Rupert ‘The Evil One’ Murdoch
13th Sep 2012
There is a major discussion pending about collusion between police/authorities and the tabloid element that brazenly exploits and corrupts them. I speak not just of Hillsborough but a variety of instances in recent times (example). However, today you will have to settle for some mere fact-checking from this little black duck.
Last night, hundreds of people were on Twitter discussing the merits (or otherwise) of Kelvin MacKenzie, and this graphic turned up of an editorial allegedly penned by MacKenzie in his capacity as editor of The Sun in 1988*:
One might simply ask Kelvin MacKenzie and/or someone at The Sun but I expect they’re all very busy hiding under the bed at the moment, so please drop me a line (email), tweet at me (@bloggerheads) or comment (below/reddit) if you think you can help me to determine the authenticity of this editorial.
(Also, drop me a line if you’ve any word on the alleged second coming of Jesus of Nazareth, especially if you know the venue, as I want to book early for a good seat. If I’m going to heckle, I want to do it from the front row.)
[*In October 1984 the IRA bombed the Grand Hotel in Brighton during the Tory conference with the intention of assassinating then-PM Margaret Thatcher and/or members of her cabinet. The Tory conference returned to Brighton in 1988.]
[Psst! If you're not in a position to help today, you can still do something nifty on Twitter. Drop @kelvinmackenzie a friendly word; the poor chap's been widely mistaken for a former editor of a certain barrel-scraping tabloid.]
16th Jul 2012
A few months ago, I asked Dennis Rice if he was the person behind @tabloidtroll, a twitter account used to smear a range of witnesses to the Leveson Inquiry.
His response was to deny the allegation, but leave room for some kind of technical/distant association with the account. Just in case.
However… before I asked Dennis Rice about this allegation via email, a DM was sent to the account @tabloidtroll; the recipient of that message (i.e. the account holder) then followed a unique link in that message, and even replied to the DM indicating he had done so. An IP address was recorded during that procedure.
Minutes later, when Dennis Rice replied to my question about allegations, he revealed the IP address he was using to access the internets at that same time
The account holder of @tabloidtroll had precisely the same IP address as that used by Dennis Rice to reply to my email.
I am not inclined to reference/reveal any potentially sensitive data/details, but I can assure you that the odds of these IP addresses being identical by chance are very, very, very, very long.
Dennis Rice responded to this by making false/misleading claims to and on behalf of Thames Valley Police in an attempt to portray my actions/questions as criminal (while simultaneously denying the significance of the evidence and sometimes even demanding that I publish the same evidence that he elsewhere accused me of sharing inappropriately).
Thames Valley Police responded by dragging their heels and “collating papers” for many weeks before finally confirming that I was never a suspect, while neatly avoiding any comment on Dennis Rice demonstrably implying/claiming otherwise on their behalf.
Dennis Rice responded to this by making a further complaint almost immediately, and again making false/misleading claims to and on behalf of Thames Valley Police in a further attempt to portray my actions as criminal that followed exactly the same pattern as before.
Yet again, Thames Valley Police responded by dragging their heels and “collating papers” for many weeks before finally confirming that I was never a suspect, while neatly avoiding any comment on Dennis Rice demonstrably implying/claiming otherwise on their behalf.
Twice now Thames Valley Police have allowed this tabloid hack to carry on like this without challenge; they even refused to accept or discuss evidence of Rice misleading them and/or making misleading claims on their behalf so he might better intimidate myself and other critics (and I may yet publish some of this evidence if Rice denies/downplays the bullying he engaged in while claiming to be a victim of bullies.)
Further, Thames Valley Police offer no comment on some people’s reactions to the false allegations made against me in their name. One man who allowed himself to be convinced by Rice’s lies offered to come around to confront me personally about my ‘cowardice’, to see if I was a “man or a mouse”. Not as any kind of threat, you understand, just so he could know whether to bring cheese. Ha. ha. Ha.
It was during this kind offer of a personal confrontation that I briefly walked away from the matter and blogging/tweeting generally last month, despite having new and conclusive evidence to hand; I was just about to go on holiday, and did not want some weak-minded dimwit turning up at my house while I was relaxing at home with my family (or, worse, away somewhere).
Today, I returned from holidays, announced I was back on deck, then mentioned that further @tabloidtroll evidence was pending.
Dennis Rice reacted by deliberately trying to trigger the same ‘face to face confrontation’ response from the same damn dimwit; Rice also made a range of the usual claims designed to portray me as a fraud and/or otherwise undermine the IP address evidence that confirmed him as the main account holder for @tabloidtroll
It is here that we turn to the new evidence, and balance it against what has already been published:
The evidence I gathered initially (link) indicated Dennis Rice as the main account holder for @tabloidtroll.
Putting aside what Rice’s further public/private reaction(s) have indicated/revealed about authorship, this always left room for the possibility of multiple authors and/or Rice being the account holder and not the main author(s) for some reason; Rice certainly claimed/implied several times that @tabloidtroll was the work of more than one person.
(Here I grant Roy Greenslade a slow handclap for immediately falling for one of these charades and endorsing a day-old site from an unknown author… over an article on the subject of media standards, no less. Roy didn’t correct his idiocy, by the way; he ran away from thread, leaving me/others to deal with the fallout, and repeatedly allowing Rice to pretend that he had been legitimised by the Guardian’s “endorsement”. Thanks, Roy. You started out with a single act of mere idiocy, but then you were so afraid of looking foolish you acted like a complete bastard. I doubt I shall be trusting you again now I know how reluctant you are to admit error and/or correct diary items even when you know you are in the wrong.)
