Bellingcat

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

One Rogue Email And The Indestructible Archive

Another new article by my regular contributor bringing some more order to the chaos of Hackgate.

Often a key Hackgate event has come to light months (even years) later.  It can be confusing - trying to see a wider view and adjusting your fuzzy chronology when fresh information appears. But each new fragment contributes to a better grasp of a bigger picture.  Tracing one aspect through the now-massive volume of material can be useful - in this instance, focusing on News International's quirky dealings with the everyday email.

26 January 2007
Goodman and Mulcaire convicted. Goodman's unfair dismissal claim against News of the World mean that batches of relevant emails are provided to News Int lawyers, Harbottle and Lewis, to inspect for evidence of illegality.  Given their narrowly-drawn remit, unsurprisingly they found none.

24 July 2008
Max Mosley won his legal action against News Group Newspapers (NGN), UK parent company of News International (News Int). One part of the defence case (ironically) was that Max Mosley had deleted emails which the News of the World alleged would have incriminated Mosley and exonerated the newspaper.  NGN were clearly suspicious that deleting emails looked guilty. 

Justice Eady demurred, saying in his Judgement (p17-18  paras 73-78) that Mosley's deletion of the emails
...seem to have been prompted, albeit with no great urgency, by the warnings he had received that he might be under surveillance by unidentified persons with the motive of trying to undermine his character or reputation in the motoring world. These came from Bernie Ecclestone in January and from Lord (John) Stevens at the end of February.
At the time (ironically), post-prison, "Glenn Mulcaire was contracted to give security advice to a private security company, Quest, whose chairman was Sir John Stevens, the former Met Police Commissioner."  (p66, Dial M for Murdoch)

8 July 2009
The Guardian reported that News International settled Gordon Taylor's civil claim: 'Murdoch papers paid £1m to gag phone-hacking victims'

9 July 2009
Assistant Commissioner John Yates (Counter Terrorism Command, Specialist Operations) undertook a day-long consideration of issues raised by the Guardian article the day before.  His conclusion was that a new investigation was not warranted.


14 July 2009At the ensuing Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee hearing, the Guardian's Nick Davies publicly provided Members with the infamous 'for Neville' 2005 email - one rogue email that challenged NGN's 'one rogue reporter' defence.


Nov 2009
News Int established an 'email deletion policy' to "eliminate in a consistent manner" emails "that could be unhelpful in the context of future litigation".



29 July 2010
Following repeated requests, a News Int Senior Executive again pressed for priority action on email deletion - "How come we still haven't done the email deletion policy discussed and approved six months ago?"


4 August 2010
The same Senior Executive asked again about email deletion, adding "everyone needs to know that everything before January 2010 will not be kept."

1 September 2010
The New York Times published a comprehensive story of the phone hacking crisis. Their article included fresh information from former News Int whistleblowers, challenging the fiction of one rogue reporter acting illegally without executives' knowledge - 'Tabloid Hack Attack on Royals, and Beyond'






2 September 2010
Metropolitan Police commence Operation Varec to investigate the New York Times article of the previous day.  Varec was undertaken by Counter-Terrorism Command in Specialist Operations.

6 September 2010
News Int were served with a letter from Sienna Miller's legal team requiring that all relevant documents and emails be preserved. In addition, her legal team demanded the preservation of all computers used by named News of the World journalists. (p 17 Admitted General Particulars of Claim)

9 Sept 2010
A News Int IT employee wrote about deleting emails the next day, "There is a senior NI management requirement to delete this data as quickly as possible..."

11 September 2010
It is alleged that "on 11 September 2010, April Casburn, being a public officer, and acting as such, without reasonable excuse or justification, wilfully misconducted herself to such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public's trust in that office. This charge relates to an allegation that DCI Casburn contacted the News of the World newspaper and offered to provide information." (Crown Prosecution Service charge press statement)

It was reported by the Telegraph that this "related to information allegedly offered to the News of the World about Operation Varec", though it is not yet known if NotW accepted any offer of any inside-track Varec info. Detective Chief Inspector Casburn is a serving senior Metropolitan Police officer in Counter Terrorism Command in Specialist Operations.

Same day - 11 September 2010
All emails from News Int's email archive were deleted, up to September 30th 2004 (p17, Admitted General Particulars of Claim, as above)

October 2010
There now appeared a sense of urgency, brute force is applied - all computers used by News of the World journalists were 'taken out and smashed up' - physically destroyed and the hard drives put through a grinder. (Daily Mail)

10 November 2010
It was revealed by the Guardian that News of the World "accepted liability over allegations from Sienna Miller which included that her private emails had been opened".

17 November 2010
Bob Bird, Editor of News of the World Scotland, gives evidence at the Tommy Sheridan perjury trial -
Mr Bird told the court that the newspaper had lost 'six months' worth of emails due to a decision to archive them in Mumbai India
9 - 10 December 2010
Andy Coulson, Director of Communications at 10 Downing Street, gave his evidence at the Sheridan perjury trial.

21 January 2011
Andy Coulson resigns from No 10 post.

26 January 2011
Operation Weeting was announced. (MET Press Statement at start of Operation Weeting)
The MPS has today (26 January) received significant new information from News International relating to allegations of phone hacking at the News of the World in 2005/06. As a result, the MPS is launching a new investigation to consider this material... The original phone hacking investigation was undertaken by the Counter Terrorism Command in Specialist Operations. However, in view of their current workload and the continuing 'Severe' threat level, it has been agreed that it is no longer appropriate to divert them or Acting Deputy Commissioner John Yates from their main duties and responsibilities. Accordingly, this new investigation will be led by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers from the Specialist Crime Directorate.
Late January 2011
...a News International executive may have deleted millions of emails from an internal archive in an apparent attempt to obstruct Scotland Yard's inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal.
 (Guardian)

31 January 2011
A data company may have pressured News Int to admit the backed-up pre-2007 email archive still existed - "no emails had been lost en route to Mumbai or anywhere else in India" - they had been located, near Bristol.

May 2011
Former Director of Public Prosecutions, Lord MacDonald, was hired by global parent company News Corporation to re-inspect some of the Harbottle and Lewis email files - ignored since 2007.  It took him just minutes to conclude that the emails must be handed to the police.
(Qs 1056-1060 Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee)

18 July 2011
Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner John Yates (Counter Terrorism Command, Specialist Operations) resigned.

The News Corp Board followed Lord MacDonald's advice and the emails were provided to the MET Police.  These emails were the kick-start for the MET to intiate Operation Elevedon, their investigation into corruption of police officers and other public officials.

Who could have predicted?  You start with one rogue email and end up with a BIG can of worms...

Related Articles
John Yates And Neil Wallis - A Mutual Understanding
Alex Marunchak - Presumed Innocent
News Corp - Diplomatic Immunity?
The Cook-Hames Surveillance : A Watched Kettle...
Alastair Morgan On The Latest Hackgate Revelations

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

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