The News Machine by James Hanning with Glenn Mulcaire, book review

 

The phone-hacking scandal isn’t really about listening to voicemails. It’s about power: about how big businesses, politicians and police officers and other arms of state who shape our lives tend to look after their own interests – rather than ours.

The warped tale of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World – how it illegally mined the lives of uppity MPs and union officials, pretty Hollywood actors and shagging footballers – and covered up with the help of a conflicted establishment – reeks more strongly of wickedness with every passing week.

Days after prosecutors laid fresh hacking charges against some of the Sunday tabloid’s alleged ne’er-do-wells come two new books that flesh out the scandal’s narrative: one by Nick Davies, the Guardian journalist who broke the story; the other by James Hanning, deputy editor of the Independent on Sunday, and the private detective who did much of the hacking: Glenn Mulcaire.

For good reason, the latter is subtitled “Hacking, the Untold Story”. From when he started working for the Sunday tabloid in 2001 until now, Mulcaire has stayed tight-lipped, making him the shadowiest character in a sleazy tableau. Hacking or blagging data on thousands of individuals, including victims of terrorist bombings, the former part-time footballer stooped low, but we knew little about him aside from his reputation as a Walter Mitty character. Written in the third person, The News Machine gives us the valuable background. Mulcaire, the son of an Irish dustman in London, stumbled into the world of private investigation after lying about his age on his application form to join the SAS. In the 1990s, he became a tracing agent for John Boyall, a man with “good MI6 contacts” who was nicknamed “Goldfinger”.

When the News of the World fell out with Boyall, Mulcaire was given the nod. During Rebekah Brooks’s editorship, he worked on “serious investigations” but his hacking became frenzied in the subsequent reign of Andy Coulson. By the time he was caught in 2006, Mulcaire was apparently working 15 hours a day, drinking heavily, and suffering anxiety disorders and panic attacks.

Hanning reveals some of his co-author’s tricks of his trade, including his ruse for extracting medical records, and the triangulation of mobile-phone signals, which produced evidence for his paymasters that David Beckham was having an extra-marital affair. The book also reveals that, as well as evading sophisticated security systems, Mulcaire is skilled at justifying his crimes, at least to himself. While conceding that some of his hacking for tittle-tattle may have been wrong, Mulcaire – a Catholic family man with a burning sense of outrage at how he has been portrayed – heaps blame on his handlers. He “took it for granted” that hacking was legal; after all he was working for Murdoch’s global company. “I don’t wince at what I did at all… it is my job to be professional and do the investigation… it’s not my job to decide what is a story… There has to be a chain of command.” He needed the money to feed his family. Yet he was earning £100,000 a year, four times the average wage. And his companies didn’t pay their tax. Mulcaire maintains that 25 per cent of his notes are missing, and that many would prove his claims to be working indirectly for the authorities. A chapter titled “Spooks” says 20 of his files have been held back for “operational reasons” and that the News of the World published no story on almost 100 names on whom he performed searches; many with Arabic-sounding names, some later jailed for terrorism. Mulcaire says: “It wasn’t unusual for MI5 to initiate an exercise on people… there were times when a bad press was needed to move things on. It was known as a black project.”

He believed his bosses were helping police to gather information in return for information for stories. Stranger things have happened…

 

 

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent