LONDON — Former British prime minister Gordon Brown charged Tuesday that Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers hired “known criminals” to obtain information about him, and a senior police official said he was sure his own phone was hacked, as a mounting scandal threatened to further damage Murdoch’s media empire.
Amid a steady stream of fresh allegations against the media mogul’s newspapers, Parliament summoned Murdoch for questioning next week along with top executives overseeing his British subsidiary: his son James Murdoch, 38, and Rebekah Brooks, 43, a former editor of two of his papers.
Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown accuses Rupert Murdoch's newspapers of employing criminals to obtain confidential information about his family, his private financial affairs and the lives of ordinary people. (July 12)
News of the World scandal
The scandal, which began with phone-hacking allegations against Murdoch’s best-selling Sunday tabloid, the News of the World, showed signs of spreading to other newspapers published by News International, the British arm of his flagship News Corp. In addition to News of the World, which Murdoch closed after Sunday’s issue in response to the scandal, News International publishes the Times of London, the Sunday Times and the daily tabloid the Sun.
In an interview Tuesday with the BBC, Brown charged that the Sunday Times had paid “elements of the criminal underworld” to do “the most disgusting of work,” not only against him but against “completely defenseless” people. Brown also suggested that the Sun had illegally obtained medical records showing that his son had cystic fibrosis, leading to a story in the tabloid disclosing the illness. News International responded Tuesday that the Sun obtained the information from a legitimate source and asked Brown to provide “all information concerning these allegations” so that it could “investigate these matters further.”
His voice trembling with emotion at times, Brown told the BBC: “My tax returns went missing at one point. Medical records have been broken into. I don’t know how all this happened but I do know ... that in two of these instances there is absolute proof that News International was involved in hiring people to get this information. ... And I do know also that the people that they work with are criminals, criminals with records, criminals who sometimes have records of violence as well as records of fraud.”
In a separate BBC interview, Prime Minister David Cameron said the story about Brown’s son appeared to be another example of an “appalling invasion of privacy.”
The assistant police commissioner at Scotland Yard, John Yates, told Parliament meanwhile that he was “99 percent certain my phone was hacked during the period of up to 2005-06.” He said he did not know who was responsible, and he emphatically denied that the hacking had anything to do with his 2009 decision to drop a three-year-old criminal investigation of alleged phone hacking by News of the World. Yates rejected as “despicable” suggestions that he killed the probe because he feared that the tabloid would publish details about his personal life.
Yates also strongly denied that journalists had ever paid him for information but conceded it was “highly probable” that some of his officers received such payments.