A pair of central figures in the News of the World phone-hacking case--Nick Davies and Paul McMullan--gave some explosive testimony on Tuesday in the ongoing U.K. inquiry into alleged spying activities at the late British tabloid's parent company, News International, and at other newspapers.
Davies--the Guardian reporter responsible for breaking the news of phone-hacking at News of the World--told the committee that Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator whom News of the World employed to hack into the phones and voicemails of dozens of victims, acted as a "facilitator"--but that the paper's journalists were the ones who did the actual hacking.
"If you asked who hacked Milly [Dowler's] voicemail, the answer is it was one or more News of the World journalists who then deleted the voicemail messages," Davies said of Dowler, a British girl who was kidnapped and later found dead. "The facilitator was Glenn Mulcaire. There is a misunderstanding, I think, around the way that he operates. He does not actually, on the whole, do the listening to the messages himself. Most of that is done by the journalists themselves."
Mulcaire's job, Davies said, "was to enable them to do that where there's some problem because he's a brilliant blagger"--the British expression for hacking. "He could gather information, data from the mobile phone company." Occasionally, Mulcaire "did special projects," including surveillance of the royal household, Davies said, but the journalists at News of the World were the main hacking culprits.
Throughout his reporting on the phone-hacking case, Davies said he heard "hints" of "voicemail intercepts, email intercepts, phone-hacking, burglary and corruption of police."
In his written testimony, Davies asserted he doesn't have a problem with the hiring of private investigators by newspapers per se, as long as their tactics were "lawful and ethical."
I should make clear that I am happy to buy a drink or a meal for a source, even if that source is a policeman or a public official. I see that as a matter of maintaining goodwill. And certainly I would expect to reimburse all essential expenses for anybody who is helping us with a story, particularly if they are hard up--travel costs, hotel, phone bills ... I have also occasionally paid cash to buy [pre-paid] mobile phones and supplied them to particularly sensitive sources, to allow us to communicate without the contact being traceable.
Davies also echoed the sentiments of other British journalists who have lately reassessed their views on press freedom, saying he doesn't think the U.K. media industry can regulate itself. "I was sticking up for self-regulation but I wouldn't any more," he said. "I don't think this is an industry which is interested or capable of self-regulation."
Following Davies, McMullan, the former New of the World deputy features editor, admitted the paper engaged in hacking phones. "Would we hack phones? Yes, but it's not necessary all the time."
"You can't just say 'I work for the News of the World, tell me all the stuff you've been up to,' " McMullan said. "It doesn't work like that, you have to be cleverer than the criminals. If you want to do an exclusive, then yes, blagging would be completely necessary."
But McMullan said the hacking was directed from the top. "We did all these things for the editors, Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson," he said. "They're the scum of journalism for trying to drop me and my colleagues in it."
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