Judging by his outbursts earlier today, Dennis is expecting me to release this same IP data today and/or make reference to further IP data today.
Sorry, but no. Any further IP data would leave us in much the same place as the above.
What I publish today is not IP data or anything to do with it.
What I publish today is professional linguistic analysis of the Twitter output of @tabloidtroll compared to the Twitter output of @dennisricemedia (Dennis Rice’s ‘main’/name account):
The main findings of the analysis are as follows:
There are multiple significant points of consistency between the output of Dennis Rice and ‘@tabloidtroll’. There are NO significant points of inconsistency.
The evidence I publish today (link) indicates (a) that Dennis Rice authored the majority of content for @tabloidtroll*, and (b) it is very unlikely that there was ever more than one author.
In much the same way that he hilariously declared that ‘lots of people have IP addresses’, I expected Dennis Rice would respond to this evidence by claiming that ‘lots of people say LOL’, but Dr MacLeod addressed this very same issue in her covering letter…
Nicci MacLeod: ‘it’s quite important that we make clear that it’s not the features themselves that are individuating, but the combinations thereof that indicate possibility of shared authorship – I reiterate this a couple of times in the report but I would say it’s pretty crucial that the message gets through, or we risk the inevitable “millions of people use lol and :)”, etc.’
… and shortly after we agreed on a suitable analogy to put that into context:
Tim Ireland: ‘Would this be an accurate analogy? “It wasn’t the 7 or the 12 or the 25 or 29 or the 36 or the 42 that won me the lottery. Lots of people had those. But I had all six.”…’
Nicci: ‘The lottery analogy is absolutely perfect! There were a few author-internal inconsistencies (no more than would be expected)…’
What this means is that Dennis Rice is demonstrably the main account holder of @tabloidtroll AND the original/primary author. I have forensic evidence to support both control of the account, and authorship of the bulk of the content.
It is also worth stressing that not only has Dennis Rice lied about his authorship of @tabloidtroll, but he’s banked so much on this deceit that his extraordinary distortions form part of two consecutive attempts to have me prosecuted (and others fired or otherwise disciplined) for daring to say so.
The upshot of this is even if you believe Rice/@tabloidtroll has a moral/legal right to smear and bully people anonymously, you can’t trust a damn thing he claims to have witnessed, because it can be demonstrated quite clearly that he is capable of the most extraordinary distortions. Anecdotal evidence from someone like this has no value, even if you do turn a blind eye to undisclosed figure(s) paid to this demonstrable liar by Rupert Murdoch’s News International.
(*For material up to and including the initial outing and a short period afterwards. It would not surprise me in the least if Rice has convinced others to chip in to a limited extent since then. I can think of at least one person stupid enough to do this.)
Psst! It was while I was sitting around waiting for Thames Valley Police to do their damn job that I decided to investigate their own web conduct. Unsurprisingly, a lackadaisical attitude to online bullying is evident in this series of anonymous Wikipedia edits and their response to my complaint about it.
UPDATE (7pm) – Dennis Rice has, through his @tabloidtroll site, made several ‘straw man’ arguments in an attempt to undermine the report by claiming the source data is flawed. For example, he claims the researcher’s data is undermined by their saying there are 600 tweets in their data set while there are less than 400 tweets currently listed/apparent in the live account. But no tweets were ‘invented’ for the data set, despite what Dennis Rice might imply; the difference in two numbers is perhaps likely due to RTs not being counted, or perhaps some vast conspiracy. Maybe (just maybe) someone has been deleting some old entries. I’d check it out if I thought this was anything other than the flailings of a desperate liar. The question Dennis Rice really wants to ask is how I got my hands on this data during the period when he had rendered the @dennisricemedia tweets inaccessible to the public or any publicly-accessible cache/archive. Right now he’s too busy trying to goad me into publishing sensitive/IP data. Again.
30th Apr 2012
From the outset, I would like to make clear that I have both a legitimate personal and public interest argument for outing the author of the Twitter account @TabloidTroll (aka ‘tabloidman’) in that the account has been used (a) to libel me, and (b) to engage in abusive and circumstantial ad hominem attacks on a series of witnesses/contributors to the Leveson Inquiry, including Richard Peppiatt, Tom Watson, Hugh Grant, and those attached to the Guardian, the Media Standards Trust, and the ‘Hacked Off’ campaign.
The author of the @TabloidTroll account portrays himself as an ‘industry mole’ and this kind of behaviour as ‘whistle blowing’, even to the extent of claiming that outing him would be a criminal offence under something he calls the ‘Whistleblower Act’. This is a risk I am willing to take, not least because the Whistleblower Protection Act only applies in the United States, and though here in the UK we do have something called the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, it has no bearing on my position, or what I am about to disclose.
Last Sunday, a Direct Message was sent to the registered account holder for @TabloidTroll. It contained a unique URL leading to a page on my website. The recipient visited that URL, and my site, and replied to the DM confirming that he had done this.
Very soon after this, I emailed Dennis Rice of Dennis Rice Media Limited (Twitter: @DennisRiceMedia, Site: moneyforyourstory.com, Company No: 06646525) and asked him for his response to the already-public allegations that he was the author of @TabloidTroll.
The IP address of the person who received the Direct Message for @TabloidTroll (and subsequently visited my site) was exactly the same as that used by Dennis Rice to read and respond to my email.
Here we turn to key extracts* from the relevant correspondence, and I will remind you that at this stage, Dennis Rice is only responding to the already-public allegations that he is the author of Tabloid Troll:
(*There were further questions put to Dennis Rice that I choose not to publish at this time, mainly to keep this article focused on the core evidence, and not what I may or may not suspect about motive, or his involvement in further anonymous accounts.)
