- ‘Phone hacking’ scandal spreads to the US.Revelation is significant for two reasons….
- The FBI, and American lawyers, now have evidence of allegations on US soil for the first time.
- The allegations aren’t historic – they were happening right up until three years ago.
- The Sun is accused of unlawful information gathering in the US.
- Private Investigator was asked by The Sun to investigate murdered police officers.
- He was given names of cops massacred in 2016 Dallas Shootings.
- News Corp fears tougher federal laws and harsher penalties in US – and bigger court pay-outs.
By Graham Johnson
Editor, Byline Investigates
The Sun newspaper tasked a private investigator (PI) to carry-out unlawful inquiries on an industrial scale – in the United States.
The paper was provided with huge volumes of social security details, ex-directory phone numbers and car registration plates.
The targets – unbeknown to the PI getting the data – included murdered police officers, and their families.
He says that he was “manipulated” by The Sun because they didn’t tell him who these men were, and that they had been killed in the line of duty.
But The Sun reporters paid for the unlawful checks anyway, despite the paper saying publicly that it did not use PIs any longer.
Last night, the private detective told Byline Investigates: “I never thought that what I did hurt somebody.
“Or, that my actions caused so much pain.
“It wouldn’t have happened, if The Sun hadn’t called me to ask me to investigate these victims.”
Byline Investigates can also reveal that The Sun continued to use the private investigator until 2017.
That is six years after Rupert Murdoch’s company vowed never to use unlawful newsgathering techniques again.
News International made the pledge, after the News of the World was shut down in July 2011.
Public outrage followed revelations that reporters hacked the mobile phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
But the company managed to stop the phone hacking scandal spreading to the US, where the laws are tougher.
Murdoch’s empire is particularly vulnerable over there, because his global HQ is based in New York, and falls under US jurisdiction.
However, the company denied that illegality took place in America.
And evidence could not be found that violations took place on US soil – until now.
The private investigator told us: “The Sun and The News of the World used me for 20 years.
“I also worked for some of Murdoch’s homegrown operations in the US.
“When the phone hacking scandal happened in the UK, I was always expecting a knock on the door, over here in The States.
“Because The Sun had paid me to do the same things in the US, that the News of the World had been paying British PIs to do, in the UK.
“In fact, The Sun carried-on paying me for six years after the News of The World closed down.
“I guess they thought it was OK, because it was thousands of miles away, and it wouldn’t come back to bite them.
“It was The Sun who gave me the names of people to check-out for stories, and most of the time I didn’t know who the targets were.
“When The Sun gave me names of people killed in the Dallas shootings, I didn’t recognise their names.
“I had no idea.
“They should have made that clear.
“I wouldn’t have done it. I want to apologise for that.
“Of course, it was wrong. I feel remorse, but I also feel manipulated.”
The private investigator – who we have chosen not to name – has vowed to help the victims get justice.
Byline Investigates has identified at least eight Sun journalists and editors who commissioned him.
The targets included a range of celebrities and ordinary people caught-up in rolling news stories.
But they also included victims of the 2016 Dallas shootings, in which five police officers were massacred by a lone gunman.
The private investigator, who is now retired, told Byline Investigates: “I firmly believe that the The Sun newspaper, and their journalists, knew what I was doing was unlawful, and not permitted under US law.
“Many of the reports were unlawfully obtained, because I carried out searches that that I was not permitted to do for the media.
“The reports that I sent them contained some personal and protected data, such as a full social security number, voter registration details and driver information.
“The law requires me to edit out those parts, that are considered ‘protected data.’
“I never did so, I would send them to the client (The Sun) with the ‘protected data’ intact.
“They knew full well that some of this sort of data could not be obtained lawfully by newspaper reporters, or by PIs that they hired, if it was just for writing a tabloid story.
“If It was publicly available information, The Sun wouldn’t be paying me to get it.”
The private investigator offered a range of illicit services including obtaining ex-directory phone numbers.
He could also perform “conversions” – the trade name for finding out the name and address linked to a phone number.
Advanced vehicle information was also on the menu, and included car registration plates and driver licence information.
The facility enabled The Sun to track vehicle sightings across the US using automatic licence plate recognition, known as “ANPR” in the UK.
Byline Investigates sent a draft of this story to executives at The Sun’s parent company, News UK, and the papers’ Editor on Friday for comment.
So far, no reply has been received
More follows in Part 2 of this story.