Sunday, July 31, 2011

New York Post Editor Warns Employees as Justice Department Opens Investigation

News Corp's troubles regarding multiple scandals and arrests occurring in the U.K. have come home to roost. In response to a directive from News Corp's legal counsel, the editor of the New York Post, Col Allan, warned Post employees to preserve all emails and any other documents that indicated unauthorized access to personal data or payments to government officials:

News Corporation officials did not comment on the matter. But the notice raised the possibility that the firm either has received a subpoena for such documents, or has been notified by prosecutors that a subpoena is coming, legal specialists said.

Employees of the News of the World, the now-shuttered, formerly profitable tabloid, have been arrested, charged with hacking the cell phones of, among others a murdered 13-year-old British schoolgirl, Milly Dowler, and the families of the victims of what the British consider their 9/11, "7/7". On July 7, 2005 the public suffered 4 coordinated terrorist suicide bombings, 3 in the London Underground (their subway) and 1 on a double-decker bus, killing 52 people and injuring 700.

Creepier still, the London Metropolitan police (aka Scotland Yard) recently revealed that Glenn Mulcaire, the private detective hired by News Corp, had personal information on Sara Payne among his papers when he was arrested in 2006. As to why this information came out 5 years later, that's a question for Sherlock Holmes. Sara Payne is the mother of Sarah Payne, an 8-year-old girl who was abducted and murdered by a convicted pedophile in 2000. That's just when Rebekah Brooks, head of News International, was made editor of The News of The World.

She befriended Ms. Payne and put the editorial clout of the paper behind a campaign to create "Sarah's Law", modeled after "Megan's Law" in the U.S., whereby parents could gain access to information on local pedophiles. It was hugely popular (1 million readers signed a petition to support it). The paper began its "Name and Shame" policy of outing suspected pedophiles.

Ms. Payne was grateful for Ms. Brooks and the paper's support, writing a regular column, even expressing thanks in its final issue. But it seems that Ms. Payne's cell phone, given to her by Ms. Brooks, was the source of Mulcaire's information on her. He hacked her voice mail. Circulation built on the back on another murdered child.

Justice Department head Eric Holder started his investigation of News Corp activities in the U.S. in response to evidence that the company paid British police officers thousands of dollars in bribes over a 4-5 year period. Bribery by an American company is prosecutable under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, an act which has been enforced many times. There are also allegations that the voice mails of the families of 9/11 victims were hacked.

My advice to anyone who may become an unwitting target of News Corp's illegal surveillance techniques is to arm oneself with equivalent spy gear. You'd be amazed at how technologically advanced current surveillance products are. Most of them are the size of a flash drive.

Pick up an iPhone Spy Stick Brickhouse Exclusive Technology, which recovers deleted iPhone text messages, Map searches, hidden contacts and more. Or try the Stealth ibot Computer Spy (computer spying tool secretly captures passwords, chats, screenshots and more). Or the James O’Keefe special: the Mega Mini Spy Camera Pro with Recording (DVR), an audio activated portable DVR Camera with Amazing Video Quality. There’s also Cell Phone Recon, a tiny device that allows you to monitor all cell phone activity from your computer, including calls and text messages. Or get all of them, just to make sure that if they have their story, you have yours.

Turnabout's fair play.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

News Corp Motto: Crush Our Enemies and You Will Prosper

Do you still believe that News Corp’s unethical, criminal behavior limits itself to the U.K.? It’s not enough that it engaged in hacking the phones of murder victims, bribed Scotland Yard, paid hush money and demanded obedience from its politicians or else. The U.K. is merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of the Murdoch (Borgia) motto, which seems to be “Destroy all our 'enemies' [which could be anyone or anything] by any means necessary”, which certainly extends to the United States.

The Guardian ran an article about the computer hacking of a small American business that perfectly illustrates the thuggish tactics that underline the mission of News Corp.

Two brothers, George and Richard Rebh, invented a way to display advertising on the floor of supermarkets. They called their company Floorgraphics and managed to get big clients like Safeway, Winn-Dixie and Piggly Wiggly. One day they got a call from the leader in the floor advertising field called Watch Your Step (not really—it was News America Marketing, an ad arm of News Corp) who asked the bros to lunch. George and Richard were excited. They thought they’d be working together. When they got to the midtown restaurant, they found out the lead firm wanted to buy them out. They turned them down. The CEO of News America, Paul Carlucci, got to the heart of the matter:

”From now one, consider us your competitor and understand this: if you ever get into any of our businesses, I will destroy you. I work for a man who wants it all, and doesn’t understand anybody telling him he can’t have it all.” News America is owned by News Corp, whose chief executive is Rupert Murdoch.

