Monday, September 06, 2010

Metgate: notes, snippets, and Theresa May tries it on.

Blimey, the Coulson affair is unfolding at dizzying speed. I am going to drop some notes and snippets here of the more important bits that are floating around.

A brief summary from the FT.

This describes the leads that John Yates  refused to follow.

This is why the police are thick as thieves with News International.

The former assistant commissioner who had headed the original inquiry, Andy Hayman, by now had left Scotland Yard and gone to work for the organisation that he had been investigating, News International.   This link also describes a meeting between the police and the Crown Prosecution service which decided that  "The appropriate strategy is to ringfence the case to minimise the risk of extraneous matters being included.""

LibDem Chris Huhne wrote "It is extraordinary that Assistant Commissioner John Yates summarily refused to look at the evidence again" in July 2009.
The matter is straining the Coalition.

Amid all the complexity, it is good to drink at the fountain of certainty. To paraphrase
@ChrisGurr and Andrew Neil;

If Coulson didn't know of the huge sums of money being paid to hackers; from a budget he controlled; he's incompetent. If he did, then he is a liar.  

The Tory response is to
  1. Bluster 
  2. Try to discredit the main named witness, Sam Hoare, because of drink and drug problems in the past. In fact he came across on R4 as an extremely credible witness.
  3. Say there is no new evidence. In fact there are more than 12 potential witnesses put in the NYT article. What we need is a general amnesty so that journalists can come forward and talk about their practices without fear of prosecution.

    Finally, the solution offered by Theresa May is totally unacceptable. It is no good the Met talking to Coulson again. The Met is part of the problem. The investigation needs to be done by an outside police force.


The Truth Will Out said...

The truth is though Richard that there were no immense sums being paid to hackers. You see, though the media are repeatedly using the words "hacking" and "tapping", they are being very lose with the truth by doing so.

Here is what was really going on. When you buy a mobile phone, the access PIN code for getting at your voicemail is set at either 0000, or 1234 depending on the make. People in positions of power had simply not bothered to reset their PIN codes (which they are advised to do by the manufacturer in the instruction booklet that comes with the phone - you know, the booklet nobody reads) before using them. Even worse, the Royal and Diplomatic protection squads along with the other highly expensive security teams (that the taxpayer forks out for) did not bother to take the lead and ensure their charges changed their PINs. This meant that any idiot was able to dial up their target's voicemail, enter a PIN of 1234 or 0000, and listen to any stored messages. Simple really.

Apparently, some savvy (though unscrupulous) plumbers and electricians have been doing this to each other for years so they could nick each others emergency calls.

It says something about our Royals and politicians that they are too lazy to change their PIN codes don't you think? The words "contributary negligence" spring to mind.

Anyway, as you can see from the description of what was going on, it wasn't really hacking or tapping, and no expensive hackers had to be paid. The truth doesn't sound quite as sexy though - though granted, it is just as illegal.

The Truth Will Out said...

Oh, btw, the BBC and the Guardian are reporting this as if it's some kind of evil thing that the Mudoch Press get up to... anyone who goes back to when it first blew up will discover the truth - the Observer (amongst others) were at it too.

Spying on people is a basic and essential tool of journalists - and it always will be. In the 70's and 80's, bugging was commonplace and slipping Plod a few quid to find out whose registration number that was, was standard practice. The Police are a lot better regulated nowadays, they can't subsidise their wages in this way. The contact between the Police and the press is now conducted by the almighty press officer, so, they use other methods.

The truth is though, that as anybody who has had much to do with them will tell you, the press are vermin. Sadly however, they are necessary to ensure open government.

We really are caught in a bind aren't we?

Anonymous said...

Damn. I have just lost a full response to your piece, TWO, due to Googles incompetence.

Points. It was and is illegal. Amnesty needed. Press not vermin or reptiles, just weak and gullible, and not enough controls. Rupert Mordorch needs his wings clipped.

Comment loss said...

Why are you losing comments, doctor?

Your blog is not putting up my comments at all ...

The Truth Will Out said...

"It was and is illegal"

No argument about that, I said it myself at the end of my first comment... however, if the crime is as simple as typing in 0000, then there isn't going to be a large bill that needs to be signed off, and so the argument that Coulson would have needed to know is shot down.

"Rupert Mordorch needs his wings clipped."

Clipped wings? Yeah right... but not just Murdoch. At the moment there's a media war being fought out by rival groups. They're all interested in big bucks. Take the Guardian for example. At the moment, 85% of the entire BBC recruitment budget is handed over to the Guardian. Without this money, they would be bust. They are in effect subsidised by the TV licence and fighting for their lives... and the Guardian have an unrivalled reputation for playing dirty in the media world... remember when the Guardian forged letters on House of Commons notepaper after coming to a deal with Mohammed al Fayed back in 1995? They got banned from HOC for that one... that was how Jonathan Aitken got caught in the end though... do the ends justify the means? Where do the boundaries lie? You decide.

I can definately say that, in my numerous dealings with journalists - press, radio and TV - over the years I have only ever had one good experience. This is memorable by virtue of that journalists honourable behaviour. Every other journalist has behaved in a two faced, duplicitous manner. These journalists haven't been weak and gullible, they have been cheating, conniving, and very ambitious. Their primary motivation has in every case been The Story at all costs, and, if others get hurt, tough!

I would suggest that, next time you shake hands with a journalist, you count your fingers afterwards!

DocRichard said...

Comment loss,
Yes, there is a Google problem, but the comments are coming through to my email, and I will paste them in.
I get problems logging in as me, too.

DocRichard said...

"if the crime is as simple as typing in 0000, then there isn't going to be a large bill that needs to be signed off, and so the argument that Coulson would have needed to know is shot down."

The act is simple, but the deed is risky, so the investigator will charge for that. The evidence that Coulson must have known is mounting - we have 3 named witnesses now, with more waiting into the wings. Coulson is a dead man walking, and if you think he can survive, you are letting hope triumph over impending reality. My advice is - do not waste energy on a lost cause. I'm not. I'm interested in taking the battle on to the Met and the Press.

I have also had many dealings with journalists, and have a similar opinion to you, as you will see if you click the journalism/media tags here.
However, good investigative journalism has a vital role to play in a democracy. I am heartened by the old-school journalism carried out by the NYT and the Guardian, especially Nick Davies.

We need a full and authoritative review of the Fourth Estate, a Media Commission. It will look first at media outlet ownership, and should rule on not more than one outlet to be owned by any one person or corporation.
The IPCC needs to be reformed, the hacking culture needs to be brought into the open (by an amnesty), and many other reforms need to be enacted.