The UK Parliament has published a bombshell of a letter from convicted News Of The World phone hacker Clive Goodman that alleges that the practice was not only “widely discussed” among senior staff and editors at the tabloid, but that then-editor Andy Coulson tried to cover-up the extent of the practice.
Goodman’s letter, published Tuesday as part of a larger document dump by Parliament, is dated March 2nd, 2007, shortly after Goodman was released from prison. The letter is an appeal to Daniel Cloke, News International’s Director of Human Resources, after News International Chairman Les Hinton fired Goodman for “gross misconduct.” Hinton and NOTW Managing Editor Stuart Kuttner also received the letter.
Goodman, who was convicted along with private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, argues in his letter that his firing was “perverse” because the payments to Mulcaire were made with the “full knowledge and support” of other members of the NOTW staff. The names of the specific staff members — other than Tom Crone, then the legal manager for NOTW — have been redacted by Scotland Yard, pending their investigation.
Goodman also calls his firing “inconsistent” because “other members of staff were carrying out the same illegal procedures.”
“This practice was widely discussed in the daily editorial conference,” he continues, “until explicit reference to it was banned by the Editor,” who was then Andy Coulson. “As far as I am aware, no other member of staff has faced disciplinary action, much less dismissal.”
Goodman also writes that Crone and other senior staff were aware he was going to plead guilty, but he was still employed by the paper through much of his prison sentence. And, he alleges, Crone and Coulson “promised on many occasions that I could come back to a job at the newspaper if I did not implicate the paper or any of its staff in my mitigation plea. I did not, and I expect the paper to honour its promise to me.”
Read the full letter here.
Goodman’s letter calls into question claims by Coulson and Hinton that they had no knowledge of the practice of phone hacking. Coulson was editor of NOTW from 2003-2007, but bounced back as Prime Minister David Cameron’s communications chief. He resigned in January of this year after another former NOTW reporter claimed he knew about the hackings. Cameron has maintained that he hired Coulson after personal assurances that he did not know anything about the hackings.
In 2007 — four days after Goodman sent his letter, according to the Guardian — and 2009, Hinton told a Parliamentary Committee that he had had no knowledge of the hackings when they occurred, and believed Goodman to be the only reporter culpable. “I believe absolutely that Andy [Coulson] did not have knowledge of what was going on,” he said in 2007. Hinton recently stepped down from his post as the CEO of Dow Jones and publisher of the Wall Street Journal amid the scandal.
Labour MP Tom Watson called Goodman’s letter “the most significant piece of evidence that has been revealed so far. It completely removes News International’s defence. This is one of the largest cover-ups I have seen in my lifetime.”
Watson told ITV Tuesday:
Let me be clear, if what Goodman says is accurate, then it’s very, very serious for Andy Coulson and Tom Crone the lawyer. If it’s not accurate, the central question is why did Les Hinton, the Chief Executive of News International at the time, on receiving this letter not mention it to a Parliamentary inquiry that he gave evidence to only days afterwards and why did he not immediately call in the police? After all there had been an allegation of widespread criminality in the organisation in 2007 and he didn’t want to clear it up. That contradicts what Rupert Murdoch told us which us he takes a zero tolerance policy to wrongdoing in News Corp.
Parliament’s culture, media and sport select committee published Goodman’s letter Tuesday, along with a number of other documents related to James Murdoch’s testimony to the committee, and allegations that he misled them. More on those documents soon.