Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson have been branded "the scum of journalism" in a series of allegations from a former News of the World deputy features editor at the UK inquiry into press standards.
Paul McMullan accused Coulson of introducing "wholesale" phone hacking when he appointed editor of the News of the World in 2003, and described Brooks as "the criminal-in-chief".
In a dramatic two-hour testimony before the Leveson inquiry in London on Tuesday, McMullan made allegations about a "culture of illegality" that stretched from "the little men, the reporters" to senior police officers and politicians.
Lord Justice Leveson at times had to interject to warn McMullan that he risked incriminating himself while he was rattling off claims about alleged criminal wrongdoing during his time at News International's Sunday tabloid, which was closed at the height of the public outcry over phone hacking in July.
Asked whether his NoW editors knews that voicemail messages were being intercepted, McMullan said: "Yes ... I could go a bit further than that. We did all these things for our editors, for Rebekah Brooks and for Andy Coulson. You only have to read Coulson's column in Bizarre ... it was blatant and obvious. I don't think anyone realised that anyone was committing a crime at the start."
He added: "Andy Coulson brought that practice [phone hacking] wholesale with him when he was made deputy editor. They should have had the strength of conviction to say, 'Yes, sometimes you have to stray into black or grey illegal areas' ... instead they said we didn't know they were doing it. They should have been the heroes of journalism ... They're the scum of journalism for trying to drop me and my colleagues in it."
He later said: "For 21 years you have a culture of illegality of phone hacking and fiddling your expenses and so on. What you have is a future prime minister cosying up and being moulded by the arch-criminal, Rebekah Brooks, the criminal-in-chief."
The Guardian reports this morning that a seventeenth person has been arrested in connection with the hacking scandal and that one of Tony Blair's former aides is saying that he has been threatened by News International executives for publicly supporting the hacking inquiry.
The Telegraph reports the person arrested was another former Rupert Murdoch employee:
Former News of the World journalist Bethany Usher has been arrested on suspicion of phone hacking.
Miss Usher, a former reporter at the newspaper, was arrested in the north east at 6.35am this morning and is currently at a police station in Northumbria.
She worked for the News of the World from 2006 to 2007 and currently lectures in journalism at Teesside University.
In 2006 she was arrested while at the News of the World after applying for a job in the royal household.
At the time the News of the World confirmed that Miss Usher was one of its reporters and said that she was "engaged in the legitimate journalistic exercise" of investigating security at the palace.
Usher showed her true colors in the hacking matter yesterday when she tweeted to another former Murdoch employee, testifying about the crimes at the Murdoch-owned News of the World, to shut up about them:
Yesterday the 31-year-old Tweeted throughout the testimony of Paul MCMullan, a former reporter at the News of the World who claimed hacking was commonplace.
On her account she wrote: "For god sake Paul McMullen, shut your sickening trap."
Yes, why tell the lurid tales of how the Murdoch Empire operates?
Be like the Murdoch-owned newspapers and TV stations here and just ignore the whole damn thing.
What conspiracy to cover up a crime?
We dunno what you're talking about.
And hey, look over there - OWS protesters are dirty and need a bath!
These people at the Murdoch papers and stations truly are "the scum of journalism."