Friday, June 10, 2011

Hackgate: Powerful Forces at Work

This report from the register leads with Kate Middleton, blah blah, but what piqued my interest was this little gem concerning our new war criminal, call me Dave Regime Change, Cameron. Not the first scumbag by any means to be employed by sainted leader and Obama lackey, David Cameron.

The Daily Telegraph reports that upon his release from prison on the cocaine fit-up charge in 2004, Rees was employed by The News of the World at the time the paper was edited by Andy Coulson, who resigned after the phone-hacking scandal first broke and went on to become David Cameron's media adviser.

But that gross error in judgement pails in the light of MP Tom Watson's question, to both Cameron and Theresa May, who couldn't possibly comment, citing as they do, the very familiar and thoroughly worn out excuse, the ever convenient ''ongoing police inquiry.''

But more on the dastardly doings of those involved, arch villain Jonathan Rees in particular, this article from the Guardian, (same link as in the main text and recommended) my highlights.

....Scotland Yard is believed to have collected hundreds of thousands of documents during a series of investigations into Rees over his links with corrupt officers, and over the 1987 murder of his former business partner, Daniel Morgan. Charges of murder against Rees were dismissed earlier this year....

....According to journalists and investigators who worked with him, Rees exploited his position as a freemason to make links with masonic police officers who illegally sold him information on targets chosen by the News of the World, the Sunday Mirror and the Daily Mirror. One close contact, Det Sgt Sid Fillery, left the Metropolitan police to become Rees's business partner and added more officers to their network. Fillery was subsequently convicted of possession of indecent images of children.

Some police contacts are said to have been blackmailed into providing confidential information. One of Rees's former associates claims that Rees had compromising photographs of serving officers, including one who was caught in a drunken coma with a couple of prostitutes and with a toilet seat around his neck. Rees claimed to be in touch with corrupt Customs officers, a corrupt VAT inspector and two corrupt bank employees.... more Guardian

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MP claims News of the World sleuths targeted royals, politicians, Blair
Kate Middleton's privacy penetrated, claims paper

By John Leyden
9th June 2011

Private detectives working for the News of the World targeted Tony Blair, the royal family and senior politicians, including a former Home Secretary, an MP claimed in the House of Commons Wednesday.

Meanwhile, quoting "close associates" of Jonathan Rees, a private investigator who worked for the tabloid around 2005, the Guardian newspaper claimed that several specific royals had had their banks accounts hacked into, as had Kate Middleton while she was Prince William's girlfriend.

The paper also accuses Rees of spying on other extremely high-profile individuals, including Tony Blair; former home secretary Jack Straw; the Duke and Duchess of Kent; and John Yates, the Scotland Yard assistant commissioner who was placed in charge of a phone-hacking inquiry around this time.

The MP, Tom Watson, said that Scotland Yard has evidence against the investigator but is not acting on it because it falls outside the scope of its current investigation, Operation Weeting, which is focused on phone hacking. Watson raised the allegations against Rees in a question to the prime minister on Wednesday (extract below) and later in a question to the home secretary, Theresa May. In both cases the senior ministers declined to answer the questions, citing an ongoing police inquiry.

As the prime minister has previously said, the hacking inquiry should go where the evidence takes it. The Metropolitan Police are in possession of paperwork detailing the dealings of criminal private investigator Jonathan Rees. It strongly suggests that, on behalf of News International, he was illegally targeting members of the royal family, senior politicians and high-level terrorist informers, yet the head of Operation Weeting has recently written to me to explain that this evidence may be outside the inquiry's terms of reference. Prime minister, I believe powerful forces are involved in a cover-up; please tell me what you intend to do to make sure that that does not happen.

Prince Edward and the Countess of Wessex, as well as the Duke and Duchess of Kent, also allegedly had their bank accounts penetrated by Rees. The private investigator allegedly hired a specialist computer hacker to steal information about British intelligence agents who had infiltrated the IRA, according to the Guardian, which further alleges that Rees and his associates had broken into the home of celebrity targets to steal confidential papers. The paper said social engineering involving phoning up phone firms and utilities while posing as targets in order to extract confidential data also made up part of the mix.

Rees was convicted in 1999 and sentenced to seven years behind bars for planting cocaine on a woman. Earlier this year he was cleared of the murder of Daniel Morgan, who died from axe wounds to the head in a pub car park on 10 March, 1987. After the trial it emerged that Rees had worked for a firm established by Morgan, called Southern Investigations, for a number of media clients.

