The Sun made illegal payment to US serviceman to obtain Saddam picture, says MP


Tom Harper,Martin Hickman
Monday 03 December 2012 22:02
Saddam Hussein was splashed across The Sun and the New York Post in 2005
Saddam Hussein was splashed across The Sun and the New York Post in 2005

Rupert Murdoch faces calls to hand police all his personal emails to senior News International executives amid claims his media empire paid a serving member of the US forces for a photo of Saddam Hussein.

Labour MP Chris Bryant told the House of Commons on Monday night that the Sun newspaper paid “a substantial sum” for the picture of the Iraqi dictator in his underpants while he was an American prisoner of war.

A laptop containing the photograph was “later destroyed,” the Labour front-bencher claimed. Mr Bryant told MPs that Rupert Murdoch and his son James could eventually face corporate charges over the phone hacking scandal.

Scotland Yard is understood to be liaising with the FBI over the alleged acquisition of the picture of Hussein, taken in 2005.

During a Parliamentary debate on the Leveson Inquiry, Mr Bryant questioned why News Corp’s Management and Standards Committee – which controls what evidence of criminality at Wapping is passed to the Met – temporarily halted co-operation with the police in May this year.

Mr Bryant said: “It smacks of the plimsoll strategy, whereby senior management at News International and News Corp, as soon as the water started lapping a little bit higher chucked somebody else overboard, a newspaper, an editor.

“They provided the material about some of their journalists as long as they could make sure the ship still floated and the proprietors feet didn’t get wet.”

In May 2005, The Sun and the New York Post, Mr Murdoch’s favourite tabloid newspapers, splashed the picture of the former Iraqi President in his underwear on their front pages.

Publication was described as a breach of the Geneva convention by the US military and the then US President, George W Bush, ordered an inquiry into its leak. It was never traced.

However The Independent has been told that a senior Sun executive got approval to publish the photographs from British and American intelligence agencies.

At the time, Graham Dudman, The Sun's managing editor, defended the decision to print the pictures, saying: “He's not been mistreated. He's washing his trousers. This is the modern-day Adolf Hitler. Please don't ask us to feel sorry for him.”

He also disclosed that a sum of money had been paid for them.

The Independent understands that a senior News International employee met the source, a member of the US National Guard, in San Francisco in 2005.

Once he authenticated the photographs, it is thought the London office wired him several thousand dollars which he is said to have paid to the National Guardsman on US soil.

A larger amount was allegedly paid over in the UK via “a specially set up account,” Mr Bryant said.

Mr Bryant – whose phone was hacked by News International – said: “I understand from two well-paced people inside News International that in 2005 The Sun and the New York Post paid a substantial sum to a serving member of the US armed forces in the USA for a photograph of Saddam Hussein.

“And a much larger amount was then paid by a specially-set up account in the UK to that same member of the US armed forces.

“It is difficult to see how those who wrote that story up in the UK and the US and the two editors could possibly pretend that they did not know how that material was obtained how that material was obtained and that there had been criminality involved in securing that photo. For that matter, that laptop where the photograph was kept… was destroyed... to destroy evidence.”

The MP added: “I urge the MSC to provide all the emails from Rupert and James Murdoch to News International staff as a matter of urgency…in particular to the photo of Saddam other otherwise people will conclude in this country, that News International are still refusing to co-operate with the police.”