The Independent got their hands on the private "Blue Book" of Steve Whittamore, a private detective who did contract work for Rupert Murdoch's British papers until his house was raided in 2003. The document, which the government had refused to release, is basically a history of three years of Whittamore's work digging up legal and illegal information on politicians, athletes (one target was referred to just by last name: "Rooney"), and other celebrities. It adds a new element of detail to the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.
While some of the requests were legal, the Independent estimates that about at least a quarter of services described on the itemized were illegal:
Activity that definitely broke the law included tracing people using just a telephone number or vehicle registration, accessing ex-directory telephone numbers, obtaining details of hotel stays and running criminal records checks. Around half of the tasks covered finding out the full addresses of targets, which is illegal if the people involved have chosen to remove themselves from the public register.
Andy Coulson, the editor of News of the World at the time of the Whittamore raid, has claimed that any crimes were isolated and unrelated to the broader newsroom culture. He is now Prime Minister David Cameron's top communications aide, and new details revealing that reporters were snooping on Labour Party politicians have raised the political stakes of the scandal.
The Independent claims that Rebekah Brooks, the editor of News of the World before Coulson, was one of the journalists who contracted with Whittamore, but it's unclear what she requested. (Brooks now runs News International.) It's also unclear whether reporters from the Sun and the Times, other Murdoch papers listed in the spreadsheet, asked for anything that Whittamore obtained through illegal means.