Murdoch and top executives to be criticised in hacking report
James Cusick is political correspondent of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday. As an experienced member of the lobby, he has previously worked at The Sunday Times and the BBC. His career as a journalist has been split between print and television, including senior positions as producer with Sir David Frost and at BBC Newsnight. He is also an award-winning golf and travel writer, working for over a decade as the UK contributing editor for one of the USA’s leading golf magazines. He broadcasts regularly for the BBC and CNN. He lives in London.
Tuesday 01 May 2012
James Murdoch will be accused today of failing to provide parliament with a full account of News International's internal knowledge of phone hacking at the News of the World.
Having already attacked the "collective amnesia" and "deliberate obfuscation" inside NI in their 2010 probe into phone hacking, the latest investigation by MPs on the culture select committee will once again criticise key senior executives at the Murdoch-owned company.
The DCMS report will point to a reluctance inside NI's senior ranks to disclose that the official "rogue reporter" line of 2006 had long been dismissed as not legally credible within key quarters of the newspaper's management.
Colin Myler, the former editor of the now-closed NOTW, and NI's former legal manager, Tom Crone, will both be heavily criticised for failing to disclose to parliament the full extent of what was known about the "culture" of illegal practices inside the NOTW.
Les Hinton, the former chief executive of Dow Jones, and one of Rupert Murdoch's trusted lieutenants, will also be criticised for failing to reveal in full all he knew.
Although News International collectively, as a company, will be described as an organisation which knew its legal position on phone hacking was perilous and that it acted solely to protect its own interests by concealing key evidence, it is understood that the man at the helm, Mr Murdoch, will not be directly accused of outright intentional deception.
Nevertheless, it is understood he will be described as failing to tell the committee, in full, all he must have known. The Scots Law equivalent of "not proven" – which is neither a verdict of guilty or not guilty – was used by one MP to describe the report's conclusion on Mr Murdoch.
The delay in publishing the report has not been helped by divisions inside the select committee. The MPs have been split over the exact nature of their criticism of Mr Murdoch. A compromise, which criticises his reluctance to describe the full picture, is understood to be one solution discussed.
During appearances at Westminster, Mr Murdoch blamed Mr Crone and Mr Myler for failing to disclose to him key evidence which showed phone hacking was widespread at the tabloid.
Mr Murdoch recently wrote to the committee insisting he had "not misled Parliament. I did not know about, nor did I try to hide, wrongdoing."
Despite urging the committee's MPs to support his innocence, the report is understood to fall short of totally absolving Mr Murdoch and granting him the legal luxury of pushing all blame in the direction of Mr Crone and Mr Myler.
There has also been heated debate among the select committee about how far their report should go, given what one MP called "the competition in the Strand" – namely, the Leveson Inquiry.
However, given that the select committee and Leveson have examined similar evidence, there was a common view that a weak report could backfire on the Commons' authority.
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