More on Murdoch: James Murdoch Knew More About Hacking Than He Let On, And One GOP Staffer May Have Been Involved in a Cover-Up

Today in Murdoch-Gate news, Tony Blair is a Murdoch child's godfather (too close for comfort?), but that's not all.  Two News of the World top executives - Colin Myler and Tom Crone - said they spoke to James Murdoch in 2008 about an e-mail implicating a reporter in phone hacking.  In other words, Murdoch knew about the hacking much earlier than he claimed. Also, Think Progress is reporting that a staffer for Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) never followed through on a tip about News Corp's cyber attacks on American companies. 

First: A 2008 email from a former soccer star accused News of the World of, once again, intercepting voice mail.  Admitting his own malfeasance, Crone said the e-mail convinced him to settle the case instead of fight it. 

According to the Los Angeles Times:

"It was evidence clearly … that it went beyond Clive Goodman," Crone said of the phone hacking, which had been characterized as the work of a lone "rogue reporter."

Crone said he sought permission to settle from Murdoch, who was in charge of News International, the News of the World's parent company. The meeting lasted "about 15 minutes," during which "I am certain that I explained to him … this document meant it was clear that News of the World had a wider involvement" in hacking than was previously revealed.

Added Myler: "I think everybody perfectly understood the significance and the seriousness of what we were discussing."

Murdoch is claiming that he never saw the e-mail, and that "there was nothing discussed in the meeting that led me to believe that a further investigation was necessary." 

Second:  According to Think Progress, Senator Grassley's his staffer, Nick Podsiadly, never followed through on promises to act as a whistle blower after receiving information regarding News Corp's cyber-attacks on American businesses.  From TP:

In December 2006, Robert Emmel, an account executive in News Corp’s profitable marketing division called News America Marketing, mailed Grassley’s office a 58-page document detailing News Corp’s unfair business practices. News America Marketing had won incredibly lucrative contracts away from a New Jersey-based firm called Floorgraphics not too long after Floorgraphics caught someone with a News Corp I.P. address illegally accessing password-protected information on the company’s computer system. As critics have pointed out, the alleged hacking attempts by News America Marketing seem to mirror information-stealing tactics used by News Corp’s British newspapers, including the now-defunct News of the World tabloid.

In 2006, Grassley was chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Emmel had gone to the committee looking for help. According to court filings, Grassley investigative staffer Nick Podsiadly had spoken with Emmel and told him that the committee would consider its own inquiry into the matter or he would refer the documents to the Justice Department. Podsiadly was Emmel’s best hope. After he submitted the sensitive information about his employer to the Senate Finance Committee, Emmel signed a non-disclosure agreement with News Corp, and was dismissed from the company the following month. News Corp unleashed a slew of lawyers against Emmel, which eventually forced the man into bankruptcy. As the New York Times has reported, News Corp more or less extinguished allegations of corporate espionage with $655 million in various settlements and buy-outs to competitors. (In-store marketing companies Valassis and Insignia claimed that News Corp had used similar tactics against them.)

Podsiadly, as it turned out, may have never opened an inquiry or passed along Emmel’s tip to the Department of Justice. A spokeswoman for Grassley explained to the Guardian that ongoing litigation prevented the committee from action:

A spokeswoman for the finance committee said nothing would be done with any documents sent by Emmel until the litigation over them had ended. Emmel today remains under a court-imposed injunction that forbids him from disclosing anything from these documents. “I cannot comment,” he said.

Think Progress added:

News Corp has quieted the alleged American victims of its corporate espionage by buying their silence with over half a billion worth of settlements. The public, however, deserves a fair hearing about the alleged criminal conduct. News Corp is no ordinary company; its vast newspaper and cable news holdings have a responsibility to serve the public interest, so a pattern of corrupt conduct across the company has wide implications. The question remains though why Grassley’s staffer, Podsiadly, may have dropped the ball and thrown News Corp’s whistleblower under the bus.

The News of the World scandal continues to widen, with implications reaching closer to home.  As it becomes clear that Murdoch's ethical breach made it across the pond, the question becomes when we will take serious action to learn the details and breadth of violations in the U.S.  

AlterNet / By Kristen Gwynne

Posted at September 6, 2011, 10:50am

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