Lawsuits recently filed by a small number of British politicians and celebrities who are known to have had their voicemail hacked by a reporter and private investigator working for Rupert Murdoch's Sunday tabloid, News of the World , could "open the floodgates" for similar action by hundreds or even thousands of other individuals who may also have been targeted, but whose identities have not yet been disclosed, the London Independent observed today (Thursday). The newspaper cited an unnamed lawyer with an intimate knowledge of the proceedings as saying, "If those names are revealed, then each one will have a strong basis for bringing a breach of privacy case against News International." News International is the umbrella for Murdoch's British newspapers, which include the News of the World. Until now, it has kept a lid on the controversy by settling individual claims by known victims of the hacking, insisting that the hacking was performed only by a single rogue reporter working with the private eye. And the private eye reportedly was paid $125,000 for signing a confidentiality agreement. But other former News of the World reporters are coming forward to concede that they, too, were involved and that the editor at the time, Andy Coulson, now the spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron, knew about their activities. Coulson has repeatedly denied that he was aware of the hacking. But Britain's Guardian newspaper on Wednesday published an interview with former NoW investigative reporter Paul McMullan, who said he worked with private detective Steve Whittamore on stories. "How can Coulson possibly say he didn't know what was going on with the private investigators?" McMullan asked. And, if it does turn out that Coulson knew about it, did his boss, Rupert Murdoch, also know about it. As London Evening Standard columnist Roy Greenslade comments, "No newspaper owner is more knowledgeable, and therefore more exacting, than Murdoch. Every one of his Editors is aware that they work under his continual scrutiny." On the other hand, Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, called the hacking controversy "codswallop" on Wednesday, maintaining that it is merely "a politically motivated put-up job by the Labor Party."

16/09/2010