'Blue Book' Lists Illegal Work Carried out for Murdoch Titles

Article excerpt

Rebekah Brooks was among journalists who used a private detective who was later convicted

The News of the World paid a private detective to provide hundreds of pieces of confidential information, often using illegal means, a confidential document obtained by The Independent on Sunday has revealed.

The "Blue Book", a ledger of work carried out by Steve Whittamore for News International titles, including the NoW and The Sunday Times, details a series of transactions including obtaining ex- directory phone numbers, telephone accounts, criminal records checks and withheld mobile numbers. It reveals the itemised details of checks on public figures, including Peter Mandelson, ordered and paid for - at up to 750 a time - by reporters working for the redtop. Staff from a number of other national newspapers made similar requests, and their details are contained in further dossiers held by the Information Commissioner, the privacy watchdog.

Among the journalists requesting information from Mr Whittamore, who was later convicted of offences committed under the Data Protection Act, was the former NoW editor Rebekah Wade, now Rebekah Brooks.

The contents of the dossier were collated by the Information Commissioner following a raid on Mr Whittamore's Hampshire office in 2003, but the watchdog has previously refused to disclose its contents, to protect the identities of the people named within it.

The disclosure of the extent to which the NoW and its sister titles used the services of private investigators to obtain personal information by questionable means will add to the controversy threatening to engulf News International (NI), whose bosses have consistently denied any wrongdoing over the affair.

The wide-ranging extent of the phone hacking and other activities could damage NI's share price in the long run - and reduce the fortune of its boss, Rupert Murdoch.

One senior MP last night complained that the list revealed "a widespread and casual law-breaking" among people associated with NI.

But the existence of the Blue Book also threatens further embarrassment for David Cameron, the Prime Minister, who has so far supported Mr Coulson, now his chief spin-doctor. Mr Coulson resigned from the NoW in 2007 after one of his reporters, Clive Goodman, was jailed for tapping into telephone voicemails. Mr Coulson has consistently denied any knowledge of the illegal methods during his term as editor. He was appointed to the top post in January 2003.

However, the issue reignited last week when MPs voted to refer the issue to the powerful Standards and Privileges Committee following fresh allegations about what Mr Coulson really knew. The IoS revealed last week that the mobile-phone details of the former Labour minister Lord Mandelson were among lists of private data seized by police investigating phone hacking by NoW reporters during Mr Coulson's time as editor.

Now, the IoS can reveal that the Blue Book details a list of 1,027 transactions between Mr Whittamore and a client referred to as "Times Sun News of the World". The itemised spreadsheet lists highly confidential details, including the name of the journalist making the order, the service requested and the "target" of their investigation. Subjects include the former boxer Chris Eubank, former Labour minister David Lammy, and a target described simply as "Rooney".

Many of the tasks were carried out for reporters working for other titles in the group, and some would have been for legitimate journalistic investigations. …