News Intl. told of widespread hacking in 2006

Senior execs at News Intl., including ex-News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks, were allegedly told by police as early as 2006 that phone hacking was widespread at the Sunday tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

The revelation, made Thursday by U.K. newspaper the Independent, alleges that a senior police officer met Brooks, who was editor of the Sun at the time, shortly after the August 2006 arrest of the News of the World’s royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.

The Independent claims that Brooks was told evidence seized from Mulcaire indicated that intercepting private voicemails was endemic.

News Intl. has maintained that it had no evidence until 2008 that phone-hacking extended beyond Goodman, who was jailed in January 2007.

Tom Watson, the member of Parliament who has helped spearhead the campaign against phone hacking, said, “If these allegations are true, then Parliament was not given the full facts of the case when senior executives (from News Intl.) appeared before MPs.”The Independent claims that News Intl.’s legal manager Tom Crone told execs, including the News of the World’s then editor Andy Coulson, in fall 2006 that police had “circumstantial evidence” confirming the involvement of more journalists.

Brooks, who went on to become News Intl.’s CEO, and Coulson, later employed by Prime Minister David Cameron as his spin doctor, have always said they were ignorant of the scale of phone hacking until 2008, and denied any knowledge of it under their editorships.

If the Independent’s story is accurate, it raises fresh questions about when James Murdoch, News Corp.’s deputy COO, first knew that phone hacking went beyond the so-called “rogue reporter.”

Earlier this month, Crone and the former News of the World editor Colin Myler contradicted James Murdoch’s evidence to British MPs in July.

He claimed he was not told that intercepting voice mails involved other reporters in July 2008, when he agreed a payment to U.K. soccer executive Gordon Taylor, but Crone and Myler dispute this.

Murdoch is to face another grilling by British pols over the phone-hacking scandal and police corruption scandal later this fall. In a further development Harold Evans, the former editor of the Sunday Times and Times, who famously fell out with Rupert Murdoch, who sacked him from the Times in 1981, told British newspaper the Guardian that he believes that Murdoch Sr.’s power to influence British politicians is “finished.”

And asked if James Murdoch would succeed his father as News Corp.’s CEO, Evans said James was “an extremely capable executive” at BSkyB, which he still chairs, but added that he believed he had “the same over-aggressive, vindictive attitude that runs throughout” News Corp.

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