Friday, 26 August 2011

Murdoch and Beyond

Murdoch’s Web of Corruption Continues To Demand An Independent Investigation

The story of News Corps ever unraveling corruption is still far from over. This week’s revelations in the News Corp drama highlights the lies in the Murdochs’ prior testimony to parliament, and demands that more questions be answered regarding who knew what and did what. At this point the level of criminal activity and cover-up exceeds anything seen in recent history. And all signs continue to point to a need to replace Joel Klein with an independent entity that can conduct a thorough and unbiased internal investigation.

Let’s review the latest. There’s Clive Goodman letter from 2007, in which he made clear that high level News International executives were aware of the use of wire tapping. As Goodman wrote, “This practice was widely discussed in the daily editorial conference, until explicit reference to it was banned by the editor.”

And then there’s the fact that, directly after Goodman sent this letter to News Corp, following his release from prison, News International paid him nearly a quarter of a million pounds. This payout being strikingly larger than what was previously claimed by the company.

On top of all of this, one of the Murdochs’ hired law firms, Harbottle & Lewis, has come out and claimed that some of the evidence the Murdochs presented was “hard to credit”, “self-serving” and “inaccurate and misleading”. When your own lawyers come out against you, you know you have a serious problem.

While all this news was breaking, it was also learned that Rupert’s daughter, Elisabeth, has been given $214-million plus in payment for the sale of her company to her father’s company.

And then, as I write this, news comes in that another News of the World reporter has been arrested. James Desborough was arrested today on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications. What’s particularly significant is that after the hacking incident the British police suspect him of, he moved to the US to continue to work for the company out of Los Angeles. This raises the question of whether he continued hacking practices while in the US, and, if so, how widespread this practice was among other News of the World journalists’ in the US.

All of this new documentation was released this week by either British law enforcement or by the Commons culture, media and sport select committee, and it should have a devastating impact upon the Murdoch investigation.

The Murdochs, without question, should be forced to reappear in front of the committee to account for the lies they presented in their last appearance, and to address this new information.

But more than that, all this new information coming from outside investigations highlights how inadequate it is to have Joel Klein continue to lead the internal News Corp investigation. There is clearly a lot of details of corruption that remain to be exposed, and Klein as a hired inside guy is by no means the person able to do that. It is important that the outside investigations continue to shine a light on the facts of the scandal, but the internal investigation must also have at least some potential for true accountability. By which, I mean accountability to the truth, and not to providing further protection to Murdoch. Joel Klein must be replaced.

As Outfoxed exposed seven years ago, the Murdochs run a company based on conglomerate control, corruption and a full lack of ethics. Rigorous investigation into their history and present practices needs to continue. The Murdochs must be called forward to answer for their crimes. Father and son both need to resign. And Joel Klein needs to be replaced. The only way to move forward from such a web of corruption is to cut off the sources of it, and to create true accountability for our journalistic structures.

It's Not Just News Corp: Why Telecommunications Companies in the US May Be Spying on You Every Day

There is reason to believe that the media we've entrusted to investigate abuses of privacy are part of the cover up.

By Eliot Cohen

When Guardian reporter, Nick Davies, broke the story that Rupert Murdoch's News of the World had been hacking British citizens' voicemail messages, including those of a murdered teenager, there was a public outcry. Unfortunately, this is the tip of a glacial iceberg that has the potential to bring down a lot more than the News of the World.

Last year, without due public debate and input, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Justice Department approved a merger between Comcast and NBC Universal that gave the Internet cable giant control over the programming of NBC news. At the same time, pursuant to the 2008 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act, Comcast as well as all other telecommunication companies are required to cooperate with the Federal government in providing the facility for government to search through all electronic communications sent down their pipes.

So presently, the government, with the help of Comcast and other telecommunication companies, can hack everyone's phone and email conversations. Here also lies a new 21st century media model: a telecom company that owns and operates the infrastructure for the digital transmission of news and information; simultaneously owns the newsroom; and uses it infrastructure to assist the government in mass, warrantless surveillance of all American citizens.

The News of the World spied on a relatively few number of individuals for the purpose of getting a story. Comcast routinely spies on millions of people on behalf of government. The official purpose of such spying is to uncover terrorist plots; however, racial profiling can be used to conduct searches; mass sweeps are warrantless; and adequate judicial oversight of screening criteria and procedures is lacking. Worse still, in this brave new world, the media entrusted to keep an eye on government abuses of power is now part of this overreaching power structure.

Further, given the symbiotic relationship between media and government, there is nothing to stop Comcast from examining the email messages and phone conversations of rival news organizations, political opponents, and other persons and organizations of interest in an effort to "adjust" its news coverage and massage its bottom line. In fact, Comcast has maintained that it has a broad right to monitor its customers' email messages and Internet activities. It has an established history of having spied on its customers as well as preventing them from sharing files. Further, it is presently lobbying Congress to do away with net neutrality, the principle that assures that everyone, not just giant media companies, has an equal voice on the Internet. And, in 2008, Chris Albrecht, presently CEO of Starz TV, reported that Comcast's senior VP told him that Comcast was experimenting with installing cameras into its cable boxes thereby allowing it to see into people's living rooms and identify viewers.


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