In 2004, the brothers discovered that Floorgraphics computers had been broken into 11 times in four months. They traced the hacking back to an IP address registered to a News America office in Connecticut. By accessing Floorgraphics computers, News America was able to get sales information, client lists, future projections and presumably marketing plans. The brothers watched helplessly as News America picked off one big client after another armed with their proprietary information. They reported the break-in to the FBI and the Secret Service, who opened an investigation in 2005. Results unknown to this day.

The brothers brought suit. The case was dropped after a deal was struck: News America bought out Floorgraphics for $29.5 million in exchange for dropping the case. But not before the jury heard another one of Carlucci’s concise parsing of the News Corp message:

[A] former News America manager, Robert Emmel…recalled the chief executive Carlucci telling his staff: “If there were individuals concerned about doing the right thing—bed-wetting liberals in particular—then he could arrange for them to be out-placed from the company.”

As reward for overseeing illegal methods to destroy the tiniest hint of competition and making pronouncements that Tony Soprano would consider unseemly, Carlucci was made publisher of the New York Post.

Friday, July 22, 2011

White House In Charge of Neutering MSNBC

According to Brian Stelter’s piece in yesterday’s New York Times, Al Sharpton has replaced Cenk Uygur as the 6pm anchor on MSNBC. I liked Cenk. He was energetic and appealed to a younger demographic, the one that actually organized and came out to vote for Obama in 2008. That’s when Obama had a million-dollar email list courtesy of David Pfouffe. Cenk, as he did as a Young Turk, asked hard-hitting questions and wasn’t afraid to stand up for the common man/woman. The one that’s out of work, underwater and debates every month whether to pay the rent, buy food or clothes for the kids.

He said that Phil Griffin, the president of MSNBC, told him pressure had come from Washington to get rid of him:

In April, he said, Mr. Griffin “called me into his office and said that he’d been talking to people in Washington and that they did not like my tone.” …He also said that Mr. Griffin said the channel was part of the “establishment” and “that you need to act like it.”

Griffin also complained about Cenk’s “body language”. Not obsequious enough.

Sharpton has his own baggage. Forget about the Tawana Brawley case (that was ancient history and merely an example of the shrewd PR that characterizes Sharpton). According to the cover story in the Village Voice,“Citizen Bloomberg” by Harry Siegel, Sharpton was handsomely compensated by our NYC mayor to extol the benefits of the results of Bloomberg’s takeover of the school system, travelling around with Joel Klein, then the school’s chancellor. (Now Klein is on the board of News Corp assisting with that PR effort.) Much of the article is taken up by Bloomberg’s brand-polishing and rewarding those who embellish it:

[Bloomberg] followed up by a nationwide victory tour with then-Chancellor Joel Klein and a well-compensated occasional sidekick Sharpton to tout the school system’s “amazing results”.

Obama may decry Fox News as the house organ of the Republicans, but is MSNBC becoming the neutered organ of his 2012 presidential bid? After all, Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of General Electric which owns MSNBC (among many other properties) heads Obama’s Presidential Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Do you think that Griffin takes orders from Immelt who has the ear of the POTUS?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Did News of the World Murder Milly Dowler?

This post is not about the spreading scandal at News Corp International that's rocking the British public, the police and the politicians, not to mention possibly interfering with big expansion plans. It's about complicity in murder.

If News of the World employees could hack into 13-year-old British schoolgirl Milly Dowler's cell phone in order to retrieve and delete her parents' anguished voice mails, then they had technological access to it.

A cell phone, just like a GPS, is a geolocation device:

Geolocation data is information generated by electronic devices – including cell phones, Wi-Fi equipped laptops, and GPS navigation units – that can be used to determine the location of these devices and the devices’ owners.

In other words, it can be used to locate its owner. The cell phone hacking presumably started when Milly disappeared in 2002 until she was found murdered six months later. Why didn't News of the World give this information to the police in time to locate and save Milly's life? In their craven eagerness to scoop the competition, did they doom Milly at the hands of her vicious killer?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Why Assume News Corp. Tactics Limited to the U.K.?

Sarah Lyall is writing a fire-breathing series on News Corp. scandals across the pond for The New York Times. I quoted from her story in my previous post but events have accelerated.

Due to growing allegations of illegal activity, including hacking into the cell phones of private citizens such as the parents of a murdered 13-year-old British schoolgirl and the parents of soldiers killed in combat, Rupert Murdoch, monarch of News Corp., decided to shut down one of his British tabloids, the News of the World. The News of the World lasted 168 years and according to Hoovers, a business that tracks corporations, brought in almost $1 billion a year.

