A letter made public today by Britain's House of Commons puts into question just how much top brass at News of the World knew about illegal phone hacking practices. The letter, written by Clive Goodman, a former News of the World royal correspondent convicted of phone hacking, says the "practice was widely discussed in the daily editorial conference, until explicit reference to it was banned by the Editor."
Goodman wrote the letter four years ago to appeal the tabloid's decision to fire him. Goodman had been portrayed by the paper as the only rogue reporter to have used phone hacking. In the letter, which was sent to the human resources director and copied to Les Hinton, executive chairman at the time, Goodman alleges that he was kept on board despite the fact that management knew he was going to plead guilty.
The kicker is that Goodman says he was told he could come back to his job, "if I did not implicate the paper or any of its staff in my mitigation plea."
"I did not," writes Goodman, "and I expect the paper to honour its promise to me."
The Guardian reports that the person who Goodman alleges made the promises was Andy Coulson, the former editor of News of the World, and subsequently communications director for Prime Minister David Cameron.
The claims are acutely troubling for the prime minister, David Cameron, who hired Coulson as his media adviser on the basis that he knew nothing about phone hacking. And they confront Rupert and James Murdoch with the humiliating prospect of being recalled to parliament to justify the evidence which they gave last month on the aftermath of Goodman's allegations. In a separate letter, one of the Murdochs' own law firms claim that parts of that evidence were variously "hard to credit", "self-serving" and "inaccurate and misleading".
Goodman's claims also raise serious questions about Rupert Murdoch's close friend and adviser, Les Hinton, who was sent a copy of the letter but failed to pass it to police and who then led a cast of senior Murdoch personnel in telling parliament that they believed Coulson knew nothing about the interception of the voicemail of public figures and that Goodman was the only journalist involved.