Here's Rupert Murdoch's worst nightmare: Nick Davies, the tenacious investigative reporter for the Guardian who has broken much of the Hackinggate story, comes to the U.S. in search of News Corp. crimes and cover-up.
Well, it's come true. Davies arrives in New York today. He'll be there until Friday, and then he's going to Los Angeles in pursuit of hacking-type practices that might have been carried out on U.S. soil by Murdoch’s U.S. reporters, by his U.K. reporters working in the U.S., or by private detectives hired by News Corp.
If such crimes were committed here, that could mean real trouble for News Corp.—the legal system here is more tenacious and the remedies more draconian than in the U.K.
Davies has been in hot pursuit of the hacking story for years, exposing the broader nature of the scandal in 2009 and uncovering a number of scoops in the process. It was Davies (with Amelia Hill) who reported that News of the World journalists hacked into the voicemail messages of murdered 13-year-old girl Milly Dowler, a revelation that became a turning point in the scandal.
He followed that up with a recent report revealing that police believed News of the World gave a phone to Sara Payne, the mother of a second murder victim, and then tried to hack the phone. (Ousted News Corp. executive Rebekah Brooks, who was the paper’s editor at the time, insisted she gave Payne the phone to help her stay in touch with supporters.) Davies also exclusively reported on the sum that News Corp.’s papers paid to settle legal cases to avoid details of reporters’ criminal news-gathering methods.
No surprise, Davies’ coverage has earned him a book deal on the affair. Scheduled for release in fall 2012, Hack Attack, as it’s tentatively called, aims to put hacking in the context of Murdoch’s influence with governments.
Meanwhile, the legal pressure is rising on News Corp. in the U.S. The Department of Justice has prepared, though not yet issued, subpoenas as it investigates whether the media company broke any anti-bribery laws or whether News Corp. employees hacked into the voicemails of Sept. 11 terrorist attack victims. (It’s up to Justice officials to approve the subpoenas.)
Relatedly, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) asked the DOJ to consider evidence from a 2009 trial that suggested a News Corp. subsidiary, News America, engaged in computer hacking, and several other members of Congress have called for investigations.