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News Corp. Subsidiary Under Fire For Hacking Dead Girl's Voicemail 251

Posted by Soulskill
from the playing-with-fire dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. came under pressure from UK Prime Minister David Cameron to respond to 'really appalling' allegations that its News of the World tabloid hacked into the voicemail of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler. The tabloid printed a story based on a voicemail left on Dowler's mobile phone on April 14, 2002, when she had been missing from her home in Surrey, southwest of London, for more than three weeks. According to a Guardian newspaper report, a private detective working for the tabloid gained access to Milly Dowler's phone messages after she was abducted in March 2002 and the detective, Glenn Mulcaire, is alleged to have deleted voicemail messages on Dowler's phone, giving her parents 'false hope' she might still be alive and thereby complicating the police investigation. According to one source, when her friends and family discovered that her voicemail had been cleared, they concluded that this must have been done by Dowler herself and, therefore, that she must still be alive."
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News Corp. Subsidiary Under Fire For Hacking Dead Girl's Voicemail

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  • In all the articles I've read on this, it's never explained why they did it. It's obvious that when they hack phones belonging to celebrities they're looking for scandal dirt. What did they expect to dig up on a little dead girl?

    • Re:But why? (Score:5, Informative)

      by hedwards (940851) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @05:55PM (#36666196)

      Allegedly the investigator did it so that the voicemail wouldn't run out of space. As in they'd heard the ones on the phone, but wanted to ensure that they could hear new ones coming in.

    • Re:But why? (Score:5, Informative)

      by sortius_nod (1080919) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @05:55PM (#36666204) Homepage

      Because she was still missing at the time. They wanted the scoop. Bunch of sick fucks, deleting messages and giving the parents hope their kid is still alive (it's not the only time they've done this too).

      • I agree. Don't fuck around with situations like this. Losing a loved one can be very painful for some people and to have shit like this going on only makes it worse. Unfortunately, the way the justice system works, nothing will probably happen besides a couple of news articles.
        • I'm not familiar with specific laws in the UK but I think the individuals would be guilty of interfering with a police investigation and tampering with/destruction of evidence at the very least.
          • by asdf7890 (1518587)
            It depends how the technicalities have translated to modern technology (sometimes old case law ends up being applied in the most illogical ways).

            If they had removed and destroyed mail addressed to anyone involved in a case they would definitely be guilty of tampering with evidence and interfering with a legal investigation. A "good" lawyer might even get them for willingly perverting the cause of justice.
            • Re:But why? (Score:5, Insightful)

              by UnknowingFool (672806) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @07:27PM (#36666982)
              From the story I understood that the journalist or PI deleted the voicemails addressed to her leading everyone to believe she was still alive and had access to her phone. Although I don't know the specifics of the voicemail system, I think they fact that they accessed them and played them may be enough for tampering. Most systems records that fact that the voicemail has been played. Even if they did not delete them, the indication that the voicemail had been played would have been enough to completely change the investigation from the viewpoint of the police. The teenager in question may have been considered a runaway who had access to her voicemail and/or phone instead of an kidnapping or murder victim who didn't have access to her voicemail and would have changed how the police responded.
          • Re:But why? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by shar303 (944843) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @04:24AM (#36669754)

            its worth pointing out that the police in Britain are tangled up in this mess - they were paid off handsomely by the 'journalists' involved and it is fairly clear they were very much embroiled in this business.

            also, our prime minister is a personal friend of the newspaper editor that was responsible for a lot of the hacking, including the incidents where the murdered girl had messages deleted from her phone and false hope given to her family.

            david cameron also hired Andy Coulson (under criminal investigation for his part in phone hacking) as communications director.

            this scandal goes all the way to the top and anyone who thinks that the truth will fully emerge must be deluded - it's actually pretty hard to believe the depths to which Britain has sunk.

            the british media have always been fairly unpleasant and disreputable but the facts of this case are quite incredible - you could hardly make them up.