Dennis… Do you have any comment to make about your alleged involvement with the Twitter account ‘@TabloidTroll’? On what basis would you claim/imply that the anonymity of someone behind an account like @TabloidTroll is protected by the Whistleblower Protection Act?
Dear Tim – I am of course aware of Tabloidman, as I follow his/her tweets. I certainly am not, nor have ever been, him/her. Any suggestion that I am would be both untrue and damaging to my freelance employment in the national press and to my personal reputation. As regards the Whistleblower Act I have to confess I am unaware of such an Act – though I am prepared to take you on your word that such an Act exists. I have not the faintest idea how one could apply it to Twitter… Hope this clears this up for you. Best Regards, Dennis.
Thank you, Dennis, for your reply. I would like to be very clear on your denial, if you don’t mind… Would you consider it correct and accurate to say that aside from following the account on Twitter using @dennisricemedia, you have NO connection to the @TabloidTroll account at all? That it’s not run by you, or anyone close/known to you? That’s it’s not an account you have any access to in any way?
Dear Tim – I am not Tabloidman, or whatever he/she is called. I repeat that stating I am would be profoundly damaging. That is all I am going to say on the matter. My lawyers will deal with anything anyone would be foolish enough to print – alleging or otherwise – that I am. Thanks for your time.
Note that the second denial pulls up short of denying a connection to the @TabloidTroll account that might include a claim that an unnamed ‘friend’ runs the account (i.e. in much the same way that Andrew Gilligan claimed that an unnamed “partner” was behind a sock puppet using the name ‘kennite’ to praise his work and attack his enemies).
Note also that at this stage, Dennis Rice has no clue that the IP data he has just provided indicates that he is the main account holder for @TabloidTroll when it is balanced against the Direct Message to that account and the subsequent visit to a unique URL on my site.
So on Monday I emailed Dennis Rice, as per my obligations as a publisher, in an attempt to disclose and discuss not the mere allegation of his connection to the @TabloidTroll account, but the evidence tying him to it:
My apologies for bothering you with a further question, but my website statistics show a visit from your IP/device yesterday. Would you mind awfully confirming which page(s) you visited, when you visited them, and how you came to be aware of the URL you visited first last night?
The email was read, but Dennis Rice offered no reply.
However, soon after this, the @TabloidTroll account was used to make contact with the Twitter account that sent the Direct Message containing the URL/visit that Dennis Rice had just been asked about; this message from @TabloidTroll requested the phone number of the sender of the Direct Message (!) and when this was refused with a counter offer of email correspondence, contact ceased.
So on Wednesday I contacted Dennis Rice again by email:
Dear Dennis – Let us both acknowledge the reason why you have no ready answer for your visit to my site on Sunday and simultaneously cut to the chase: I intend to publish an article naming you as the person behind @tabloidtroll on Twitter and would be grateful if you could answer the following questions… [snip questions]… I require a response by 5pm on Thursday 27th April 2012.
The email was read (this time from three vastly different locations in the UK), but there was no reply.
By this time, Richard Peppiatt and Tom Watson had been advised of my findings, and my intention to publish them.
On Friday, the @TabloidTroll account was used to have yet another anonymous pop at Tom Watson, and Tom responded with a probing question based on his knowledge of an undisclosed settlement paid to Dennis Rice by News International. Key tweets from the relevant exchange appear below.
(If you are a regular here at Bloggerheads, you are about to experience a glorious pay-off. Pun intended.)
tom_watson – @tabloidtroll when did you last receive a payment from news international?
tabloidtroll – @tom_watson saying I am in the pay of News Int is also actionable. Whatever happened to the days when our MPs had brains? Deep sigh.
tom_watson – @tabloidtroll Did you not get your settlement for appearing in Glenn’s notebooks? No need to answer.
tabloidtroll – @tom_watson @dennisricemedia Ha, not you too? Ricey told me about the loon stalking him. Be careful of the company you keep.
tabloidtroll – @tom_watson Think Thames Valley Police will want to talk to you. They are currently investigating your (clearly unchecked) source.
1. ‘Ricey’. Because they’re mates. Not the same person, but mates. (rolls eyes) On that note, here’s one of my very favourite tweets; ‘Ricey’ bigging it up for his old mate @TabloidTroll (in reponse to a series of tweets about ‘Hacked Off’ including ugly insinuations about the Guardian and the Scott Trust, the Financial Times and Pearson, the Media Standards Trust, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs):
dennisricemedia – I think @tabloidtroll is raising some interesting questions tonight. We shouldn’t have a body asking for more accountability yet not itself
2. I immediately checked with Thames Valley Police and I can confirm what most regulars will already suspect, given the reliable patterns of behaviour exhibited by those who seek to gain personally or politically from the use of multiple/false identities:
a) Yes, after initially denying it, when confronted with hard evidence linking him to a web account used to bully people anonymously, Dennis Rice went to police and accused me of criminal behaviour. The exact nature of the allegation is unknown at this stage, but it would appear to centre on harassment, and not the phantom Whistleblower Act.
b) Yes, Dennis Rice also declared there to be a police investigation in progress (implying some level of guilt on my part) when all that had happened at that stage was he had contacted police, and his complaint had been logged by police.
Should an officer be assigned to the matter on the basis that a potential crime is suspected, I look forward to discussing the matter with them and inviting them to investigate the matter so fully as to determine the likely authorship of the @tabloidtroll account for themselves… assuming that Lord Justice Leveson doesn’t take an interest before then.
