Home Affairs phone-hack evidence: 'David Cameron is either a liar or an idiot'

The Home Affairs Committee on Friday published the evidence it has received so far in relation to its investigation into the “unauthorised tapping into or hacking of mobile communications”.

The most interesting bits are from Paul McMullan, who was features editor at the News of the World between 1998 and 2001 when  Andy Coulson was deputy editor, and from Max Mosley, who sued the NoW for breach of privacy after it exposed his extra-marital exploits with dominatracies.

McMullan has spoken out before, here’s what he said to the MPs:

Further to our conversation today a brief email to explain phone hacking was very easy in the 90s when people were new to mobiles and did not change their codes, you simply rang them up to ensure their phone was engaged; you rang a second time, got to their message system pressed 9, followed by 0000, you could then listen to all their messages.

Everyone in the schoolyard did it, many particularly showbiz journos did it. It wasn’t particularly illegal.

For what it is worth Andy Coulson knew a lot of people did it at The Sun on his bizarre column and after that at NOTW. As he sat a few feet from me in the newsroom he probably heard me doing it, laughing about it etc and told others to do it. I worked under Coulson for a year and a half at NOTW.

The real scandal is Cameron would have been briefed: “We can probably get away with this one,” when hiring Coulson, so Mr Cameron is either a liar or an idiot.

Hacking got more difficult as time progressed with call waiting so it was more difficult to provoke an engaged tone and by around 2006, actually probably after if not because of the Clive Goodman trial many mobile networks would not let you have a message system unless you put in your unique code. However people who worked for Vodaphone etc would sometimes ring up the news desk offering to sell numbers and codes of stars’ phones, as indeed did people at the tax office, people in doctors receptions etc.

That is your real problem. As you make phones more difficult to hack so you increase the value of an insider’s information. You can also scan/intercept mobile phones but the equipment is expensive to keep up to date with, if I can be of any further assistance feel free to email or call ***********, and leave a message, boom boom.

In truth I never got a decent story from hacking messages. If people have something important to say they say it to the person when he picks up. It was a third rate trick used by school kids and third rate journalists. There is no real security risk and more fool the MP who leaves messages about nuclear secrets etc. Scanning is another issue but you will have to ask your security peeps about protecting your phone from that, regards Paul

Max Mosley asked in his evidence why News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck was not prosecuted for blackmail over the technique he used to try to persuade one of the women involved in his orgy to give a story to the paper.

He told the MPs:

“The NOTW published its first story about me on 30 March 2008. It wanted a follow-up. To this end, its chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck, set out to blackmail two of the women involved. He sent them emails threatening to publish their pictures in the next edition of his newspaper if they did not give him the story he wanted. This is described in detail in the judgement of Mr Justice Eady (Ref. [2008] EWHC 1777 (QB)), starting at paragraph 79.

“As Mr Justice Eady pointed out ‘it is elementary that blackmail can be committed by the threat to do something which would not, in itself, be unlawful’ (paragraph 87).”

The Home Affairs Committe inquiry  was announced on 7 September, and comes in addition to the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee inquiry into phone-hacking launched on 10 September.

The Home Affairs Commmittee phone-hack evidence can be read in full here.

The Independent reports today that former Home Secretary David Blunkett believed his phone was hacked in 2004, at a time when there was much media coverage about his private life. Apparently he decided not to pursue the matter.

For comprehensive coverage of the phone-hacking scandal to date, check out Press Gazette’s interactive timeline.

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