        • Re:But why? (Score:5, Informative)

          by jonbryce (703250) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @06:45PM (#36666694) Homepage

          The News of the World Hacking Scandal is a big thing in the UK at the moment. It has now emerged that they hacked the phones of two other murdered girls, Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells, who were murdered by Ian Huntley; and the police are now looking at many other child murder cases.

          • I think the Wells/Chapman case is going to be the biggest problem for News of The World because it was phone evidence that was used by the police to eventually determine that they never left the vicinity of the school - the murderer didn't switch off the phones, instead leaving them to run out of battery. The police enquiry was quite confused at this time and I am now wondering whether, armed with the geoloc data from the phones cell phone signal (pinpointing them both together near the school) and the voi

        • by decora (1710862) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @07:28PM (#36666992) Journal

          under the new draconian anti-hacking laws, some of which have been classified as 'terrorism', perhaps NewsCorp could be declared a terrorist organization.

          im referring to the US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, some of which paragraphs now qualify under 'terrorism' and RICO law.

          maybe the UK has something similar - they used terror law to go after Iceland when the banks busted.

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        They said they deleted them to make space for new ones so they could report on those as well with the inside scoop, and if they didn't delete them, there'd be no reason to hack the account. They didn't consider the effect of their actions on the others with access to the account. I don't think "giving hope" was anywhere in their minds, but getting more info that no one else could get was their primary concern.
      • by AGMW (594303)

        ... Bunch of sick fucks, deleting messages and giving the parents hope their kid is still alive (it's not the only time they've done this too).

        ... and then getting an exclusive deal to talk with the Dowlers about their hopes that Milly was still alive! Callous? I think so!

        Boycott the paper! But I don't suppose the readership will.

        It should be remembered that the reason the phone hacking was so prevalent was because The Public likes to read the salacious stories the technique can grub up, like rummaging through the bins, and what The Public wants The Public gets ... NotW were only providing what their readers wanted!

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by stridebird (594984)

          It should be remembered that the reason the phone hacking was so prevalent was because The Public likes to read the salacious stories the technique can grub up, like rummaging through the bins, and what The Public wants The Public gets ... NotW were only providing what their readers wanted!

          THIS. The trail leads right back to the readers of the newspaper. People treat the NotW as a laugh, a bit of a giggle, but this is the consequence. I hope the readership acknowleges this and a mass boycott of the NI papers results. The best punishment of all has to be Rupert Murdoch's bottom line.

    • Re:But why? (Score:4, Informative)

      by zonky (1153039) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @06:20PM (#36666440)
      Spoofed callerid to the voicemail number, if people don't have a PIN set for voicemail, you can access voicemail without any further barrier.
    • by Tarlus (1000874)

      What did they expect to dig up on a little dead girl?

      Something that would give News Corp the "exclusive" edge.

      It's a similar mentality to paparazzi who try to snap and sell photos of celebrities in private situations. It's appalling but it's something that news companies will use to rouse more attention.

  • by milbournosphere (1273186) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @05:55PM (#36666198)
    It's a tabloid and a rag with a political agenda, thinly disguised as news, and it was designed that way: http://gawker.com/5814150/roger-ailes-secret-nixon+era-blueprint-for-fox-news [gawker.com]

    It's a long article, but is really worth a read. It talks about Ailes and his plans for what would be Fox News. It uses primary sources, and goes into some depth about an interesting bit of history. Murdoch may not have come up with the idea, but he sure has done well with the execution.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      News Corp owns many news outlets. While I agree many of them are tabloids and not hard journalism, not all qualify for the tabloid label. The WSJ is still an excellent source of business news, even if its opinion pages are most definitely conservative. And, let's be honest, most all news outlets are owned by media companies that are selling entertainment. Witness the Casey Anthony trial as Exhibit A.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I think the specific targets are meaningless in the context of the scope. Between 7,000 & 9,000 phone are reported to have been tapped/intercepted.

      I want to know the technique used. Was an automatic dialler used, trying common PINS or something less/more sophisticated? And how can one defend against it.

      To those that frown at us who demand the right to encryption for personal privacy; please shut the fuck up.