Well, I’ve kept you long enough already. Those who are uncertain about the full ramifications of Dennis Rice being intimately involved with the @TabloidTroll account (if not the sole author of same) are invited to search for ‘tabloidtroll’ using Snapbird (which will give you access to some 2000+ tweets much faster than Twitter will) and comparing the output to that of ‘dennisricemedia’.
You may also choose to balance this against the kind of material Dennis Rice produces and the publications he sells this material to.
On a final note, touching for but a moment on my own chosen profession, you are also invited to witness the first tweets by Dennis Rice and gaze in wonder at the emergence of an SEO and online marketing genius (link):
UPDATE – The twitter account previously at @DennisRiceMedia has been renamed and rendered private, robbing the public of the capacity to balance that output against that of @TabloidTroll. Aw.
UPDATE (24 May) – Near to a month has been wasted while I have patiently waited for Thames Valley Police to respond to a complaint from Dennis Rice, but I rather suspect that this was the point of the exercise. Through @tabloidtroll, Dennis even declared there to be an investigation in progress when there was no investigation (i.e. as if his call to police triggered an immediate response that somehow established my guilt). Here’s a sample of relevant tweets:
Technically, an investigation did take place very recently (and very briefly), but in the words of Thames Valley Police I was “not a suspect” and they had “no intention of interviewing me or anything like that”. So, now that Thames Valley Police have established what any experienced reporter should have known all along, I present to you the complete and unedited contents of the email from me that Dennis Rice portrayed as a ‘nuisance message’ before pretending that police suspected my acts to be criminal in nature:
To: Dennis Rice
From: Tim Ireland
Date: Wed, Apr 25, 2012 at 1:14 PM
Let us both acknowledge the reason why you have no ready answer for your visit to my site on Sunday and simultaneously cut to the chase:
I intend to publish an article naming you as the person behind @tabloidtroll on Twitter and would be grateful if you could answer the following questions:
1. Have you received payments from any subsidiary or associated companies of News Corporation in each/either of the last two years?
2. You were named as a target for Glenn Mulcaire. Have you received any out of court settlements from News Corporation or subsidiary or associated companies? If yes, did you sign a confidentiality agreement?
3. Have you been commissioned to write articles, provide commentary or produce content for social media regarding the hacking scandal and the people involved with the investigation?
4. Have you been contracted to work for any PR companies who are contracted to News Corporation or any of its subsidiary or associated companies?
5. Is there anything else you would like to say regarding your decision to establish a pseudonymous twitter account?
6. To what extent were you inspired by Glen Jenvey in your ‘sell your story’ initiative, which you must recognise is very similar to his?
(Note: Jenvey began sellyourstory.org in July 2008, I reported that initiative on my site in January 2009, and moneyforyourstory.com was registered in February 2009)
7. Would you care to clarify or retract your remarks – published through the @tabloidtroll account – about my “sinister” conduct as a blogger, the “little dodgy stunts” you claim to have seen evidence of in multiple copies of Private Eye, and my behaviour toward Patrick Mercer in relation to what you describe as the “manipulation” of an unnamed “far right activist”?
I require a response by 5pm on Thursday 27th April 2012.
For the record, the only answer Dennis Rice has offered to any of these questions is; “Help! Police!”
Well, police don’t think it’s any of their business, despite what Mr Rice claimed through the ‘Tabloid Troll’ account, so he is invited once again to answer any or all of them.
(Sorry it’s in public this time, Dennis old bean, but you brought this on yourself. If you want the luxury of private questions or advance notice of anything I intend to publish about you in future, the onus is on you to either clarify your position regarding your willingness to accept correspondence, or provide me with contact details for a lawyer or equally appropriate third party. You know how to reach me.)
17th Feb 2012
On Tuesday 7 February, there was a moment in the Leveson Inquiry when Sun editor Dominic Mohan sought to distance himself and even the previous editor from a deeply personal and abusive attack on Clare Short, the MP who had dared to question the appropriateness of using soft pornography to shift mainstream newspapers.
The full transcript of the relevant exchange between Robert Jay Q.C. (Counsel to Inquiry) and Dominic Mohan is available here (more) if you would care to see the full exchange and the surrounding context. I have used an edited extract below in order to highlight key points:
Dominic Mohan: I think that it’s worth looking at Page 3 in a wider context, and in the Sun’s context of women’s issues that we cover. A lot of the Page 3 girls, they’re much more than models. They’ve become ambassadors for the paper… They’re good role models*.
Robert Jay Q.C.: Can I deal with a number of points which are around Page 3. One of them is before your time. Under tab 17 — this is before your time as editor — I don’t have the date, but this is a piece which is rudely critical of Clare Short, isn’t it?
Dominic Mohan: It is.
Robert Jay Q.C.: Is this appropriate language, do you think, to use, Mr Mohan?
Dominic Mohan: It’s not probably something I would run now, no.
Robert Jay Q.C.: To be fair, I’m sure this isn’t you, and we don’t have a date for it, but we have an earlier piece for which we do have a date, tab 18. This is January 2004, when you’re working for the paper but you’re not editor. I think you’d left Bizarre by then. Where were you in January 2004 within the Sun?
Dominic Mohan: I think I would have — after I left Bizarre, I became a columnist. I had a weekly opinion column in the paper.
Robert Jay Q.C.: Did you have any involvement in this piece we’re looking at?
Dominic Mohan: No. I don’t believe I did.
Robert Jay Q.C.: Is it the sort of piece which the Sun would run now, do you think?
Dominic Mohan: Possibly not in that way, no. I mean, I think there is an article in — actually, I’m not sure it’s in this piece. It was in one of the submissions from one of the women’s groups, but I ran a similar piece — sorry, I ran a piece in the run-up to the last election where — which was about Harriet Harman and Lynne Featherstone because they were claiming they wanted to ban page 3, but I didn’t use that kind of language that was used in the previous article. It wasn’t as — we weren’t on the offensive in that way.
