Tag Archives: phone tapping

Phone hacking: new government inquiry launched, PM expected to be quizzed today

The Home Affairs select committee has launched a new inquiry into allegations of phone hacking against the News of the World. The select committee will look at the offences related to unauthorised hacking, how such offences are dealt with and the police’s response.

This will be the second inquiry conducted by MPs following the culture, media and sport select committee’s investigation, which concluded earlier this year with a report condemning “collective amnesia” amongst senior staff at the News of the World. News International argued that the cross-party committee had pursued a political agenda.

The new inquiry has been prompted by claims of fresh evidence against the News of the World and yesterday’s appearance by assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police John Yates in front of the home affairs committee. Yates told the committee that “all reasonable steps” had been taken during the Met’s 2006 investigation of phone hacking to warn individuals when police had reason to believe their phones had been hacked, which he said only applied in the case of 10 to 12 people.

According to the Guardian, Ross Hall, a former employee of the News of the World named in the previous government inquiry, has said he will testify in the phone hacking case. Hall, who is reported to have transcribed hacked voicemail messages for others in the newsroom, told the Guardian he would be willing to speak to Scotland Yard and the new select committee.

Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to face questions on the affair at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons today. To follow updates on the story from Journalism.co.uk, subscribe to this RSS feed.

Vanessa Perroncel speaks out against super-injunctions

Vanessa Perroncel, the woman alleged to have had an affair with former England captain John Terry – an allegation she denies – has given newspaper interviews this weekend in which she condemns both the use of gagging orders by celebrities and the tabloid media coverage of the affair allegations.

In an interview with the Independent on Sunday, Perroncel said people should not be able to pick and choose when they want a public profile in the media.

There are some people who enjoy the limelight, and they let the press have really intimate information, like weddings, baptisms and so on. So why should these people then be allowed to cherry pick what the newspapers write about them? I know how expensive it is to take out an injunction, and it’s not fair that footballers should be allowed to protect themselves because of their money.

Her comments follow John Terry’s use of a ‘super-injunction’ in February against the News of the World which temporarily stopped the newspaper from publishing allegations of the affair. The order, which was later lifted, made it appear as though they had something to hide, Perroncel says.

She says she is angry that Terry took an injunction out, as she felt it was disproportionate. “There was no need: a simple denial would have done,” she says. “People said I had been gagged but that wasn’t true.” She is angry at the damage the allegations did to her reputation, and at the red-top intrusion she suffered. But she believes newspapers should be free to report genuine cases of infidelity.

She discusses the damage to her reputation further in an interview with the Guardian writer Polly Vernon, who herself concludes that the model was “ripped apart” by the media – the only party who should feel guilt for the way the story played out, she adds.

I am shocked at the wrong that’s been done to Vanessa. Whether or not you believe her denials – and oh, it’s tempting, isn’t it, to keep believing the worst, the most malicious rumours. But Perroncel did not deserve those months of unmitigated trashing. And now it’s calmed down for her somewhat, I’m not sure what she’s got left. (…) There is still, it seems, an overwhelming sense that she has done wrong somehow, somewhere along the line; that she has committed some crime. We’re extremely attached to that idea as a nation. Yet if anyone should be feeling guilty, it’s probably us.

According to Vernon’s article, Perroncel is now planning to take legal action against any publication which printed “unpleasant” stories about her in relation to the accusations. It is also reported that an “official inquiry” has been launched into claims her phone may have been tapped to intercept private calls.

Tapping/hacking/blagging – the terminology

Media reports refer to both ‘phone tapping’ and ‘phone hacking’ when discussing the Guardian’s investigation into the use of private investigators by News International journalists.

But what exactly were the PI activities alleged to have taken place at the request of journalists?

Phone hacking. This is the term the Guardian uses in its reports, which includes a number of alleged activities. It reported: “Hacking into messages on mobile phones is covered by the same law which now regulates phone tapping and other forms of covert information-gathering, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, known as RIPA.” There is no public interest defence for breaking this law. Activities alleged by the Guardian include:

  • Hacking into mobile phone voicemail accounts, the crime NOTW journalist Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were convicted for in 2007.
  • Illegal hacking ‘into the mobile phone messages of numerous public ­figures to gain unlawful access to confidential personal data, including tax records, social security files, bank statements and itemised phone bills’.

Guardian tech editor Charles Arthur describes how, in further detail at this link, voicemail hacking can be done very simply – via the four digit pin code.

  • However, new methods could now be in use by PIs (no specific allegations made). Arthur quotes a senior security analyst at McAfee: ‘a number of products [are] out there which claim that they will let you listen to someone’s mobile conversations, forward their SMSs and tell you the numbers they have dialled’.
  • In addition, Arthur reports, ‘it might be feasible to clone the connection between a Bluetooth headset and phone so an eavesdropper could connect to the phone while its owner was briefly out of earshot. A hacker could get numbers and contact information’.

Phone tapping. Assistant commissioner for the Metropolitan Police, John Yates, in his statement yesterday, referred to the Mulcaire and Goodman case. He said:

  • “Our inquiries found that these two men had the ability to illegally intercept mobile phone voice mails, commonly known as phone tapping.”

However, the term ‘tapping’ can also indicate other kinds of interception of communications systems e.g wire tapping / obtaining post. In this BBC Q&A from 2006 it is stated that there are three ways a mobile phone can be tapped:

“This can be done either at the handset, or during the conversation – which is illegal and very expensive – or through the mobile phone company which connects the device.”

Blagging. The Guardian reports that this could include obtaining access to confidential databases, such as telephone accounts, bank records and information held by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority, which is covered by a different law, the 1998 Data Protection Act: “Section 55 makes it an offence to gain unauthorised access to such data, punishable by a fine. However, unlike RIPA, this offence carries a public interest defence.” luxembourg freeport

The Guardian reports on a series of ‘dark arts’ methods used by PIs, including:

  • Obtaining ex-directory landlines, tax records, social security files, bank statements, mobile numbers, people’s addresses or people’s phone bills and medical records.
  • Conning BT, the DVLA, mobile phone companies and other organisations into handing over private details.

NISnews.nl: Dutch newspaper suing state for phone-tapping journalists

NIS News reports the other phone tapping story of the week (this one’s about Dutch journalists having their phones tapped…)

“De Telegraaf says four of its journalists including chief editor Sjuul Paradijs have been phone-tapped by the AIVD secret service. The newspaper, the biggest in the Netherlands, is now taking the State to court with the support of the entire press sector.

“According to De Telegraaf, its journalists Jolande van der Graaf and Hans Kuitert have for months been phone-tapped, followed and observed. The telephones of chief editor Sjuul Paradijs and deputy chief editor Joost de Haas have also been tapped.”

Full story at this link…

(via EJC)