      Any message intercepted is likely to be taken out of context, possibly embellished by the paper,

    • Murdoch may not have come up with the idea, but he sure has done well with the execution.

      Huzzah! I nominate both Ailes and Murdoch for the Joseph Goebbels award.

  • by madprof (4723) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @05:56PM (#36666208)

    This is a particularly disgusting example of a very common practice within UK tabloid newspapers. I wish we could single out the News of the World but in fact the tabloids in general have all been up to it.

    The interesting thing here is that Rebekah Brooks, who currently heads up News International in the UK, was editor of the News of the World when the phone was hacked and she is on record as saying she knew about phone hacking from back then. It is pretty likely (despite her protestations) that she knew what was going on - editors do - and it will be interesting to see how News Corp react to this with respect to her. She is one of Rupert Murdoch's favourites and all along they have been protecting her but we'll see what happens now.

    • by mr_lizard13 (882373) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @06:05PM (#36666292)
      She's also David Cameron's neighbour and horse riding buddy, and the replacement for Andy Coulson, who resigned over the phone hacking scandal then bagged a job as Cameron's communications advisor before finally stepping down from that role too. Cameron - let it not be forgotten - stood by Coulson the whole time.

      The real question shouldn't be if News Corp is a fit owner of BSkyB, but if Cameron's government is fit to preside over any aspect of Murdoch's takeover bid.
      • by Tasha26 (1613349)
        I thought the deal was Murdoch helps Cameron win the election and in return he smooths things out for the BSkyB merger.

        As for Rebekah Brooks, it'd appear that politicians and others have great fear of her. I can't re-collect exactly what a member of parliament said about her, but it was along the lines "you investigate my newspaper and i'll come after you." What a vile woman, almost gagnster creepy. And those are the people Murdoch employs?
    • by radio4fan (304271) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @03:54AM (#36669648)

      Also interesting is that the senior policeman in charge of the original investigation (Andy Hayman) found only a 'handful' of victims, and was asked by parliament to reinvestigate the case. He replied *the same day* that after reinvestigation that no evidence of more victims was found.

      We now know that the Met police in fact had evidence of a large number of victims.

      Hayman left the force and - by mere coincidence - got a job as a columnist at the Times: another News Corp paper.

      Still, not to worry: he was replaced as the investigator in the case by John Yates, who also appeared to misled parliament by claiming that there were only 8 - 12 victims when must have had evidence of many more.

      By mere coincidence, senior Met officers dined 13 times [wordpress.com] with News Corp executives during the short period of the original investigation. Yates himself dined with the News of the World's editor Colin Myler during the 2009 investigation when Myler should almost certainly have been considered a suspect.

      Rebekah Wade admitted to a Commons Select Committee that her paper had paid police for information in the past. The Met police refused to investigate [wordpress.com] this clear admission of a crime.

  • by BlackSabbath (118110) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @05:56PM (#36666214) Homepage
    Ruthless fucking cunts all the way down.
  • by David Gerard (12369) <slashdot@@@davidgerard...co...uk> on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @06:04PM (#36666278) Homepage

    The way to deal effectively with this is to take out the advertisers. A boycott is in progress and is getting results.

    * News Of The World advertisers list [google.com] - includes handy Excel spreadsheet, suitable for mailmerging
    * Addresses and phone numbers of advertisers [wordpress.com]

    So far, Ford have withdrawn their advertising from NOTW, and Mumsnet have removed their advertising from Sky. The latter will hurt, as that's advertisers considering all of News International too toxic to deal with.

    • And the best bit is that this sort of a campaign really wouldn't look out of place in the News of the World.

    • by LocalH (28506)

      Not that it's a bad thing in this case, but too often, getting advertisers to pull is the modern censorship. Get enough advertisers to pull out and they'll have to get rid of the show, right?

      I wish this earth would just go ahead and spontaneously combust. It'll save billions of lives' worth of suffering and pain.

  • Confusion... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by damburger (981828) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @06:27PM (#36666510)

    The summary says the investigator deleted the voicemail messages. In the news report I saw, the allegation is that the NotW journalists deleted the messages.