The Daily Telegraph reports that upon his release from prison on the cocaine fit-up charge in 2004, Rees was employed by The News of the World at the time the paper was edited by Andy Coulson, who resigned after the phone-hacking scandal first broke and went on to become David Cameron's media adviser. Coulson resigned in 2007 after the NotW's royal correspondent, Clive Goodman, and another private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, were jailed for hacking into the voicemail message of members of the royal household.

It has since emerged – through a serious of private lawsuits brought by actress Sienna Miller, football players' union boss Gordon Taylor and others – that wrongdoing at the paper was widespread. Police were obliged to re-open an inquiry earlier this year, amid much criticism that the original probe had been limited to one or two scapegoats, and under pressure from a dogged investigation led by The Guardian. Former NotW assistant editor Ian Edmondson, who was suspended by News International earlier this year, chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck, and former news editor James Weatherup have each been arrested and questions by police over allegations of conspiring to intercept voicemail messages as part of the renewed police inquiry. All three have been released on police bail pending further inquiries.

Rees worked freelance for both the Mirror Group and the News of the World from the mid 1990s, The Guardian adds.

In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said: "Since January 2011 the Metropolitan Police has received a number of allegations regarding breach of privacy which fall outside the remit of Operation Weeting. These allegations are currently being considered."

A spokesman for News International, which publishes the News of the World, told the Telegraph that Rees and Southern Investigations had worked for a "whole variety of newspaper groups".

"With regards to Tom Watson's specific allegations, we believe these are wholly inaccurate," he said. "The Met Police, with whom we are co-operating fully in Operation Weeting, have not asked us for any information regarding Jonathan Rees." The Register

Raising a valid question or two, more from Tom Watson.

Phone hacking: End this toxic culture now
Tom Watson MP
9th June 2011

The police, the government – and spineless MPs who've settled with News International – have failed in their democratic duty

The Metropolitan police phoned earlier today to reassure me they are undertaking a "rigorous assessment of the information they hold" about the criminal private investigator, Jonathan Rees. They are then going to talk to the prosecuting authorities to discuss whether they should launch a new inquiry. Operation Weeting, they say, is specific to the activities of disgraced private investigator Glenn Mulcaire and his attempts to access voicemail messages, and therefore a new inquiry may be required.

We have been here before with the Met. Refusal to act in the face of evidence is their opening gambit in the inquiry into wrongdoing at News International. I pointed out to the beleaguered-sounding commander who phoned me after I raised the phone hacking issue at prime minister's questions that plots to conduct covert surveillance on sitting prime ministers were the sort of thing you'd see in movies, and that most people would think a "rigorous assessment process" wasn't really required when deciding to investigate. I was assured the process would be swift, "weeks not months".

It is extraordinary that the alleged plot to target a sitting prime minister was not immediately investigated. I can't think of a single country where this would be the case. Since getting on the trail of the hacking scandal, I've had to pinch myself to check I haven't landed in a John Le Carré novel.

On top of this failure, there's also the failure to investigate the alleged targeting of the girlfriend of an heir to the throne. Ask yourself what the prime minister would have publicly said should the allegation have been made that the BBC hired a criminal private investigator to conduct such activities.

Yet it's not just the Conservative prime minister who could do with a spine replacement. It's the former Labour ministers who were allegedly hacked by News International's private investigators who have made secret, out of court settlements with the company. I want to be clear to my parliamentary colleagues (in the Lords and Commons): if you were the target of a News International private investigator you have a democratic duty to speak out. You owe it to yourselves to put an end to a toxic media culture that allows journalists to think it acceptable to hack the phones of the families of murder victims.

And Peter Mandelson: please speak out. You were allegedly targeted by Jonathan Rees, Steve Whittamore and Glenn Mulcaire. You may be the most snooped-on politician in Britain. Please start using your characteristic robustness to sort this out. Why not convene a meeting of all the former home secretaries who were targeted and form a pressure group for improving media standards?

And those Labour shadow ministers who think the return to cosy lunches with Rebekah Brooks and the top brass at Wapping mean you are somehow special? Don't kid yourselves. Don't make yourself their current useful idiot in the parliamentary Labour party. It's undignified.

At least the MPs have confirmed they are examining the Rees paperwork. When they've completed their assessment, it looks as if News International will be the subject of a third police inquiry. There is Operation Weeting, which the MPs have for the first time defined as only relating to the hacking of voicemails. There is a "scoping exercise" following Rebekah Brooks' admission that News International journalists had paid police for information. And if they do a proper assessment, they will take the Rees paperwork into a third, new inquiry into wider aspects of covert surveillance.

So we're up to three parliamentary inquiries and three police inquiries. Not bad when you think that Andy Coulson said hacking was the work of a single rogue reporter. gruniad

More Hackgate links from the Guardian.

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