Bellingcat

Friday, 18 May 2012

Hackgate for Beginners - Past Police Operations

This is part of a series of posts intended to help newcomers to the Hackgate scandal to understand the many different elements that make up the scandal.  With so much of the focus being on the Leveson Inquiry it’s easy to lose sight of some of the other aspects of the scandal, something this series of posts will hopefully correct.
In this first article I will be covering a number of past police operations that are relevant to the current hacking scandal.
Previous Operations
There have been a number of previous police operations relating to the current Hackgate scandal that met with varying levels of success, for a variety of reasons.
The most significant investigations were Operation Motorman and Operation Glade in 2003.  These Operations were the result of the ICO discovering the scale of the problem when documents were found on the premises of Surrey private investigator John Boyall that revealed the misuse of data from the Police National Computer, and this led to the two operations.
As an interesting side note, until the autumn of 2001 the News of the World was a regular client of John Boyall, but when News of the World's assistant editor, Greg Miskiw fell out with Boyall, Miskiw poached Boyall's assistant Glenn Mulcaire, who would go on to hack the voicemail messages of public figures at the behest of the News of the World.
Operation Motorman
A  2003 investigation by the Information Commissioner's Office into allegations of offences under the Data Protection Act by the British press led by ICO Senior Investigator Alec Owens triggered by discoveries at the premises of Surrey private investigator John Boyall.
The discoveries at John Boyall’s premises led to the search of the Hampshire offices of the private detective Steve Whittamore, where a huge cache of documents were revealed.  These documents revealed, in precise detail, a network of police and public employees illegally selling personal information obtained from government computer systems, which were passed onto over 300 journalists working for various British newspapers, including nearly every national newspaper.
In 2006 the Information Commissioner’s Office released a report, What Price Privacy, which closely examined Operation Motorman and which was followed in the following year by What Price Privacy Now, which including a table detailing transactions with Steve Whittamore by the number of requests per paper, and number of journalists requesting jobs per paper.  The top five included the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, Sunday People, Daily Mirror, and News of the World.  However, it’s impossible to know if the jobs requested by the papers were illegal as Steven Whittamore did a mixture of legal and illegal jobs, so it’s possible that certain papers were more prone to requesting illegal jobs than others.
Therefore it’s believed by some that the release of the Operation Motorman files could uncover a scandal much larger on scale than the current News of the World focused scandal, involving many news organisations, and in March 2012 the Hacked Off website started to a campaign to have the Operation Motorman files published by the Leveson Inquiry and in April 2012 blogger Paul Staines of the Guido Fawkes blog published a redacted version of data taken from the document known as the Blue Book, containing jobs requested by staff at News International titles, including jobs requests by Rebekah Brooks (then Wade).  The ICO strongly condemned the release, and Paul Staines was summoned to appear before the ICO. 
Since then unredacted versions of the Blue Book have appeared online for brief periods of time, and an eventual leak of the unredacted files seems inevitable.
For further reading I’d recommend this article by Nick Davies of the Guardian, Operation Motorman: the full story revealed.
Operation Glade
An operation that ran alongside Operation Motorman, and investigated the way in which the information from the Police National Computer was being obtained.  Glade discovered that Whittamore's ultimate source was a civilian worker at Wandsworth police station, south London, Paul Marshall, who was logging phoney 999 calls in order to justify accessing the computer records of public figures that were of interest to newspapers. Marshall was passing the information to a former police officer, Alan King, who passed it to a private investigator, John Boyall, who supplied it to Whittamore.
In April 2005 Whittamore, Boyall Alan King, Paul Marshall appeared at Blackfriars crown court and pleaded guilty to procuring confidential police data to sell to newspapers, with all four receiving a suspended sentence.  The News of the World was named as one of their buyers, and the judge at the trial questioned why no-one from Fleet Street titles had been prosecuted, a question that appears to have remained unanswered. 
DCI Brendan Gilmour, who worked on Operation Glade, appeared at the Leveson Inquiry on May 9th 2012, and stated that seven journalists were interviewed under caution in 2004 after evidence suggested they had been commissioning private investigators to obtain information illegally, and said they were unable to establish if the journalists were aware of the methods used to gather the information requested were illegal.  Robert Jay QC, inquiry counsel, pointed out the journalists were sent written invitations to attend places to be interviewed under caution, and had legal advice, meaning answers could have been orchestrated in advance.
