London (CNN) - British lawmakers investigating a phone hacking scandal Tuesday asked media baron Rupert Murdoch, his son James, and former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks to testify before them, hours after former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown accused their newspaper group of illegally obtaining private information about him.
Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee asked the three to appear next Tuesday, July 19, a representative told CNN.
“Senior executives” of Murdoch’s British newspaper company “will cooperate,” News International said in a statement, without specifying names.
If the Murdochs and Brooks do not answer the summons, parliament can compel them to do so, Labour lawmaker Chris Bryant — who believes he is a hacking victim — said on Twitter.
Brown Tuesday accused Murdoch’s newspapers of having “links with criminals” as he spoke to the BBC about allegations the Sunday Times illegally obtained private information about him. Brown accused the paper of getting his bank details, saying he was “genuinely shocked” by its methods.
The allegations widen the scandal that brought down Britain’s best-selling newspaper, the News of the World, to other newspapers also owned by Murdoch’s News International media group.
Brown expressed dismay at the allegations Monday night and has given investigators “all relevant evidence” he has about the matter, according to a statement from his office.
“The family has been shocked by the level of criminality and the unethical means by which personal details have been obtained,” the statement said. “The matter is in police hands.”
Top Metropolitan Police officers testified before lawmakers Tuesday about their investigation into illegal breaches of privacy by the News of the World, following accusations police did not probe deeply enough when they first looked into matter.
Assistant Commissioner John Yates, who decided in 2009 that there was not enough evidence to pursue an investigation, admitted to the Home Affairs Select committee that his decision was “crap.”
And he said his own phone had been hacked “in the period 2005-2006.” He blamed News International for not handing over all the documents they had. But lawmakers hammered his decision.
“Why did you not look at the information that was sitting in bags at Scotland Yard?” demanded conservative lawmaker Michael Ellis.
Yates insisted he had “never, ever, ever” received a payment from a journalist, but said it was “highly probable” that there were some corrupt officers among the 50,000 in the Metropolitan Police.
News International is accused of attempting to bribe police officers for information — including personal contact details for members of the royal family — in addition the violation of privacy allegations.
Yates said he did not see Gordon Brown’s name on a list a potential hacking victims when he examined the evidence police had in 2009.
The accusations that journalists working for News International papers went after Brown were published by rival outlet the Guardian on Monday.
The Guardian said the tabloid The Sun — the country’s best-selling daily newspaper — obtained details about Brown’s seriously ill son and published a story about him, while people working for the upmarket Sunday Times tricked the former Labour Party leader’s accountants into handing over financial details.
The efforts dated back some 10 years, and include periods when Brown was prime minister and chancellor of the exchequer, according to the Guardian.
News International, the British subsidiary of Murdoch’s News Corporation, issued a statement saying it was aware of the allegations.
“So that we can investigate these matters further, we ask that all information concerning these allegations is provided to us,” the company’s statement read.
And Brown’s wife, Sarah, responded in a post on her Twitter account. “So sad to learn all I am about my family’s privacy — it is very personal and really hurtful if all true,” the post read. Brown declined several CNN requests for an interview about the allegations.
The latest allegations follow Sunday’s closure of the News of the World over other allegations of illegal breach of privacy.
The decision to pull the plug on the 168-year-old paper came amid accusations that its reporters illegally eavesdropped on the phone messages of murder and terrorist victims, politicians and celebrities, as well as claims it may have bribed police officers. Police said Thursday they had identified almost 4,000 potential targets of phone-hacking.
The widening scandal and public outrage over it threaten to scuttle plans by Murdoch to create Britain’s largest media company by acquiring satellite broadcaster BSkyB.
Earlier Monday, London’s Metropolitan Police angrily blasted leaks from its investigation into illegal eavesdropping by News of the World, hours after British media reported that the paper tried to bribe royal protection officers to get private phone numbers for members of the royal family.
Police said News International had shared information about alleged efforts by reporters to bribe police, and that both sides had agreed to keep the information confidential.
Police said they were “extremely concerned and disappointed” at the leaks, which they said “could have a significant impact on the corruption investigation.” Police, the royal family and News International all refused to answer CNN questions about allegations that a reporter sought company money to pay a royal protection officer for the confidential details about the royal family.
The controversy over phone hacking has continued despite the shuttering of the News of the World. Murdoch has not apologized to the family of a murdered British teenage girl whose phone messages were illegally intercepted, a lawyer for the girl’s family said Monday.
