Police Phone-Hacking Investigation Spreads to The Times Newspaper

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The Murdoch-owned newspaper faces a new police investigation into allegations of email hacking at the newspaper in 2009.

LONDON – Rupert Murdoch’s flagship newspaper The Times  faces being drawn into the phone-hacking inquiry after the Metropolitan Police confirmed that they were investigating an incidence in computer email-hacking which occurred three years ago.

The newspaper’s editor, James Harding, has been recalled to the Leveson Inquiry on press practices to give more details on the incident, which he discussed in partial terms when he gave evidence under oath last week.

The email-hacking incident occurred when a reporter – who is no longer with the newspaper – hacked into hotmail account to try to identify an anonymous police blogger, who had won plaudits for his account of policing activities under the name NightJack.

The newspaper subsequently won a high court battle to reveal the name of the blogger, securing a “public interest” defence for the actions. But it is understood that the full details of how the identity was proven were not disclosed to the court. They are now part of a third criminal investigation into News International Operation Tuleta, which is specifically focused on email hacking.

The official inquiry was triggered by a letter from Tom Watson MP, the member of Parliament who was put under surveillance by News International because of his role in pursuing the investigation into phone-hacking.

Watson has proved a thorn in Rupert Murdoch’s side with his dogged pursuit of News International, which in part led to the revelations of extensive wrongdoing at the now-shuttered News of The World. But his aggressive approach has also earned him detractors after he visibly shocked James Murdoch when he accused him of being part of “a mafia” when Murdoch gave Parliamentary evidence last year.

Watson told the police that the information that “illegally gathered information” had been used to flush out the officer’s identity and that it was “clear that a crime had been committed.”

“We can confirm that a letter was received Monday 23rd January …officers from operation Tuleta are in contact with Watson in relation to the specific issues. We are not prepared to give a running commentary on the Operation Tuleta  investigation,” a spokesman for Police Commissioner Sue Akers said in a statement.

Until recently it was thought that the News of The World was the sole Murdoch-owned newspaper involved in an criminal activities, but last week four current reporters at The Sun were arrested after information was supplied to the police by News Corp.'s own internal investigation squad the Management Standards Committee.