Sky News Admits Hacking Into E-mails, Claims 'Public Interest'

The British network, which is owned by News Corp.-controlled BSkyB, says it OKd two e-mail break-ins.

NEW YORK -- A senior executive at Sky News authorized two separate occasions of e-mail hacking, the news network admitted Thursday, The Guardian reported. 

Both instances, the network's chief John Ryley said, were in the public interest and were authorized by managing editor Simon Cole.

The news network is owned by pay TV giant BSkyB, which is controlled by News Corp. via a 39 percent stake in the company. News Corp.'s U.K. newspaper unit has been roiled by a phone-hacking scandal. James Murdoch, the embattled son of News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdochstepped down this week from his role as chairman of BSkyB.

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The first instance of hacking came when Sky News authorized reporter Gerard Tubb to break into the e-mail of John Darwin, the so-called "Canoe Man" who faked his own death so his wife could cash in on their insurance policy. Darwin wandered into a police station in 2007, claiming he was a missing person; eventually, the two faced charges, and Sky handed over e-mails to the police. Later, Sky published the e-mails that showed their scheme.

The second instance was less public. The organization hacked into the e-mails of a suspect pedophile but did not publish any material.

Hacking into e-mail is illegal in Britain under the Computer Misuse Act, and public interest has not been established as a precedent for justification.


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