Operation Varec
A September 2010 police operation that investigated claims made in a New York Times article by former News of the World journalist Sean Hoare that Andy Coulson, the then editor of the News of the World, had encouraged him to hack phones.  It also looked into claims by Kelly Hoppen that News of the World journalist Dan Evan had hacked her phone.  Sean Hoare was interviewed but according to the police report provided no information, and no actionable evidence was found in the Kelly Hoppen case either, so it was decided no further action would be taken.  A more detailed examination of the case can be read here.
Sean Hoare died in 2011.
Operation Millipede 
A 2008 Serious Organised Crime Agency led investigation into the practice of blagging which resulted in the prosecution and jailing of Daniel Summers, Philip Campbell Smith, Graham Freeman, and Adam John Spears. 
Philip Campbell Smith was later investigated by Operation Kalmyk, part of Operation Tuleta, into accusations that he hacked the computer of the former army intelligence officer Ian Hurst aka Martin Ingram, who was involved with the alleged spy Stakeknife.  Philip Campbell Smith was accused of hacking the computer in an attempt to get information on the alleged spy for the News of the World.
Operation Caryatid
A 2006 police operation overseen by Peter Clarke that investigated the interception of phone messages from the official residence of The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Harry Clarence House after two entries in Clive Goodman’s column for the News of the World raised suspicion with Royal Household staff that Goodman had access to the Royal Family's voicemails.
Clive Goodman was imprisoned for four months in January 2007 along with his co-conspirator Glenn Mulcaire.  Clive Goodman was sacked by the News of the World that same month, but would later receive a £240000 settlement from News International as according to News International his dismissal was unfair as they had failed to "follow statutory procedures" in sacking Goodman.
Andy Coulson, who was News of the World editor at the time, resigned as a result of the court case, and both Andy Coulson and Clive Goodman were arrested in on July 8th and released on police bail in connection with new phone hacking related charges.
The narrowness of the investigation has been questioned, especially with the recent revelations about hacking at the News of the World, and The former commissioner of the Metropolitan Sir Paul Stephenson was asked at the Leveson Inquiry why phone hacking was not investigated further in 2009 when Assistant Commissioner John Yates was asked to review Operation Caryatid, ruling that there was no fresh material that could lead to convictions.  Sir Paul Stephenson said there had been a “flawed assumption” that the original investigation had been sufficient, and the force felt it couldn’t expand its resources without further evidence, especially at a time when the priority was investigating terrorism.
Operation Reproof
A 2002 to 2004 Devon and Cornwall Police operation examining how confidential information was being leaked and obtained by various individuals and groups. 
It discovered a network of individuals being passed on by current and retired police officers to a number of individuals.
A more detailed examination of Operation Reproof and related operations can be found here.
Operation Nigeria
The police surveillance of Jonathan Rees run private investigation company South Investigations between May and September 1999.  The operation was run by the Metropolitan police's anti-corruption squad CIB3, and ended when evidence was uncovered that Jonathan Rees was involved with a plot to plant drugs on a woman so her husband could win a custody battle.  This resulted in Rees and a serving detective, Austin Warnes being jailed.
Transcripts from the operation recorded reports from a variety of newspapers, including the News of the World, Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror, requesting jobs and revealed collusion between private investigators and corrupt police officers.
This post contains more information about links between Operation Nigeria and other police operations, particularly the links between the News of the World and Southern Investigations.
Operation Russia
A 1987 investigation led by John Yates into police corruption in South East London by a number of officers, including Ray Adams, who went on to work for the News Corp owned NDS UK Ltd.  It’s believed there’s a number of links between the officers involved with the police corruption and the Stephen Lawrence inquiry and the murder of the private investigator Daniel Morgan, which has also been linked to News International.  A more detailed examination of the case can be read here.
In the next part of Hackgate for Beginners I'll be looking at the current police operations into various aspects of the hacking scandal.


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You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com

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