Piers Morgan testifies in U.K. phone-hacking case, denies direct knowledge

Dylan Stableford

Piers Morgan told the committee investigating the U.K. phone-hacking case on Tuesday that he did not have direct knowledge of the practice during his time as a tabloid editor in Britain, but refused to discuss other aspects of his tenure.

"I would say the average editor is aware of about 5 percent of what his journalists are up to at any given time," Morgan said during testimony via video from Los Angeles.

The CNN host and former Daily Mirror editor acknowledged that private investigators were used by the paper. What were they used for?

"I don't know, because I was never directly involved," Morgan--seated at a table flanked by two bottles of Evian and a small stack of books--told the committee. "This was dealt with through the news desk or features desk ... Certainly all journalists knew they had to act within the confines of the law. This was enshrined within their contracts--I didn't have concerns."

Morgan also dismissed the idea that passages in his 2006 book "The Insider: The Private Diaries of a Scandalous Decade" prove he knew about phone-hacking activity while he was an editor.

"Is it a record of 100 percent historical import?" he said. "I would say, 'No.'"

In the book, Morgan includes a 2001 diary entry that details a trick used by reporters to hack celebrity voicemails:

Apparently if you don't change the standard security code that every phone comes with, then anyone can call your number and if you don't answer, tap in the standard four digit code to hear all your messages. I'll change mine just in case, but it makes me wonder how many public figures and celebrities are aware of this little trick.

On Tuesday, Morgan said he could not remember who taught him that. "I'm sorry," Morgan told the committee. "It was 10 years ago."

Morgan also denied that he acknowledged he knew about phone hacking during a 2009 Radio 4 interview that surfaced earlier this year. In that interview, Morgan was asked how he felt about reporters "who tap people's phones, people who take secret photographs ... who do all that very nasty down-in-the-gutter stuff." ("Not a lot of that went on," Morgan responded at the time. "A lot of it was done by third parties, rather than the staff themselves. That's not to defend it, because obviously you were running the results of their work.")

"If you listen to the tape, you can hear I probably didn't hear it," Morgan said Tuesday. "I didn't hear [the interviewer] say 'phone tapping.' If you listen to it in real time I think you would see that."

Morgan--who said in July he "never hacked a phone, told anybody to hack a phone or published any story based on the hacking of a phone"--was asked if he had ever listened to voicemail messages that were obtained illegally. "I do not believe so," he said.

But the reality show judge refused to say where he obtained a voicemail Paul McCartney left for his then-wife Heather Mills.

"I can't discuss where I heard that tape or who made it," Morgan said. "I listened to a tape of a message, yes. I'm not going to discuss where I heard it or who played it to me." Lord Justice Leveson, who is leading the inquiry, pressed Morgan, threatening to call Mills to testify--but to no avail.

Morgan was also asked by the committee if he sent emails "often menacing in tone" to reporters about their lack of "scoops."

"I would quibble with 'menacing in tone,'" Morgan said. "But I would occasionally put a rocket up their collective backsides if we thought we weren't performing."

You can click here to read Morgan's written testimony. And click here to hear him answer questions from the committee.

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