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Coffee House

Motorman returns

10 April 2012

1:46 PM

10 April 2012

1:46 PM

 

Guido Fawkes has caused a stir this morning by releasing a section of the Operation Motorman files, naming those News International journalists thought to have paid for private information. But so
far, Guido’s splash tells us little that we didn’t already know: he has lots of information, but has only released the names of News International journalists. Back in July, Peter Oborne wrote a
cover piece on the extent of all this for The Spectator entitled ‘What the papers won’t say’, in which he
said:

‘The truth is that very few newspapers can declare themselves entirely innocent of buying illegal information from private detectives. A 2006 report by the Information Commissioner gave a
snapshot into the affairs of one such "detective", caught in so-called "Operation Motorman". The commissioner’s report found that 305 journalists had been identified
"as customers driving the illegal trade in confidential personal information". It named each newspaper group, the number of offences and the number of guilty journalists. But, as the
commission observed, coverage of this scandal "even in the broadsheets, at the time of publication, was limited". The same reticence has been seen, until now, over the voicemail-hacking
scandal.’

[Alt-Text]


Above is the graph we ran alongside Peter’s article, illustrating the Commissioner’s findings — as well as how many articles each newspaper group had written about the
phone-hacking scandal. As Pete Hoskin said at the
time
:

‘They reveal a striking correlation. Turns out, those papers whose journalists were most implicated in the Whittamore bust are also those who have devoted the least number of reports to the
phone hacking story. A coincidence? Perhaps. But, in any case, it certainly doesn’t inspire confidence.’

The question is what happens next. The Information Commissioner’s Office has ‘strongly
condemned’
Guido’s publication of the files, and MediaMonkey suggests that Guido himself
has taken a sojourn to Ireland while he waits to see the ripples caused by the stone he has thrown. As the ‘Hacked off’ campaign points out,

‘It is important to note that the complete files are already in the hands of the inquiry and all of the national newspaper groups, and that many other people have had access to parts of the
files. This material is a secret only from the public and in our view partial disclosures of this kind, and of the kind published by ITN days earlier, were inevitable given the official refusal
to redact and disclose.’

Guido, like the newspapers, has the full Motorman files -— but this is a legal minefield, even for him. As he says, ‘inclusion of the name of a journalist in the Operation Motorman
files does not mean a journalist has committed a crime’. One thing’s for sure — it looks very bad indeed, and deeply embarrassing for the media groups involved. But is it more than that? In the
next few weeks, we’ll find out.

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