Hinton could be among the last to crack. Among the first is the News of the World editor at the time of its closing, Colin Myler. He joined a departed longtime News Corp. lawyer, Tom Crone, in waiting only two days after the Murdochs’ parliamentary appearance to accuse James Murdoch of fictionalizing his ignorance of how widespread the hacking was when he authorized a $1.1 million settlement to one prominent hacking victim in 2008. Myler may also have information to share about Murdoch’s American operations. Before succeeding the now-arrested Andy Coulson as editor of News of the World in 2007, he spent some five years under Col Allan as a top editor at the Post.
Myler arrived in New York two months after 9/11, while the Post and Fox News were starting to turn the attack into a corporate franchise, zealously aligning their interests with the ambitions of that day’s local heroes, Rudy Giuliani and Bernie Kerik, and, like them, appropriating ground zero as a brand at every conceivable opportunity. Should a single instance of 9/11 hacking emerge, the Murdochs would face a lynching party led by Republicans. But given that the charge was leveled with thin sourcing by the Daily Mirror, a scurrilous London tabloid in competition with News Corp., there well may be nothing to it. Myler might know.
He might also be able to fill in details about a still-murky 9/11 scandal that unequivocally did occur that fall: the extramarital affair that Kerik conducted with Judith Regan, a News Corp. publishing executive personally recruited by Murdoch, in an apartment originally intended for rescue workers and overlooking the smoldering ruins of ground zero. Kerik, though still police commissioner, was also on the Murdoch payroll then—having received a hefty advance from Regan for his memoir published that November, when the ground-zero trysts were going on.
Regan would be fired in 2006 as the scapegoat for the O. J. Simpson If I Did It fiasco—a project Murdoch had heartily endorsed until Nicole Brown Simpson’s and Ron Goldman’s families reacted much as Milly Dowler’s parents did after learning of News Corp.’s violation of their murdered child. In Regan’s subsequent wrongful-termination suit, she charged that she had a tape of Roger Ailes telling her to lie about Kerik to federal investigators vetting his nomination as Bush’s secretary of Homeland Security in 2004. Ailes, she said, wanted to protect Giuliani’s presidential ambitions; the Post, meanwhile, served as Kerik’s wingman, leading the cheerleading for his Cabinet appointment (“It’s hard to think of a more enlightened choice—for America or for the city,” read an editorial). What did Ailes and Murdoch want in exchange for installing the manifestly unqualified and corrupt Kerik in the nation’s foremost security job? Was Kerik as subservient to Murdoch executives as was the now departed commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police? Perhaps Myler, if squeezed, can tell us what was going on. Regan won’t—her suit against News Corp. was aborted in 2008 with a whopping out-of-court settlement of $10.75 million. Rarely has silence been that golden.
Which is to say, it will take a lot of heavy lifting to overturn all the rocks under which Murdoch’s secrets are buried. As in Watergate, the process of discovery will ebb and flow for months and possibly years: A 26-month interval separated the arrest of the low-level burglars trying to bug the Democratic National Committee headquarters and Nixon’s resignation. The most important first step down this road will be for Americans to fully recognize that what happened at News of the World was no isolated virus but part of a larger culture that didn’t remain quarantined on the other side of the ocean. Once that realization sinks in, it can only hasten the day when the long national nightmare of the Murdochization of America, now well into its fourth decade, will be over.