Rebekah Brooks, who was editor of the newspaper at the time 13-year-old murder victim Milly Dowler’s phone was hacked, should resign, Dowler family lawyer Mark Lewis also said.
Brooks has since been promoted to chief executive of News International, and Murdoch has stood by her so far. She may be questioned by police about the scandal in the coming weeks, a News International source told CNN Monday. The source asked not to be named discussing internal company business.
Murdoch flew into London Sunday, hours after the final edition of the News of the World hit the stands. The publication was the first British national paper Murdoch bought, in 1969, as he began to propel himself from Australian newspaper proprietor to international media magnate.
With its closure, News International now owns the Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times in Britain.
Hugh Grant’s Comment in ContactMusic.com
‘News Of The World Closure Is A Cynical Managerial Manoeuvre’
Hugh Grant has blasted publishing mogul James Murdoch’s decision to shut down British tabloid News of the World over a phone-tapping scandal, as a “cynical managerial manoeuvre”.
The British star, who played a journalist in the Bridget Jones’s Diary films, called for a complete overhaul of the U.K. tabloid newspaper industry earlier this week (beg04Jul11) after it was revealed the families of murder victims and those affected by the 2005 London Underground bombings may have been targeted in the headline-grabbing scandal.
On Thursday (07Jul11) Murdoch announced this Sunday’s (10Jul11) issue of the News of the World would be its last – after 168 years in print.
But Grant is annoyed because the move has left hundreds of innocent employees out of work, while former editor Rebekah Brooks has kept her job as a chief executive at the newspaper’s parent company News International.
Appearing on Britain’s political debate show Question Time on Thursday evening (07Jul11), Grant said, “I think we should see this for what it is – it is a very cynical managerial manoeuvre which has put several hundred not evil people… a lot of certainly non-editorial staff out of work and has kept, in particular, one woman, who was the editor while (murdered schoolgirl) Milly Dowler was being hacked in a highly paid job.”
Meanwhile, another victim of the U.K.’s tabloid media, Lily Allen, took to Twitter.com to comment on the decision to close the News of the World and keep the newspaper’s former editor employed at News International. She writes, “Rebekah Brooks must have something on the Murdochs, or she gave them a really nice christmas (sic) present.”
Reports emerged this week, starting July 4th, claiming journalists at the tabloid, under the editorship of Brooks, interfered with the police investigation into Dowler’s death in 2002 by tapping the phones of her family. The 13 year old was abducted on her way home in Surrey, England, before her body was found six months later. Last month on June 11, Levi Bellfield was found guilty of her murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Black Queen Lara’s comment
I love UK. My spiritual life grows 10 times stronger over there like no where else. Through my spiritual gifts, I perceived that everytime I was visiting London, I was tailed by undercover Journalists while my UK phone was hacked all the time, before it disappeared completely; this is why I quitted crossing the Channel. I will not even raise an eyebrow if my name is on the News of the world’s list.
My sincere apology to Lady Diana’s and Dodi Al Fayed’s friends and family for bringing their names up in this blog.
A royal family hacked? NEWS INTERNATIONAL might “know” what exactly lead to Lady Diana and Dodi’s accident on that horrible August night in Paris 13 years ago… and much more! But do you people realize what this means? Does this not sound like worlwide scale spionage? Their behaviour is the one of the scariest thing I have ever heard but maybe I am naive.
I always knew that Satan controlled the Press, but not that much! When I wrote that Evil had the media and moved his throne to UK and asked people to pray against it, I was expecting major changes; because this is how powerful believers go to work! But imagining NOW’s diabolic deeds would have not hovered around in the darkest part of my imagination. Because, contrary to Celebs who rightously are shocked by this, I lost a lot of money I needed because of digital spionage, I would say “Congrats to all other people working on this”. By the way, poorpublic figures, probably someone in that newsroom could create their scandals, break ups and tragedies for money… However, this is why I use pre-paid phones, because they are simply more difficult to hack, aren’t they? That was such a bad idea to have 36 celebs on my Top friends list, I always knew it, no pun intended.
Not to end this comment on a sinister note, I would say “dig dipper in News International and affiliates, they got someone else’s treasure hidden in their fields, metaphorically speaking. Even if this treasure means only “finding closure” to us, it still will be truly worth it.