Back to business then. Throughout the ‘phone hacking scandal’ there was a constant and unscrutinised theme… The Guardian newspaper was accessing or being given access to information no one else but the police had about the investigation, to break new stories and run exclusives.
Update: 18 Aug – And so the Guardian’s police scoops continue…
A story this weekend show the seriousness of such behaviour, with the Independent Police Complaints Commission investigating a claim that an officer on the Milly Dowler murder case gave information to the News of the World newspaper. If it is right for the IPCC to investigate an officer feeding information to the News of the World, then surely the IPCC should also turn its attention to the raft of stories published in the Guardian that appear to have originated with police sources.
These were not discoveries, these were pieces of information supplied to Guardian journalists verbally or in documents. When it happened, the names of two reporters in particular from David Leigh’s Guardian team working the story were nearly always on display, Nick Davies and Amelia Hill. Surely when the key recipents of the information are known it should be easier to identify the person feeding them the information. Taking just a five day period in the timeline there were a huge number of stories published, but some are worthy of particular attention as they demonstrate the likelihood of a Guardian-friendly police mole.
For example, on 4 July, The Guardian broke the story which proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, that Milly Dowler’s voicemails had been accessed and some deleted by private investigators. The Guardian journalists said they had seen paperwork detailing how the News of the World set about getting the personal details of the Dowlers and then accessing Milly’s mailbox. However, the information itself was contained in the 11,000 pages of notes kept by Glenn Mulcaire that was in the possession of detectives from Operation Weeting. So how did the Guardian see them?
Just one day later the Guardian revealed that police were turning their attention to examine every high-profile case involving the murder, abduction or attack on any child since 2001 in response to the Dowler revelation. Again there was nothing in the public domain about the police’s intentions. So how did the Guardian know this with enough certainty to print it as fact? The piece included the information that the name “Greg” appeared in the corner of notes taken by Mulcaire which was believed to be a reference to the News of the World’s former assistant news editor Greg Miskiw (arrested earlier this month). As the documents have been in Metropolitan Police hands since 2006, how do they know this?
Two days later came the next big coup for the Guardian, with the revelation that Andy Coulson had been told by police that he would be arrested on the Friday morning over suspicions that he knew about, or had direct involvement in, the hacking of mobile phones during his editorship of the News of the World. Now it’s conceivable Coulson told someone he knew about the impending arrest and that they tipped off David Leigh’s chums at the Guardian.
But how likely is it that the police will have told Coulson the other revelation in the article, that a second arrest was also to be made in the next few days of a former senior journalist at the paper? Clearly the information came from elsewhere as the Guardian stated it knew the identity of the second suspect but was withholding the name to avoid prejudicing the police investigation. Someone told them and it wasn’t Coulson’s camp, because that would have clearly undermined the police’s intention to make the second arrest.
Then a day further on the Guardian published the story that police were investigating evidence that a News International executive may have deleted millions of emails from an internal archive in an apparent attempt to obstruct Scotland Yard’s inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal. The first reasonable assumption was that a News International insider tipped off the paper.
But that idea is dispelled by the additional colour the Guardian boasted about in its piece, namely that according to legal sources close to the police inquiry, a senior executive is believed to have deleted “massive quantities” of the archive on two separate occasions, leaving only a fraction to be disclosed. The legal entity that works with the police is of course the Crown Prosecution Service. So is there a CPS mole feeding information to the Guardian as well as a highly placed police source?
Well its possible the idea of a police mole could be challenged as mere coincidence. But the idea of coincidence falls away very quickly when one looks outside the phone hacking saga to an entirely unrelated story that again throws up all sorts of unanswered questions about how the Guardian gets its information. This one concerns the concerted attempt to successfully identify by name, occupation and hometown an anonymous blogger who was critical of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) over the Climategate affair. That link is to the full story on the Climate Audit blog.
The author of the Air Vent blog, “Jeff Id” had until that time been anonymous. As the article explains, his registration at WordPress was anonymous and his gmail account was anonymous. To Jeff’s knowledge, there was no public information that would enable anyone to identify him. So how is it that David Leigh at the Guardian managed to identify Jeff Id as “Patrick Condon, aeronautical engineer” from Illinois and locate his telephone number too? As the piece on Climate Audit explains:
A few days before the article, Leigh had telephoned Jeff. Jeff asked Leigh how he had located him; Leigh refused to say. Jeff expressly asked Leigh not to disclose his personal information, which were then not on the public record. Leigh disregarded the request and then proceeded to “out” him as collateral damage in their smear of Paul Dennis [employee at UEA].
A couple of weeks earlier, Jeff had been asked to answer a questionnaire by the UK counter-terrorism officer investigating the release of the emails and tree ring data. The policeman had contacted Jeff at his gmail address as “Jeff Id”. In addition to inquiring about his views on climate change, the questionnaire asked his name and address. Jeff answered the questionnaire (as did I and many Climate Audit readers). To Jeff’s knowledge and recollection, that was the only disclosure of his identity that could have led to Leigh identifying him.
Leigh’s article also quotes from an email from Paul Dennis to me, which Leigh ascribed to “police files”.
So what we have here is the team of Guardian journalists who work under David Leigh, apparently being provided with information by the police (and possibly the CPS) about the investigation into phone hacking – something Leigh himself admits he has also done – and Leigh in his own journalistic capacity being able to access information about private individuals collected by police as part of a criminal investigation into alleged computer hacking of the servers at UEA. Only a fool would accept this as coincidence, and besides, the comments thread to this post from Bishop Hill reminds readers of various other aspects of David Leigh’s behaviour and questionable methods.
Unsurprisingly, despite requests from ‘Jeff Id’ (Patrick Condon), the Guardian (via its Environment Editor Damian Carrington – remember him?) refuses to explain how it obtained his personal information. All Carrington will say in the replies, which can be read in the Climate Audit article, is that the Guardian did nothing illegal. No doubt if the paper is challenged about how they came by the information concerning the ‘phone hacking’ inquiry it will say the same. What is good for the News of the World goose should also be good for the hypocritical Guardian gander.
But it is clear there is a case to answer and as the Guardian will not come clean the Independent Police Complaints Commission needs to use its powers to uncover the truth the Guardian is trying to hide. It’s time for people to put pressure on the IPCC to do its job.