Why the Murdoch phone-hacking inquiry keeps on ticking; plus, Ray Kelly, Brian Williams, Katie Couric
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In July of last year, even after it was revealed that the phone-hacking practices at News International had spread so wide as to involve murder victim Milly Dowler, the Metropolitan Police were still not quite getting the severity of the situation.
On Monday, Met Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick told panelists in the parliamentary inquiry into the scandal that London deputy mayor Kit Malthouse on three occasions tried to warn her against assigning too many officers to their investigation into the phone-hacking scandal. After the third time she rebuffed him.
“I felt that I wanted to put down a marker... mainly because I did not want him to compromise himself,” she testified, especially because Malthouse was of “a particular political party” and to her mind should not be interfering in “such a charged investigation."
It highlights one of the reasons this probe never seems to go away. There's the activity that's questionable—phone-hacking itself, as well as bribing police for information. Then there is the activity conducted to prevent journalists and police from getting into trouble, which followed the early revelations of the phone-hacking: The cover-up. Now it's a question of whether there were cover-ups to protect high-level police and News International employees from being implicated in the investigation of those cover-ups.
It can be little surprise that the Leveson inquiry is inching along an upward spiral, since, apparently, journalists and police can't seem to stop covering up, and then covering up for cover-ups. Logically, this inquiry should take, literally, forever.
It's precisely this sort of problem that Rupert Murdoch, at least publicly, seeks to assure everyone is not the case. In part, that's by conducting his own internal investigation and handing over the results to the police. The Management Standards Committee, or MSC as it is called internally, is largely credited with providing the information that led to the arrest of five employees of The Sun.
The M.S.C. investigation may well help Murdoch get ahead of the Met's investigations, and clear out whatever cancer remains in his British newspaper organizations on Murdoch's timetable rather than the Met's. But it is destroying that newspaper operation in the process, and it's not clear whether the M.S.C. investigation is getting as far as fast as Murdoch believes.
After reports last week that two of the arrested Sun reporters were suicidal, Murdoch sent a note to the staff on Tuesday ensuring them that the investigation was almost over. From the report on the memo in the Guardian:
"We have all been shocked and saddened by recent reports concerning the health and welfare of a number of our colleagues," Murdoch wrote, noting as the newspaper was enduring "difficult and stressful times" that nobody could "simply wish it all away".
The following morning, six more arrests were made, including Rupert Murdoch's long-time confidante Rebekah Brooks and her husband, both close personal friends of the Prime Minister.
The arrests, it was reported, were not spurred by information from Murdoch's internal investigation but material assembled independently by police.
In light of all this, the letter sent to Parliament by James Murdoch the following day, seemingly a long apology for not getting on top of the scandal fast enough, actually likely looked to Murdoch insiders quite cynical:
The timing of Murdoch's letter is crucial. The select committee is hoping to publish its report into the phone hacking scandal at the end of the month and Murdoch's position as chairman of BSkyB could be threatened if it finds he mislead parliament.
How angry are Murdoch's British staff?
Later the same day, police arrested Neville Thurlbeck, a former chief reporter for the shuttered Murdoch title News of the World, after he published the name of the street where of one of the members of the M.S.C. lives on his blog. (The address is available as public information already on election rolls.) With intentional irony, Thurlbeck, in a statement, said: "A compaint had been made and acted upon very swiftly indeed. For six hours on Wednesday, it really didn't feel like England."
Next month, it looks like Rupert and James Murdoch are to appear before justice Leveson again. What pass things may have come to by then is anyone's guess.
In other news...
Ray Kelly thinks the NYPD has "a good relationship with the press." [PolitickerNY]
"Rock Center with Brian Williams" continues to struggle. [Media Decoder]
Katie Couric's forthcoming talk show now has a premiere date. [Entertainment Weekly]
New York Times Co. executive pay Mad Libs. [The Audit]
Is Times business editor Larry Ingrassia headed to London for a new gig at the paper? [New York Post]
Conde Nast is now providing tablet edition metrics to advertisers. [Ad Age]
Newsroom cuts at The Chicago Tribune. [Crain's Chicago Business]
D.N.C. vs. The Daily Caller. [The Huffington Post]
CNN trails in the ratings but gets tons more social media activity than its cable news rivals. [The Wrap]
"After the New Yorker story, the Tyler Clementi debate became more informed and more reasonable." [ABC News]
Business Insider nabs a Bloomberg reporter. [Talking Biz News]
And the award for America's most cantankerous film critic goes to... [The Atlantic Wire]
The story behind the A.P.'s North Korea bureau. [The Atlantic Wire]