Robert Jay Q.C.: Not as offensive, frankly.
Dominic Mohan: Possibly.
Robert Jay Q.C.: Possibly or probably when one looks at it, Mr Mohan. What do you think?
Dominic Mohan: As I say, I don’t think I would run it in that way now, although I do think — I mean, clearly “fat and jealous” is in quotes. It is a quotation from somebody.
A “quotation from somebody”, says Mohan, heavily implying that the words are not responsibility/work of The Sun and leaving it that.
Being a cynical, curious and somewhat resourceful type, I went to the trouble of looking up the 2004 item/edition that Mohan part-defends here, and it is entirely clear to me, as it should have been to him, that the “quotation from somebody” came from certain “ambassadors for the paper” whose role Mohan defends on the basis that they are “good role models”. Of course, here we assume that this is one of those rare instances where statements printed by The Sun in the name of Page 3 models are actual statements from Page 3 models, and not an invention of the editor (then Rebekah Wade/Brooks, who would have OKed the picture rendering Clare Short topless and the image comparing her to the back of a bus).
Further, the editor clearly endorsed the ‘fat and ugly’ quote in that day’s editorial…
… and even saw fit to run a Page 3 on the subject, just to stress the point for those one-handed readers with shorter attention spans:
It’s getting to the point where Lord Justice Leveson might want to seriously consider calling past and present Page 3 girls to the inquiry, not just to answer this point, but also some serious questions about other editorials in their name.
[*The original transcript contains an obvious error, where Mohan is quoted as saying Page 3 girls are 'role moulds'. I have corrected that here for clarity... and to avoid getting needlessly personal.]
26th Jan 2012
“Sometimes, Robin, being certain is merely being wrong at the top of your voice.” – Batman
It was almost 6 months ago that I first wrote about my concerns about the behaviour of News of the World in the weeks after the disappearance of Milly Dowler. At the time, I also expressed some concern about the subsequent response to News of the World by Surrey Police. Since then, more information has come to light. It is not comforting on either front.
With the publication of this letter especially, it is now clear that police were misrepresented to a great degree in the 14 April 2002 article analysed in this post, not least because the News of the World all-too-readily gave the appearance of speaking on behalf of police, both in print and during their pursuit of tabloid fodder (even to the extent of claiming to be working in conjunction with the police when interrogating members of the public).
This does not put Surrey Police in the clear. Far from it.
As far back as 13 April 2002, Surrey Police were aware that News of the World had accessed Milly Dowler’s voice messages. Police report in this letter that they were told quite bluntly by one of the reporters involved that “NOTW had got Milly’s phone number and PIN from school children”. To this date there is no indication that any kind of investigation took place. Surrey Police, in their 17 Jan 2012 letter, skip from mentioning the extensive investigation into Milly Dowler’s disappearance to saying; “Surrey Police did not arrest or charge anyone in relation to accessing Milly Dowler’s voicemail”
I will return to this point toward the end of this post.
(Oh, and you will probably want to keep this same point in mind for a later post that I dare not even hint at right now. If you’re a long-time reader, you will totally plotz.)
This recently-released letter details correspondence where the police suspected the involvement of a hoaxer in a recruitment company’s phone call to Milly Dowler’s mobile phone more than a week after she had gone missing. By all indications, police couched their phrases accordingly. For example, in a core statement, Surrey Police said there was “the possibility that a hoaxer might have been involved.”
Now watch that suspicion portrayed as rock-solid belief in the resulting article (14 April 2002):
Within a week, Surrey Police had determined that the hoaxer plaguing their investigation was not involved in any approach to the relevant recruitment agency as described by News of the World. Neither was the mysterious phone message anything to do with Milly Dowler herself, or anyone who knew her; it was just an unfortunate coincidence. But News of the World would not listen. By this stage (20 April), they were “110% certain” that 13-year-old Milly Dowler had run away from home and was out looking for work on the other side of the country:
A day later (21 April 2002), News of the World published extracts from the personal diary of a 13-year-old friend of Milly Dowler (who should NOT be assumed to be the source of any phone details, and should NOT carry any guilt/blame for trusting these tabloid scumbags in any instance). Note how News of the World give the impression that they are revealing this intimate detail at the behest of police detectives. The opening paragraphs even risk giving the impression that access to this diary was offered/granted to News of the World by those same unnamed police detectives.
Also note that they spare a final inch to have an oh-so-subtle shot at Surrey Police. Keep in mind here that News of the World were at this stage “110% certain” that the police were looking in the wrong place for Milly Dowler, who they believed to be looking for work up north… when she had by this stage been dead for near to a month:
Let’s add to this that the line of questioning they aimed at a 13-year-old girl is bloody obvious. This vulnerable child is saying her friend would not run away because some sod from a tabloid has been asking if she’s really, really sure about that. The scope and cost of the arrogance of News of the World is breathtaking.
On that note, here’s the editorial from that issue (21 April 2002). The editor makes a point of mentioning the possibility that Milly Dowler simply ran away. Based on what?
It is also worth mentioning that News of the World suffer here from that peculiar tabloid ailment of being quite unable to admit error or fault. There is no mention on 21 April 2002 of their being entirely wrong about the recruitment agency story a week earlier.
