Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

U.K. Inquiry into Hacking Hears Ex-Aide to Cameron

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

U.K. Inquiry into Hacking Hears Ex-Aide to Cameron

Article excerpt

The inquiry heard Andy Coulson, a former editor of The News of the World tabloid who became Mr. Prime Minister David Cameron's communications director.

After months of testimony in the phone hacking scandal, focused mostly on the inner workings of Rupert Murdoch's businesses here, a judicial inquiry resumed hearings on Thursday that delved into the extent of personal ties between Mr. Murdoch's British newspaper executives and Prime Minister David Cameron and included revelations of surprising laxity over his press secretary's security clearance.

The so-called Leveson inquiry, which heard evidence from Mr. Murdoch and his son James last month, summoned Andy Coulson, a former editor of The News of the World who became Mr. Cameron's communications director while Mr. Cameron was the opposition leader in Parliament and later when he became prime minister. That appointment came under scrutiny because of Mr. Coulson's ties to News International, the British newspaper subsidiary of News Corp., which is based in New York and led by Mr. Murdoch.

Robert Jay, the government's lead counsel at the inquiry, raised questions about Mr. Coulson's relatively low security clearance -- lower than is usual for his role at 10 Downing Street -- which the government has defended as adequate. Mr. Jay pressed Mr. Coulson to say whether he had "any unsupervised access to information designated top secret or above."

Mr. Coulson replied: "I may have done, yes."

Mr. Jay asked him whether he attended meetings of the national security council made up of senior political, military and intelligence figures.

"Yes," Mr. Coulson replied.

But he also said he "never asked for special access" and had assumed his security clearance was adequate.

"I went to the meetings I was invited to and got on with my job," he said.

Mr. Coulson's former clearance level usually provides for secret material and controlled access to more sensitive documents. A higher clearance called developed vetting is required for top secret access, according to British media.

Mr. Coulson also spoke to the inquiry about his appointment in May 2007, shortly after he resigned the editorship of the now defunct News of the World because of earlier questions about phone hacking that led to the brief imprisonment of the newspaper's royals reporter, Clive Goodman, and a private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire. …

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