The hacking scandal surrounding Rupert Murdoch's British media empire widened dramatically on Monday, as new reports emerged that papers beyond the News of the World were also involved in serious criminal behavior. In addition, Murdoch's $12 billion bid to take over BSkyB, the satellite broadcaster, looked to be in serious peril as the government delayed it from going forward. The delay of the deal is a crushing setback for Murdoch, who wants full control of the highly lucrative company.
According to The Guardian, The Independent and the BBC, investigators working for the News of the World, The Sun and The Sunday Times obtained information about Brown's family, his legal, his financial and his medical records. This marks the first time that any allegations about News International have targeted papers outside the News of the World.
Among the details that were reportedly obtained:
The Sun allegedly uncovered details about Brown's son, Fraser, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, when he was an infant, and wrote exclusive stories about his then-unknown illness.
According to The Guardian, Rebekah Brooks, then the editor of The Sun and currently the head of News International, phoned Brown in October 2006, telling him that her paper knew his son had cystic fibrosis. The paper then published the exclusive details.
The paper later touted its scoop, saying that it was evidence of The Sun having "set the news agenda."
In response to the allegations, News International said it was "comfortable" that the stories were obtained from legitimate sources rather than illegal activity, according to Sky News.
The Sunday Times allegedly posed as Brown to obtain his personal financial records. His bank, Abbey National, wrote to The Sunday Times charging that "someone from the Sunday Times or acting on its behalf has masqueraded as Mr Brown for the purpose of obtaining information from Abbey National by deception," according to the BBC.
The Guardian posted audio of what it said was a man who worked for the Sunday Times named Barry Beardall. In the audio, Beardall cons a woman into giving him information about the sale price of Gordon Brown's flat. "You've helped me enormously," Beardall tells her.
A spokesperson for Gordon Brown issued this statement: "Gordon Brown has now been informed of the scale of intrusion into his family's life. The family has been shocked by the level of criminality and the unethical means by which personal details have been obtained. The matter is in police hands. The police have confirmed Mr Brown is on [jailed private investigator] Glenn Mulcaire's list. And some time ago Mr Brown passed all relevant evidence he had to the police."
Brown's wife, Sarah, also spoke out on Twitter, saying, "So sad to learn all I am about my family's privacy - it is very personal and really hurtful if all true."
Click here for a timeline of the scandal.
News Corp. gave in to public pressure as well, issuing a statement asking for its bid to take over BSkyB to be referred to the Competition Commission and dropping its agreement to sell off Sky News as part of the bid. This means that any takeover will, at the very least, be delayed as regulators examine the "fitness" of News Corp to take over BSkyB.
Jeremy Hunt, the minister responsible for the handling of the bid, announced in the House of Commons on Monday that he will agree to this request. It marks a swift turnabout for a deal that looked set to sail through just a week ago.
Shares of News Corp. also fell by 7% on Monday as investors reacted to the worsening controversy.
All in all, the scandal surrounding Murdoch's British media empire has not lessened, even after the paper at the center of the controversy was closed for good.
In addition to all of the revelations on Monday, Murdoch and his empire were attacked from all sides of the political spectrum. The Deputy Prime Minister, Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg, called on News Corp. to "do the decent and sensible thing" and drop its bid for the full takeover of BSkyB. (Murdoch already owns 39 percent of the company.) Clegg's intervention makes him the most senior figure in government so far to explicitly oppose the deal, which looked set to sail through until the phone hacking scandal at the News of the World escalated last week.
Ed Miliband, the leader of the opposition Labour party, also ramped up his attacks on Murdoch. Speaking at a press conference, he called the BSkyB bid "untenable." Miliband is trying to force a vote on the takeover in the House of Commons.
In addition, new revelations about the criminal behavior inside the News of the World continued to be unearthed. Among the latest details:
The BBC reported that emails written in 2007 show that the News Of The World was paying police guarding the royal family for information--but that nobody was alerted about this evidence of corruption. BBC reporter Robert Peston uncovered emails from then-royal reporter Clive Goodman (who was the first person to be jailed over phone hacking) to then-editor Andy Coulson (who went on to become Prime Minister David Cameron's top communications aide) asking for money to pay police officers for huge amounts of personal information about the royal family.
The Guardian reported Monday morning that Prince Charles and his wife Camilla were recently warned by the police that their phones may have been hacked.
The Daily Mirror also floated allegations that News of the World journalists tried to hack into the phones of victims of the 9/11 attacks. A source told the Mirror that a then-New York City police officer (now a private investigator) was approached and offered money if he would hack into the victims' voicemail. The officer reportedly declined the offer.
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