In fact, a week later (28 April 2002), they use the arrest of the hoaxer to give the impression that they were right about the recruitment agency/call article all along. The mention of phone calls in this passage adds to this illusion. I can assure you that in my experience this is quite common, and usually quite deliberate. I even know tabloid-style bloggers who behave in this way. I don’t like them very much:
Also note that once again the oh-so-superior News of the World have taken the time to have a shot at Surrey Police, portraying them as slow to respond if not incompetent. In their view, detectives were wasting their time on kidnap/homicide-oriented nonsense. News of the World were “110% certain” that 13-year-old Milly Dowler was alive and well and seeking work.
Where Surrey Police do deserve criticism is in their inexplicable willingness to be repeatedly treated as Rebekah Wade’s bitch.
I would very much like to hear a response from Sussex Police. I’d like to know more about the “routine review” of the Milly Dowler investigation described here and what it entailed. I would particularly like to know why Sussex Police failed to call Surrey Police to account for failing to call News of the World to account. I’m only a layman, but I rather got the impression that such reviews were meant to be some form of quality control beyond the influence of locals and any associated bias.
15th Jul 2011
Holy cow! It looks like News of the World ‘hacked’ the phone(s) of Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and/or Jennifer Aniston!
1. As I have already noted, if we are to hope to hold News Corporation to account for the conduct of newspapers operating under subsidiary News International, then what we need are victims of phone ‘hacking’ who are US citizens (or even, at this stage, US citizens who are potential victims). Given the enormous monetary/legal resources Rupert Murdoch has and the political influence he retains despite this massive scandal, it is preferable that these victims have ample resources and access to legal Rottweilers. So, if you’ll pardon the arrogance of my onomatopoeia; Boom.
2. Speaking of legal Rottweilers, I have already written about the pattern of celebrity stories that claim to be based on leaks from ‘friends’, but appear instead to have been based on illicitly-accessed phone messages, but I think News of the World would have been far more wary of basing a scoop solely/obviously on Brangelina’s phone messages than they would have been with your average citizen (and with good reason; the couple sued the newspaper over a later article in 2010). I suspect News of the World staff/editors retained most of what they discovered through this route and did not publish the usual level of detail until after the Pitt/Aniston break-up was public knowledge and there were enough actual blabbers around (i.e. in the bitter dispute that followed) to provide adequate cover. I expect I’ll know more once I get my hands on that October 2004 item mentioned in this article.
3. Look at the detail. The source News of the World rely on here appears to know a lot about the tone of voice people used in these intimate phone conversations. This does not look good for News of the World. This does not look good at all.
4. Like the Danielle Jones article, this item is not only prominent (Page 9), it makes specific reference to phones. We are expected to believe that then-editor Andy Coulson somehow missed this or looked at this item (knowing the pronounced risks of litigation) and did not make any enquiries about the source.
5. Hell, if you’re the speculating type, try to imagine Glenn Mulcaire listening in to this break-up of a leading celebrity couple, and then try to guess who he might speak to about this dynamite story. Personally, if I were a greedy tabloid scumbag, I’d be talking directly to the editor if not passing on messages about how many extra zeroes this one would cost.
6. Later today, I’ll get in touch with Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie’s London lawyers, Schillings. I’m ‘known’ to these lawyers, you know… for something completely different!!! (Sorry. Private joke. Moving on.)
7. I do hate to go on and on like a poorly-compressed MP3, but this revelation is the result of wholly independent research, and if you’d like to make sure that I have the time/funds/capacity to do more, then please donate today:
Cheers all. If there’s enough money in the kitty by early this afternoon, I can start making immediate plans for another jaunt into the British Newspaper Library early next week.
15th Jul 2011
Some people in politics can be really funny about evidence… Westminster/media groupies especially so. It is not unknown for some ‘commentators’ to be so far into the role of propagandist that they will accuse personal/political enemies of criminality on nothing more than hearsay while refusing to even acknowledge solid evidence against those they support personally/politically.
(I’m sure I don’t need to name names, but I will say that, no, some apologies will never satisfy… but only while they remain half-hearted and self-serving because you’ve still got your head up your arse, you great big lumbering dipshit.)
That said, I would like to make it clear that the following is only an indicator of guilt, but it is a strong one that follows an emerging pattern; News of the World stories that claim/imply that ‘friends’ or ‘pals’ are the source of a story, when in fact the source of the story is intercepted/illicitly-accessed messages from mobile phones.
The item about Prince William that led to the conviction of Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire was just such a story, and the mistake Goodman made was to print something that could only have come from illicit interception of phone messages.
Many other such stories had earlier escaped attention because of a lingering doubt about ‘friends’ and the widely-recognised need to protect sources. On this point, I refer to the words of Gordon Brown:
“… News International who took the freedom of the press as a licence for abuse, who cynically manipulated our support of that vital freedom as their justification, and who then callously used the defence of a free press as the banner under which they marched in step, as I say, with members of the criminal underworld.” – Gordon Brown, 12 July 2011
Basically, if the newspaper claimed or implied that the source was a friend/pal and there was potentially more than one source, all the newspaper had to do was refuse to name the source, and the target was left with nowhere to go. In other words; a blatant abuse of freedom of the press to disguise criminal activity conducted by newspaper staff.
The repeated success of this defensive rampart appears to have led to a situation in the News of the World newsroom especially where confidence was so high that ‘journalists’ would make overt reference to phone calls and text messages in articles resulting from illicitly-sourced leads. This article about Danielle Jones is a stark example, and this Liz Hurley item is typical of the celebrity articles I’ve seen that appear to follow this pattern.
(Psst! A WHOPPER of a celebrity example will follow later today. Think big. No, bigger. OK, now multiply that by three.)
