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Murdoch Named PATRIOT Act Architect to Mop Up Paper's Eavesdropping Scandal; 'News of the World' to Close

One of Murdoch's UK papers is in trouble over hacking private cell phones, including one belonging to a murder victim--and some familiar US faces may be part of the coverup.

UPDATE: Since this story first published, Rupert Murdoch's News International announced that it will close the doorson its scandal-plagued paper, News of the World , publishing its final issue on Sunday, July 10. The announcement was made by James Murdoch, Rupert's son and deputy chief operating officer of parent company News Corporation, and chairman of the U.K.-based News International. The Guardian , whose dogged reporting blew the lid off the scandal, has the full textof James Murdoch's statement. This updated version of the story includes new information, as well, in the body of the piece.

A scandal involving phone-hacking by a right-wing newspaper tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation is threatening the administration of British Prime Minister David Cameron. So deep, apparently, does the scandal run in the culture of the News of the World -- a 168-year-old publication with the largest English-language readership in the world, according to its publisher -- that News Corporation executives announced their intention to shutter the paper for good on Sunday, July 10.  Now the scandal is boomeranging back to New York, engulfing the top executive at the largest-circulation newspaper in the United States, the Wall Street Journal.

To clean up some of the mess, Murdoch has called upon the talents of former Bush administration Assistant Attorney General Viet Dinh, whose views on privacy are enshrined in the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act, and Joel Klein, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's union-bashing former schools chief, known for his phony claims of  test-score gains.

The Crown Jewel and the Screaming Slime

Every corporate mogul likes to crown his empire with a jewel, and Rupert Murdoch is no exception. Having made a fortune acquiring screaming tabloids and making them scream louder, and acquiring a media company, Fox, now known for its ideological rabble-rousing, Murdoch wanted to buy his News Corp a little respectability. And so, in 2007, he purchased Dow Jones and its Wall Street Journal, the pinstriped, grey-at-the temples, oxford-shod media presence of the global financial sector.

As CEO of the Dow Jones Company, of which WSJ is a part, Murdoch installed Les Hinton, who had previously run News Corp's British newspaper empire, known as News International. Now it appears that Hinton may have won his prize spot for his part in an apparent coverup of a multi-year phone-hacking operation that likely involved an editor who went on to serve as the prime minister's spokesperson, and another who would go on to run all of Murdoch's UK papers.

Today, in Britain, Murdoch's tabloid empire is facing the ire of the public, a Scotland Yard investigation and the yanking of the curtain on its political alliances, thanks to a long-running scandal involving the hacking of voice-mail accounts by agents of its reporters and editors -- a scandal given new life when the Guardian, a liberal rival to Murdoch's right-wing outlets, revealed a cruel hoax played by  News of the World on the parents of a murdered teenager. Eager to break news on the disappearance of 13-year-old 
Milly Dowler, editors at NOTW hired a private investigator to hack the girl's cell phone. They deleted some messages, giving Milly's family false hope that she was still alive and receiving her messages. Then the paper reported on the family's renewed hopes, based on the evidence created by NOTW.

This latest revelation comes on the heels of news that the paper hacked the voice-mail accounts of actors Sienna Miller and Jude Law, as well as staff members on the royal payroll (including Prince William's communications chief). The scandal has been unfolding for years, a genie reemerging from its bottle with renewed vigor. (Reuters has an excellent timeline here.)