Today’s New York Times article on the ever-expanding scandal that has engulfed Rupert Murdoch’s UK newspapers , Scotland Yard and perhaps even Prime Minister David Cameron reads like a script from the old BBC police drama, Prime Suspect. Televised periodically in the US from its 1991 debut until its 2006 finale and always available on Netflix, Prime Suspect starred Helen Mirren, whose Inspector Jane Tennison character often found her investigations inhibited by the cozy relationships her superiors in Scotland Yard had with those in government and the press. Through her tenacity, her failure to “not make waves”, and her own ambition, Tennison usually came out ahead.
Scotland Yard could use Jane Tennison today. The most stunning bit of news in today’s story was that back in 2006, the police had seized 11,000 pages of handwritten notes that detailed the efforts of the Murdoch paper’s and their agents to hack into the telephones of 4000 people – public and private – yet all of this evidence was placed in six plastic trash bags that were stuck in an evidence room and apparently never looked at again. Despite being in possession o this evidence, top leaders of Scotland Yard have repeatedly testified that only a small number of people had been the victims of hacking and all had been notified – none of which was true. Whether these were lies or simply incompetence remains to be determined.
Beyond this, there seems to have been a revolving door between Scotland Yard or the government and Murdoch’s newspapers with former editors going to work for the government and top former police officials becoming consultants or columnists for the papers. The word “co-conspirators” comes to mind.
As of yesterday, a newly invigorated Scotland Yard has made nine new arrests of Murdoch editors and reporters. Breaking news today reports that Rebekah Brooks, who up to a few days ago, was described as the most important person in the Murdoch empire not named Murdoch, was arrested. Going any higher up the chain of command gets into Murdoch’s family. Also today, it’s being reported that Paul Stephenson, the head of Scotland Yard , has resigned. Prime Minister David Cameron is also under increasing scrutiny: Since he took office as Prime Minister just 14 months ago, met with Murdoch executives more than two dozen times – more than with all other media members combined.
The scandal has even spread to the US: Last week, Les Hinton, the publisher of the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal resigned due to his involvement in the hacking scandal. The FBI is investigating whether any illegal activities by Murdoch-employed individuals occurred in the US. This will only get more interesting.