Phone Hacking Memo to James Murdoch at Center of Inquiry

By
James Murdoch. (David Moir/Reuters) Photo: © David Moir / Reuters

Around when James Murdoch was testifying to Parliament last November that he knew nothing of phone hacking at News of the World, which his father had already shuttered, investigators found a carton in the newspaper's locked offices that seemed to come from Colin Myler, the paper's editor and now at the New York Daily News. Inside, was a hard copy of an e-mail Myler had sent to Murdoch in June 2008 regarding allegations by football exec Gordan Taylor that his phone had been hacked: "Unfortunately it is as bad as we feared." In the message, Myler also asks if Murdoch could meet with him and the NotW's in-house lawyer to discuss the issue. A month later, Murdoch told a government panel that he hadn't read the entire e-mail chain and was still totally in the dark about the widespread use of phone hacking by News Corp. reporters.

But this e-mail, it seems, is at the heart of the ongoing investigation, including whether there was a top-level cover-up — a High Court judge recently lambasted the News Corp. division overseeing NotW and The Sun for its "startling approach" to e-mail and recommending that "they are to be treated as deliberate destroyers of evidence." He may have been referring, in part, to the suspiciously timed deletion of the abovementioned e-mail from James Murdoch's computer on January 15, 2011, as part of a suspiciously jargon-named "e-mail stabilization and modernization program." As the Times reports:

It is clear that on Jan. 15, when the deletion took place, the company knew it was facing civil and potentially criminal inquiries.

Further undermining Murdoch's denials was the $1.4 million phone hacking settlement he approved shortly after he'd received Myler's e-mail, and testimony from Myler that he had fully informed Murdoch of the more damaging aspects of the Taylor lawsuit. (In the e-mail chain is a message from the NotW's lawyer to Myler that included the line: "Broadly our Defence will accept that we knw of and made use of the voicemail information Mulcaire acquired ... " Glenn Mulcaire is a private investigator who worked for NotW.) And so the plot thickens.