such as placing listening devices inside someone’s house, wiretapping, impersonating someone to obtain their personal information, breaking into a property to find information. To avoid criminal sanctions, the press would always rely on the public interest test to claim what they did was in the public interest.

[8] For background on the company see https://pressganguk.wordpress.com/tag/southern-investigations/ and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Rees and http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/press/dodgy-detective-made-killing-from-tabloids-2294969.html

[9] Two employees of Southern Investigation were named as suspects in Daniel Morgan’s murder. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jan/17/daniel-morgan-suspects-named-in-court-30-years-after-killing

[10] For the best introduction to and overview of the Daniel Morgan murder scandal, listen to this podcast by his brother Alastair Morgan and Peter Jukes. http://www.untoldmurder.com/ See also the many articles about it including http://hackinginquiry.org/comment/the-news-of-the-world-and-the-daniel-morgan-murder-the-key-reason-for-leveson-two/

[11] https://www.danielmorganpanel.independent.gov.uk/


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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