    (alleged) chain of events is:

    1. NotW hires investigator to gain access to voicemail

    2. NotW listens to voicemail to get soundbites from loved ones for their shitty, amoral rag.

    3. Once voicemail is full, they delete stored messages so they can get more juicy copy from distraught friends and relatives of a murdered 13-year old girl

    4. They then interview parents of said girl, the mother speaking about the hope that her daughter is still alive based on the deleted voicemails.

    Do not try to excuse this. The people doing this are pitiless psychopaths.

  • http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jun/30/news-corporation-powerful-media

    This cancerous organisation has just made a deal with the government it is deep in the pockets of, to extend its media monopoly in the UK - this scandal is unlikely to reverse that decision, given how personally close News International is to the Conservative Party:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uk_general_election_2010#Endorsements

  • by frank_adrian314159 (469671) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @06:38PM (#36666626) Homepage

    For all of the right-wing clowns here who are saying that it is unfair to brand Fox News and the other "fine" Murdoch properties with the tar coming from this story, I have one response: If you buy properties that lie down with dogs and don't clean them up, you shouldn't be surprised when the fleas hop onto you. God knows Rupert's had time to change this paper's editorial policies if he didn't approve of them - he's owned it since 1969.

  • by damburger (981828) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @06:54PM (#36666750)

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/04/david-cameron-dinner-rebekah-brooks-mystery

    We are a perfectly corrupt society.

  • Bit of background (Score:5, Informative)

    by DaveGod (703167) on Tuesday July 05, 2011 @07:02PM (#36666814)

    This might be the straw that's very likely going to break the camel's back, but it's been a long running story now. Back in 2005 they were rumbled for hacking into voicemail of aides to the royal family, a good article from a US source, the NYT, here [nytimes.com]. The tl;dr version of that article is a minor uproar ensues but Newscorp contains it and is more or less successful claiming it as a one-off, rouge scenario, offering up the resignation of Andy Coulson, the editor, though he claims not to have known anything about it of course.

    Now Andy Coulson makes the mistake of getting a job - head of communications, think Toby Ziegler in the West Wing - in the Conservatives, who get into government. This, combined with statements made by the private investigator who's decided he's not going down alone, adds enough fuel to get the fire burning again. The Guardian and Channel 4 get digging and out comes a documentary. A handful of celebrities are sniffing around it now, lo and behold Hugh Grant throws gas on the fire by bugging the bugger [newstatesman.com]. All is forgiven Hugh, well played.

    Accusations just keep mounting up and the picture is forming pretty solidly of a newsroom where such things were par for the course. An oft-repeated point directed at Coulson I'll paraphrase as "either he knew and he broke the law, or he didn't and he's grossly negligent" (not sure who started that, I think Ian Hislop [wikipedia.org]). Coulson is given the boot.

    The shit is flying pretty thick now and it just keeps coming. But it's all the royals, celebs and politicians. There is a sense that whilst it's overstepping the mark considerably, these are all public people and fair game. Milly Dowler, on the other hand, was a child and a tragedy. This is a recent turn in events and very quickly major advertisers have started to step away. I'll applaud Ford for being the first of the big advertisers to drop them, though I'm quite surprised it took so long. I suspect more shuffled away quietly.

    News is now coming in [guardian.co.uk] that the police investigating the phone hacking have contacted the parents of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, the girls killed by the Soham Murderer. This was one of the biggest stories and national tragedies I can remember.

    The News of the World really must not be allowed to survive this, it is a stunning failure of ethics, governance and plain decency on a huge scale with substantial evidence. If they can't be brought down for this, they clearly cannot be taken down for anything. Yet it's even proving difficult to remove the editor.

  • round them all up and give them all the harshest penalty under law

  • Mastercard and Visa (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tekrat (242117) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @09:16AM (#36671120) Homepage Journal

    Why isn't Mastercard and Visa REFUSING to accept "subscriptions" to this paper? Why hasn't THEIR Paypal account been frozen?

    See how it's one set of rules for common people and another set of rules for Big Business?

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