Mon Nov 19th, 2012 at 08:35:41 AM EST
Over the last two years this side of the Atlantic has been providing piece after piece of evidence of irregular practices between journalists and private eyes employed on behalf of the newspaper arm of News Corp in the UK, News International. These activities have been detailed in past diaries here, and have allegedly consisted of phone hacking, bribery of public officials, bribery of police officers and military figures. This has resulted in a stream of files being handed by the Metropolitan Police to the UK's Crown Prosecution Service.
News Corp for its part started by insisting that this was just the work of "one rogue journalist", a claim that stretched credulity seeing as the original rogue was a royal reporter, and one of the victims was a football agent. As the scandal has rolled on, it has become clear that it wasn't just one rogue reporter, but rather one rogue newspaper, and from there as the investigation progressed, other print arms of the UK business have gradually had their own range of skeletons exposed.
So far the problems have all been confined to one national newspaper group, but it looks like the company's crisis may be at the point of getting its feet wet and leaping across the Atlantic.
The Daily Beast has an article in which it says it has learned of a corrupt payment made by The Sun to a U.S. official on American soil:
On Friday, May 20, 2005, two Murdoch-owned tabloids, The Sun and the New York Post, ran front-page pictures of Saddam Hussein in his underwear, and inside the papers, more photos of the former Iraqi leader in U.S. captivity.. According to Fox News, the Multinational Forces spokeswoman in Baghdad said the images could have been taken between January and April 2004, "based on the background of the photos and appearance of him." Given the context of the Abu Ghraib revelations and ongoing, violent insurgency in Iraq at the time, multiple sources reported that President George W. Bush was upset about the leak. "There will be a thorough investigation into this instance," deputy White House spokesman Trent Duffy told The New York Times, "[The president] wants to get to the bottom of it immediately."
Online rumor suggests that the man chosen to do the deal is known to the authorities, and his entry and exit from the country will be visible in US Immigration records (someone's push for paranoia after 9/11 via Fox News will be coming back to haunt him). Payment details may also be visible, as the amount rumored to have been paid is much larger than that admitted by the paper's editor. Sources say that privately News International journalists were crowing about how bad a negotiator the US official involved was and the fact that they managed to lay their hands on the pictures for half the amount of cash that they had for the deal.
Further to this the suggestion is that the simultaneous publication on both sides of the Atlantic implies a controlling knowledge at a level above that of the UK News International high-level figures where the rogue accusations usually stop. Could it be that the 30,000 emails passed by the Metropolitan Police to the DOJ contain the fingerprints of the highest member of the News Corp board, arranging the story between the two sides of the Atlantic's presses?
Now the election is over, there is no real excuse for the DOJ to stall on their investigation any further. Grand juries really must be called and the investigation of those up the chain at News Corp must proceed now apace.
There are several questions that need answers
- Was the DOJ or FBI aware that the editor of The Sun had admitted that he had made illegal payments to a US government official on the record?
- Was the DOJ or FBI aware that the payments were considerably larger than was admitted on the record?
- Was the DOJ or FBI aware that there must have been communications between London and New York, incurring liability to both News International and News Corp, as the photos were published simultaneously in The Sun and the New York Post?
- Has the DOJ or FBI been in contact with the News Corp MSC for information about correspondence relating to this, or is this something that is planned in the near future?
If rumors flying amongst the UK media and Leveson watchers at present are correct then expect major announcements from the US authorities in the next two or three days.
What charges are possible? Well apart from bribery or other corrupt payments legislation, it's possible, although only a slim chance that war crimes charges may be deployed. It depends on how the appropriate pieces of US legislation are worded. The US has an obligation to obey the Geneva Convention, and Article 13 and 14 of the Third Geneva Convention are things that would cover this:
Art 13. Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious breach of the present Convention. In particular, no prisoner of war may be subjected to physical mutilation or to medical or scientific experiments of any kind which are not justified by the medical, dental or hospital treatment of the prisoner concerned and carried out in his interest.
Likewise, prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.
Measures of reprisal against prisoners of war are prohibited.
Art 14. Prisoners of war are entitled in all circumstances to respect for their persons and their honour.
Women shall be treated with all the regard due to their sex and shall in all cases benefit by treatment as favourable as that granted to men.
Prisoners of war shall retain the full civil capacity which they enjoyed at the time of their capture. The Detaining Power may not restrict the exercise, either within or without its own territory, of the rights such capacity confers except in so far as the captivity requires.
War crimes charges were suggested at the time the article was published, but nothing came of it then.
The media landscape is different now.
This may be the week to start opening that popcorn you've been saving.