So, with all of that in mind, I hope that this is the moment that some especially pigheaded Tories finally start to come around on this to the point of admitting that they didn’t just get it a little bit wrong because they weren’t aware of recent evidence, but that they got it very, very wrong because they wilfully turned a blind eye to available evidence and didn’t bother looking for further evidence:
That challenge may seem odd to the casual reader, but there are some people in this world who are so tribal that even when innocent victims are involved, they won’t come fully on board until one of their own is involved.
I mean, FFS, all of this stuff is just sitting in there in the British Newspaper Library, just waiting to be found, and even now there’s only me and maybe two or three newspapers showing an interest in the material. Where are all these Conservative bloggers who brag about leading the way every chance they get? Instead of asking where the evidence is, perhaps now some of these Tories might finally be convinced to start looking at it… or start looking for it.
[Note - As with other items recently published on Bloggerheads, this article does not appear in the database of NotW articles recently released by the Telegraph. This is the first time this article has seen the light of day since it was originally published by News of the World in November 2005. This story results from original research I conducted into the friendship between Andy Coulson and Andy Hayman and associated 'hacking' issues, and if you would like to fund more independent research into this story and others like it, please open your virtual wallet and click here.]
14th Jul 2011
Yesterday, the Telegraph published a database of News of the World articles relating to phone/text messages, including the Dowler article I blogged about yesterday morning. Like me, they’ve been doing some research at the British Newspaper Library in Colindale, and I applaud their efforts, but their collection is short one vital article, which enters the public domain this morning for the first time since it was originally published by News of the World on July 15, 2001.
Before you read this article (in the scan/graphic below), I ask that you consider the following:
1. Rebekah Wade/Brooks and Andy Coulson have repeatedly sought to shelter themselves behind a denial that they were not aware of what was going on in their own newsroom. As so many of the smoking guns have been relatively minor/diary pieces in the back pages, this tactic has been largely successful, if a little pyrrhic (i.e. leaving Wade/Brooks and Coulson in a position where they are merely incompetent as far as anybody knows, and not corrupt).
2. Scotland Yard confirm that Danielle Jones’ name and/or other details are included in relevant evidence held by police. This is just one published source:
The investigation into the death of Essex teenager Danielle Jones could be re-examined after the inquiry into the voicemail hacking scandal found that mobile phones linked to her may have been targeted by a private investigator working for the News of the World…. (Chris Bryant) told the Commons yesterday that evidence suggesting Danielle’s phone and others linked to her were targeted by Mulcaire had been discovered by Operation Weeting, the inquiry into phone hacking. Police sources confirmed details of the phones had been found and said the information was being assessed for potential impact on the original murder investigation. – Independent, 7 July 2011
Which leads us neatly to…
3. The prosecution of the killer of Danielle Jones relied a great deal on evidence involving falsified text messages sent from Danielle’s phone by the murderer (context). If staff from News of the World are found to have compromised or undermined this evidence in any way, it could conceivably lead to a challenge against the relevant conviction.
Now, take a look at the scan of the original article (below), which (a) dominated Page 11 of the newspaper, (b) is clearly based on text messages sent to Danielle Jones’ phone, (c) makes that same point ab-so-lute-ly clear in a headline that you would have to blind – or on holiday – to miss, and (d) appears to actually express disappointment that police would not allow the release of further/outgoing messages!
It is also hard to see what ‘public interest’ defence exists for the publication of these texts. It appears to me to be an entirely emotional element that served no other purpose beyond sensationalising an already traumatic event.
We are expected to believe that editors were not aware of any of this, before or after publication. This is a claim I reject, especially now that I have seen this evidence. It is also highly unlikely that Essex Police failed to raise the issue of the sensitivity of text messages with editors, because their concerns about the importance of text messages as evidence are right there in the article approved for publication.
Rebekah Wade/Brooks and/or Andy Coulson cannot have been unaware of this published article, or its origins, or of the dangerous implications. If they were given no specific warning about the use and potential consequences of ‘hacking’ by Essex Police, then serious questions need to be asked about their competence.
13th Jul 2011
Word reaches me of potentially “serious consequences” for Rupert Murdoch and his empire should anyone turn up evidence of ‘hacking’ aimed at American citizens.
Will Steve Bing do?
See the closing paragraphs on this story, and see if you can guess at the likely source:
Actually, I suspect almost this entire story is based on intercepted phone/text messages. What kind of friend would blab to a tabloid about a hospital visit and reward a stalker with this kind of attention?
Not this one, that’s for sure:
13th Jul 2011
Yesterday I featured some fresh evidence on Bloggerheads that suggested News of the World had accessed Robert Thompson’s mobile phone/records in violation of a court order.
Today will be a little bit different in that (a) it is not news that Milly Dowler’s phone was ‘hacked’, and (b) I’m going to be a little more conventional about this post for reasons that should be obvious.
I’m publishing the following – a full scan of the original/relevant article as it appeared in News of the World and some analysis – so you might judge for yourself how likely it is that then-editor (Rebekah Wade, now Rebekah Brooks) and then-deputy-editor (Andy Coulson) did not know about any of it.
Why am I doing this? Because someone should have been arrested or at least cautioned in April 2002, but police declined to act, and it is only public opinion that is driving this forward. Surrey Police, London Metropolitan Police, certain Members of Parliament and even the serving Prime Minister all have (or perhaps in some cases had) a vested interest in letting Rupert Murdoch and his underlings sweep much of this under the carpet. Rebekah Wade/Brooks especially needs to be compelled to face the authorities, but we are, incredibly, still left in a position where her guilt needs to be established in the court of public opinion to some extent before any serious preliminary/investigative action is taken against her by the criminal justice system.
(Whatabouters and Murdoch Apologists: Please keep in mind that this position is entirely distinct from that of Rebekah Wade/Brooks, who in 2002 openly defied police because paedophiles were not punished/”caged” sufficiently in her view, mostly after the criminal justice system had already dealt with them.)
