LONDON — British authorities on Tuesday charged an ex-aide to the British prime minister, a former protege of media mogul Rupert Murdoch and six others in the ever-widening phone hacking scandal, accusing them of key roles in a lengthy campaign of illegal espionage that victimized hundreds including top celebrities Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
The announcement was a major development in a saga that has transfixed and at times horrified Britons and one that shows no signs of ending. A senior police official said earlier this week that her force was investigating more than 100 claims including computer hacking and illegal access to medical records stemming from the scandal.
The Crown Prosecution Service’s Alison Levitt told journalists that Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks, both former editors of Murdoch’s now-shuttered News of the World tabloid, are among those being charged with conspiring to intercept the communications of more than 600 people between Oct. 3, 2000, and Aug. 9, 2006.
After his time at the tabloid, Coulson found work as British Prime Minister David Cameron’s communications chief. Brooks became the chief executive of Murdoch’s London-based News International and one of the country’s most prominent news executives. Others being charged are senior tabloid journalists Stuart Kuttner, Greg Miskiw, Neville Thurlbeck, James Weatherup and Ian Edmondson.
If the News Corporation split goes forward, the entertainment division - the most lucrative part of the company - will no longer have to deal with the hacking stuff.
The new education/journalism division announced yesterday by Murdoch and Klein will.
And as you can see from today's arrests plus comments made by police this week that they are investigating computer and medical hacking claims as well, the fall-out from the hacking scandal is far from done.
More civil suits are to come in Britain and at least four suits will be filed here in the U.S. against News Corporation for hacking on U.S. soil.
Those suits could trigger larger revelations about hacking here in the U.S. by News Corporation employees.
In addition, News Corporation still faces fines under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for their bribing of police and governmental officials in the U.K.
Joel Klein's new education division has been joined at the hip with the dying newspaper division, so that means Klein has to deal with all of these problems as he tries to make the education division lucrative.
And let's not forget that with the News of the World now shuttered, Murdoch's newspaper division actually loses money - a lot of it.
It is estimated that the Big Three in the Murdoch stable - the Times of London, the NY Post and the Wall Street Journal - lose $250 million a year.
It's possible Chancellor Joel can work miracles here and keep the whole thing afloat, but he sure has his work cut out for him.
It's not an accident that the hacking charges were announced a day after Klein and Murdoch announced the new education business model.
The corruption has been so endemic in this company that no matter how they try and move beyond it with future plans, the past keeps coming back to haunt them.