The Sunday Times editor admitted to the Inquiry that someone working for the paper had called Abbey National pretending to be Gordon Brown to obtain details about the former prime minister and then-chancellor's finances in 2000.
Witherow confirmed that the paper "blagged" information from the bank as part of an investigation into Mr Brown's purchase of a flat from a company owned by the late media baron Robert Maxwell.
The Sunday Times has argued that the story was in the public interest and that this would provide a defence to any charges brought under the Data Protection Act for accessing personal details, and Witherow told the Inquiry that the paper "believed that Mr Brown had purchased the flat at a cheaper price than valuers had put on it at the time". Witherow said the paper has employed blagging and impersonation, including employing an actor as part of a deception, but has never hacked phones.
The editor played down the significance of occasional meetings with senior politicians, saying: "When you meet them in private, you don't often learn much more than you would from their speeches or when they are giving interviews on TV."