And so, on to the specific article in News of the World that has caused the most outrage. As far as I know, this is the first time it has appeared in the public domain since its original publication:
While it has already been reported that staff from News of the World told Surrey Police about the illegal method(s) used to obtain the material that led to this article (link), it is not until you read a key revelation in that recent report and the article itself that you are likely to realise how much police contributed to the article, and judge how much this action might be interpreted as tacit approval of the methods of the tabloid staff who had broken the law in pursuit of this lead:
It was Surrey detectives who established that the call was not intended for Milly Dowler. – Guardian, 4 July 2011
Police believe the sick hoaxer called into a recruitment agency… It is thought the hoaxer even gave the agency Milly’s real phone number. Police believe she may have got it by gaining the trust of people who knew the schoolgirl… The twisted creature also contacted TV’s Crimewatch programme, claiming to be Milly. Police say the hoaxer has hampered the investigation and previous high-profile enquiries… A senior officer involved in the hunt said last night: “Our inquiries and those of other forces have been plagued by a professional hoaxer who has much experience of the practices of police and investigation methods. The chances are extremely high that the individual concerned is a rather disturbed lady who needs care. – News of the World, 14 April 2002
I’m sensing some past history here, and some frustration that more couldn’t be done to control this reckless fantasist (hey, I can relate). That might explain some of this content offered up by police. Then again, perhaps it was more a case of police deciding to address matters with a coded message to the editor of News of the World or (more likely, in my view) much of the lecture above was aimed at the unnamed hoaxer and Rebekah Wade, and only half of it made it to print in the form of an attack on the hoaxer. (This is what tabloid scum do; they selectively edit reality, attempting to shape it to their will, and act in monstrous ways while screaming; “Look out! Behind you! MONSTER!!!!”)
Whatever the reason(s) for this material being offered to the newspaper, News of the World were in no position to publish a lecture about anybody hampering this investigation or any other. This same newspaper openly defied police in the pursuit of dozens of alleged paedophiles, complicating all sorts of police procedures and potential prosecutions (more). Later, they also hired the man who deleted messages sent to Milly Dowler’s phone (in pursuit of more ‘scoops’, i.e. money), thereby leading us to the tipping point in this scandal; the public realisation that this gave the family false hope that the then-missing girl was alive (more).
Here I will draw your attention to the heart-breaking appeal under the article, featuring Milly Dowler’s mother desperately clinging to the hope that her daughter was still alive and had perhaps run away. News of the World went on to repeatedly exploit Milly Dowler’s family in a similar fashion for weeks on the back of false hope that they themselves had generated:
The Dowler family then granted an exclusive interview to the News of the World in which they talked about their hope, quite unaware that it had been falsely kindled by the newspaper’s own intervention. Sally Dowler told the paper: “If Milly walked through the door, I don’t think we’d be able to speak. We’d just weep tears of joy and give her a great big hug.” – Guardian, 4 July 2011
While this article and the appeal underneath it may have appeared all the way back on Page 30, it should not have escaped the attention of a worthy editor, because it is a big part of the editor’s job to protect the newspaper, staff and owners by ensuring that all claims (of criminality especially) are properly sourced. However, this is a Murdoch newspaper and I have learned from personal experience that Murdoch journalists and editors do not see a problem in a poorly-sourced claim if they don’t name the target.
(SIDEBAR: Take a bow, Camilla Long of the Sunday Times, who stated as fact that Conservative MP Nadine Dorries had a stalker and rather bravely backed this up with an assertion that police were involved… without actually checking any of the detail with police, who would have told her that Dorries does not have a stalker, or even a harasser. Camilla Long and her editor later defended themselves on the basis that no name was published alongside the accusation, and it appears that the thoroughly useless PCC are prepared to side with them.)
With libel law and press regulation being in the sorry state it’s in, it is entirely feasible that a lazy editor would look at a story like this and not care about the source, because the paper was effectively shielded against any complaint the subject/target could hope to make about it.
However, I do not think it reasonable to believe that police were made aware of this illegal act involving News of the World staff and did not at least alert/warn the editor about this activity, the illegality of same and the potential impact on the investigation into Milly Dowler’s disappearance. That’s why I asked Surrey Police if they had discussed this matter with editors of that newspaper. Here’s my question, and their response:
Did the investigating officers discuss this hacking matter with editors at News of the World in an effort to at least warn them on the potential consequences of this kind of behaviour? Are you able to name which editors were warned, if any?
The ‘answer’ from Surrey Police:
The Metropolitan Police are currently investigating allegations of phone hacking and therefore it would be inappropriate for us to comment at this time.
From this point on, the argument is entirely circular; police will not comment on evidence that might implicate Rebekah Wade/Brooks, but neither will they act against her with any conviction (pun intended) while the public remain in doubt about the extent of her awareness/involvement. It has taken a week of extraordinary outrage to bring us to the point where she might be willing to take part in a police interview, but only as a witness, and not a suspect. It is blindingly obvious to all concerned that she enjoys this privilege because she remains under the protection of Rupert Murdoch.
The only way to break the circle is go public with the available evidence in an effort to convince public servants to finally serve the public (i.e. rather than cower before a powerful foreign media owner).
Tomorrow, I will publish a further scan of an article obviously involving intercepted text messages that cannot have escaped the attention of the police, or the editor(s) of News of the World.
UPDATE (24 Jan 2012) – Phone hacking: News of the World journalists lied to Milly Dowler police
NEW POST (26 Jan 2012) – News of the World: 110% certainty, the remainder fact