Presumably Murdoch shuttered it in order to save his takeover bid for the dominant pay-tv network, British Sky Broadcasting, aka BskyB. The British government must approve the takeover. I guess the alleged criminality rife in News of the World as its sponsors run from the tabloid like dogs from a skunk called for decisive action.

Murdoch isn’t used to his shady policies being brought to account. Both Conservative and Labour candidates seek his imprimatur and indeed you can win easily betting on the candidates he approves.

My question is: Why assume that malfeasance stops at the west coast of England, that sceptered isle? Dirty deeds at Murdoch properties have been exposed in America, especially at the New York Post. Another one of his properties, the London Times (an even older and originally quite esteemed property than News of the World—that’s like saying The Wall Street Journal’s readers buy Rolexes while the Post’s readers snatch Swatches), reported back in 2006 that one of its most prominent gossip reporters, Jared Paul Stern, tried to blackmail Ron Burkle, a billionaire supermarket magnate, supporter of sworn enemy former President Bill Clinton and at the time adviser to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Burkle had been angry at false items about him printed in the Post’s popular celebrity gossip column, Page Six. Stern met with Burkle twice at his Manhattan loft and was recorded as offering Burkle various levels of protection in exchange for favors:

[Stern told Burkle]that he could either choose to inform on his celebrity friends, hire the fiancée of his editor [Richard Johnson, influential editor of Page Six] or invest in Stern’s “Skull and Bones clothing line.

“How much do I need to pay you to make this stop? I need level one, level two protection, level three protection. How much do you want?”

“Um, $100,000 to get going and month to month, $10,000,” the writer was reported to have said.

You might think it’s odd for a newspaper to report on a story that ran in another one of News Corp’s properties in such a passive fashion, but the Times was quoting The Daily News, its rival. There can’t be much doubt about its veracity if it’s quoting its rival, even at arm’s length.

In a concise précis of some of News Corp’s scandals, Jeff Bercovici sums up the scandal:

Although Stern escaped criminal prosecution, the scandal led to all sorts of unsavory revelations, such as the disclosure that Page Six editor Richard Johnson had accepted an envelope full of cash from one of his frequent column subjects.

[By the way, Bercovici’s short piece makes juicy reading but, as he acknowledges, it merely scratches the surface at News Corp.]

There are loud calls for Rebekah Brooks to step down. She is the former editor of News of the World during the time Milly Dowler, the murdered British schoolgirl, went missing. Now she is chief executive of News International, Murdoch’s British newspaper subsidiary.

Andy Coulson, who was editor of News of the World when it was first revealed that the tabloid engaged in hacking cellphones, at that time of the British Royals, became the spokesman for the current Prime Minister, David Cameron. According to knowledgeable sources, he is to be arrested today on suspicion of illegally paying the police for information during his editorship, which came after Ms. Brooks’ stewardship.

If these two are accountable, then why shouldn’t Col Allan, Editor-In-Chief of the New York Post, be held accountable for (at the very least) the criminality of his employees?

In fact, apply the RICO act to all News Corp properties. How often are extralegal tactics used?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

News of the World & the Case of the 13-year-old schoolgirl "hacked" to death

Nancy Grace, the pitbull of law enforcement, should sic her Dobermans on the case of the News of the World tabloid vs. Milly Dowler during her Fox show Swift Justice. It's right up her alley and it would be poetic justice.

According to Sarah Lyall's article in the New York Times, back in 2002 a 13-year-old British schoolgirl, Milly Dowler, went missing. Her family was frantically searching for her and Scotland Yard was pursuing any clue possible.

During that time, employees of News of the World were breaking into Milly's cell phone and retrieving the agitated voice messages of people searching for her: her family, private investigators, the police and presumably her friends. Adding additional charges to active interference with a police investigation and possibly obstruction of justice was the fact that when Milly's voice mail box was full, the employees of News of the World actually deleted her past messages to make sure they could retrieve future ones.

Not only did that give false hope to the family (they thought Milly was deleting the messages, and therefore was still alive), it also sidetracked and may have torpedoed the official investigation.

The News of the World, a Murdoch publication, should have known better. After all, the New York Post reported on the evidentiary importance of a cell phone in convicting a night club bouncer in the killing of a 24-year-old student. In its eagerness to exploit the story of the missing 13-year-old girl, did News Corp employees interfere with the police investigation to such an extent that Milly's cell phone records were compromised?

Six months after she disappeared, Milly was found hacked to death. How much did the News of the World hackers contribute to Milly's hacking?

Grace has continually called for Casey Anthony's head while she was still on trial. Maybe she should dig up the dirt on Milly's experience.