Rupert Murdoch Begins Testimony in Phone Hacking Case

Jul 19, 2011, 08:21 by R.E. Christian

A committee hearing on the phone-hacking scandal that engulfed British tabloid reporting for weeks began Tuesday with questioning of former police officials.

John Yates, who resigned Monday as assistant chief constable at the London Metropolitan Police, told the House of Commons homeland security panel he quit because the situation surrounding the mushrooming phone-hacking scandal was a "distraction" to his duties in homeland security matters.

"I firmly believe I've done nothing wrong," he told panel. "My conscience is clear."

Members quizzed Yates about his role in the hiring of former News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis for a public relations position. He said he received "categorical assurances" that Wallis wasn't involved in phone-hacking allegations at the defunct tabloid and wouldn't embarrass the department.

The star of the day's drama is Rupert Murdoch, head of News Corp., the parent company of the British newspaper accused of hacking telephones of public and private citizens, who will testify before a House of Commons media-related committee. The scandal has reached the administration of Prime Minister David Cameron because one of the former editors arrested in the case, Andy Coulson, was Cameron's communications director.

Others scheduled to testify before the media committee include Murdoch's son James, and Rebekah Brooks, also arrested in the phone-hacking investigation, another News of the World Editor as well as the former chief executive officer of News International, the British unit of Murdoch's media empire.

James Murdoch, chairman of News International, is expected to face intense questioning after he admitted last week that Parliament was "misled" over phone hacking at the News of the World, the Financial Times reported.

Media committee Chairman John Whittingdale said, "The reason we have asked James Murdoch in particular is that he has publicly stated that we have been misled. We want to know who misled us."

The two committee hearings come as police investigate the unexplained death of the News Corp. phone-hacking whistle-blower.

Sean Hoare, 47, who accused Coulson of being part of the illegal activity, was discovered dead at his home days after he made a series of fresh allegations against former News of the World executives, police said.

His death was termed "unexplained" by police, who said they did not immediately suspect foul play.

Cameron cut short a trade mission to Africa to returned to London to address the phone-hacking crisis and make a statement before Parliament, his spokesman has said. He was expected to appear before the House of Commons in an emergency session Wednesday to discuss the scandal.

The New York Times reported evidence indicates News International paid hefty sums to people who threatened legal action, on condition of silence. Reporters and editors were also paid to be silent, even after they were fired or arrested for hacking.

Among other things, the phone-hacking scandal has led to the arrests of at least nine people associated with the News of the World, the resignations of the Met Police chief Paul Stephenson and Yates, prompted Murdoch to withdraw his bid to take over British Sky Broadcasting, resulted in the resignation of Les Hinton, chief executive officer of Dow Jones, another News Corp. property, and led to the shuttering of News of the World. In addition, the FBI said it was investigating allegations News Corp. reporters tried to hack into voice mail accounts of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

Source: UPI