MURDOCHALYPSE NOW: Rebekah Brooks Arrested By Police; Chief Of Scotland Yard Resigns In Disgrace

Rebekah Brooks Mugshot_1.jpg

[Artwork by SSOOSAY]

NEW YORK TIMES: Earlier Sunday, the British police took Ms. Brooks, 43, into custody after she arrived at Rebekah_Brooks_Mugshot.jpga London police station by appointment. The timing, two days before a separate parliamentary inquiry into the crisis, drew a skeptical response from opposition lawmakers who said the arrest might inhibit Ms. Brooks’s ability or readiness to testify before the panel while she is the subject of police inquiries. David Wilson, a lawyer representing Ms. Brooks, said she “maintains her innocence, absolutely.” It was the latest twist in a series of events that has transformed Mr. Murdoch from a virtually untouchable force in the British media landscape to a mogul fighting for the survival of his power and influence. Earlier on Sunday, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, Ed Miliband, who has taken a lead in criticizing Mr. Murdoch’s operations, called for the breakup of News International, his British newspaper subsidiary. Mr. Miliband said the group’s influence was “dangerous.” Mr. Wilson said the arrest came as a complete surprise to Ms. Brooks, who had believed she was attending a prearranged and voluntary sit-down session to aid police in their inquiries. When she showed up, she was arrested, he said. News International executives expected Ms. Brooks would be answering police questions as a witness. “It was a surprise to all of us here that she was arrested today,” said a senior company official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “When she resigned on Friday, we were not aware that she would be arrested by the police. And we did not know on Friday that she had made voluntary arrangements to go in and see the police.” MORE

BBC: Today’s arrest of Rebekah Brooks, who was until Friday the chief executive of News International, Rebekah_Brooks_Mugshot.jpgrepresents perhaps the greatest failure to date in the Murdoch-controlled group’s campaign for rehabilitating itself. Because ever since News International and its parent company News Corporation were seriously damaged 13 days ago by the allegation that the phone of the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler was hacked at the instigation of the News of the World, News International has been on an explicit mission to demonstrate that Mrs Brooks was innocent of all wrongdoing. Although Mrs Brooks was editor of the News of the World at the time of the alleged hacking, she has denied all knowledge of it. And she has denied she was aware of other alleged instances of phone hacking or of bribes allegedly paid to the police.

So the thrust of News International’s message to the world was that Mrs Brooks was as shocked as everyone else by disclosures that appear to show that there was a culture at the News of the World of systematically breaching proprieties in the pursuit of stories. That ignorance while in positions of authority at News International was ultimately enough to persuade her to resign from the company on Friday – many days after there had been widespread calls, including a demand from her friend, the prime minister, for her to go. But News International was still insisting she had done nothing fundamentally wrong. She was leaving only because she had become a lightning rod for criticism of the company which made it harder for any kind of equilibrium to be restored in the business. Or so her friends insisted. To put it another way, the company’s version of what happened at the News of the World and who was to blame has been implicitly challenged in a fundamental way by the decision of the Metropolitan Police to arrest her on suspicion of alleged involvement in phone hacking and corruption.

As a company executive said to me, “we just don’t know what’s going to happen next”. Now there are two Rebekah_Brooks_Mugshot.jpgreasons why News Corporation and News International were so keen to protect Rebekah Brooks. First is that there is probably no one involved in the business, whose surname isn’t Murdoch, who is as close to Rupert Murdoch, News Corp’s chairman, as is Rebekah Brooks. When they are together, he displays a conspicuous affection for her. “Some would say he is almost as close to Rebekah as he is to his children” said one of their colleagues. And then there is a second reason why her arrest will be a blow both to Rupert Murdoch and to his son, James Murdoch, her immediate boss as head of News Corp’s European operations. Her ignorance of what happened at the News of the World reinforced their claims that they too had no knowledge of the alleged scale of abuses by the Sunday tabloid, which was closed down only a week ago. The importance of today’s events is that her claimed ignorance did not prevent her being arrested. MORE

NEW YORK TIMES: The commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police Services, Sir Paul Stephenson, resigned his post on Sunday just hours after his officers arrested Rebekah Brooks, the former chief of Rupert Murdoch’s media operations in Britain, as damage from a phone-hacking scandal moved to the highest levels of British public life. In a news conference, Sir Paul said his position was “in danger of being eclipsed by the ongoing debate by senior officers and the media. And this can never be right,” according to a report by The Guardian. The Metropolitan Police Service, commonly referred to as Scotland Yard, has come under harsh scrutiny in recent days, accused in the press and by British politicians of currying too close a relationship with tabloid executives. According to news reports, Sir Paul hired a former News of the World executive, Neil Wallis, as a public relations adviser. Mr. Wallis was arrested for questioning last week. MORE

BANKSY_COP_FRISK_GIRL.jpgRELATED: For nearly four years they lay piled in a Scotland Yard evidence room, six overstuffed plastic bags gathering dust and little else. Inside was a treasure-trove of evidence: 11,000 pages of handwritten notes listing nearly 4,000 celebrities, politicians, sports stars, police officials and crime victims whose phones may have been hacked by The News of the World, a now defunct British tabloid newspaper. Yet from August 2006, when the items were seized, until the autumn of 2010, no one at the Metropolitan Police Service, commonly referred to as Scotland Yard, bothered to sort through all the material and catalog every page, said former and current senior police officials. During that same time, senior Scotland Yard officials assured Parliament, judges, lawyers, potential hacking victims, the news media and the public that there was no evidence of widespread hacking by the tabloid. They steadfastly maintained that their original inquiry, which led to the conviction of one reporter and one private investigator, had put an end to what they called an isolated incident. After the past week, that assertion has been reduced to tatters, torn apart by a spectacular avalanche of contradictory evidence, admissions by News International executives that hacking was more widespread, and a reversal by police officials who now admit to mishandling the case. Assistant Commissioner John Yates of the Metropolitan Police Service publicly acknowledged that he had not actually gone through the evidence. “I’m not going to go down and look at bin bags,” Mr. Yates said, using the British term for trash bags. At best, former Scotland Yard senior officers acknowledged in interviews, the police have been lazy, incompetent and too cozy with the people they should have regarded as suspects. At worst, they said, some officers might be guilty of crimes themselves. MORE

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