News Corp and the Hacked Climategate Emails: Time for an Independent Investigation

There have been countless independent investigations into the scientists whose e-mails were hacked in November 2009.  And the scientists have been (quietly) vindicated every time (see “The first rule of vindicating climate science is you do not talk about vindicating climate science“).

But we still don’t know who hacked the emails! And now we know that one of the key investigative bodies tasked with tracking down the hackers — Scotland Yard —  were compromised at the time.

How were they compromised?  Neil Wallis — the former News of the World executive editor — became a “£1,000 a day” consultant to Scotland Yard in October 2009.  Last week he became the ninth person arrested in the metastasizing News Corp scandal “on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications, contrary to section 1(1) Criminal Law Act 1977.”

Certainly Wallis had plenty of motive to join Scotland Yard just to keep an eye on the investigation into the phone-hacking scandal.  Indeed, the NY Times reports Wallis “was reporting back to News International while he was working for the police on the hacking case.”  But this also suggests how corrupt Wallis was — and how corrupted Scotland Yard was.

In the light of the News Corp phone-hacking scandal, it is clear that Murdoch’s outfit had means, motive, and opportunity for the Climategate email hacking.  News Corp certainly has a history of defaming climate scientists and a penchant for hacking.

Indeed, in this country, a division of News Corp had a federal case brought against it for “hacking its way into Floorgraphics’s password protected computer system.”  The complaint said News America had “illegally accessed plaintiff’s computer system and obtained proprietary information” and “disseminated false, misleading and malicious information about the plaintiff.”  Sounds familiar, no?

After a few days of testimony, News Corp “settled with Floorgraphics for $29.5 million and then, days later, bought it, even though it reportedly had sales of less than $1 million.”  This behavior simply wasn’t a big shock to News Corp.

So News Corp would obviously now be on the top of anybody’s short list for possible suspects in the Climategate hacking.  At the same time, we now know things were so cozy between News Corp, Wallis, and Scotland Yard that it is hard to believe News Corp would have been thoroughly investigated for Climategate, if they were investigated at all.

How cozy?  Staff at News Corp’s News of the World tabloid apparently routinely paid off members of the Metropolitan Police Service aka Scotland Yard —  payments that were “condoned” by then-editor Andy Coulson, who later became chief spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron.

How cozy? The Guardian dropped this bombshell Friday: “Scotland Yard’s most senior officers tried to convince the Guardian during two private meetings that its coverage of phone hacking was exaggerated and incorrect without revealing they had hired Neil Wallis….”  Scotland Yard shilling for News Corp?   I don’t think people would have believed this had they seen it in a blockbuster movie.

How cozy?  As the NYT explains in “Stain From Tabloids Rubs Off on a Cozy Scotland Yard,” the Yard hardly investigated the phone hacking scandal, ignoring mountains of evidence for years.

And then we have the social coziness:

Executives and others at the company also enjoyed close social ties to Scotland Yard’s top officials. Since the hacking scandal began in 2006, Mr. Yates [the assistant commissioner] and others regularly dined with editors from News International papers, records show. Sir Paul Stephenson, the police commissioner, met for meals 18 times with company executives and editors during the investigation, including on eight occasions with Mr. Wallis while he was still working at The News of the World….

Just after Christmas last year Sir Paul recovered from surgery at a Champneys Spa in Hertfordshire, and his $19,000 bill was paid by a friend, the spa’s managing partner, Sky News reported. Sir Paul learned Saturday that Mr. Wallis had worked as a public-relations consultant for the spa….

So I think it is quite safe to say that  it is unlikely Scotland Yard pursued any serious investigation into the possibility that News Corp was involved in Climategate.

Now it is entirely possible that News Corp wasn’t involved.  But there is no way of knowing until we get a thorough and independent investigation.

Here’s one more astrological coincidence of the highest order:  In October 2009, Wallis became a senior consultant to Outside Organisation — a PR firm and crisis management agency, which … wait for it … “was used by the UEA following the Climategate scandal.”

What’s funny is that if you go over to the denier sites, like Climate Audit, the hiring of Wallis’s firm by the University of East Anglia’s CRU (Climatic Research Unit) is somehow further evidence of their corruption, that they were trying to carry out “covert” operations to clear their name.  One article reports:

Wallis led on the University of East Anglia “climategate” job, when Outside was drafted in to help the university’s Climatic Research Unit defend itself against charges of scientific misconduct.

In fact, most people think that UEA’s crisis management was catastrophically bad for months — “covert” is a good word for it, though I prefer “virtually nonexistent.”  I can’t imagine wanting to put on your resume that  you were the guy in charge of UEA’s PR after Climategate.  It’d be like saying you advised President Bush on how to handle PR around his response to Hurricane Katrina.  Of course, Wallis won’t be getting many PR jobs for the foreseeable future.

Whether there is anything more than just extreme coincidence in Wallis leading on UEA’s Climategate defense, I do know that when the deniers say it is cooling, you can be certain it is warming, and when they say there is no smoke, you can be sure it is a hellish, record-breaking wildfire.

In any case, it is time for an independent investigation into the Climategate email hacking.  We now know that for four years, Scotland Yard sat on evidence suggesting the phones of “nearly 4,000 celebrities, politicians, sports stars, police officials and crime victims” had been hacked.

So the Climategate investigation should not involve Scotland Yard, and should investigate whether News Corp had any involvement.  It could start by investigating whether News Corp hacked the phone of any climate scientists.

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Below are earlier comments from the old Facebook commenting system:

John Tucker

Indeed because of the hacking scandal the whole internal “whistleblower” (that seemed odd as there was no wrongdoing and no pattern of such) narrative floated surrounding the Emails is/was incorrect.

July 19 at 3:33pm

John Tucker

Of course they probably thought there was more in the emails – like proof of wrongdoing, no doubt related to the sluggishness of David Holland’s 2008 freedom of information act request.

Thats what probably what piqued their curiosity and where a hacking scheme would originate.

The cato “institute” in the US was involved in denial heavily too – via Pat Michaels. So it could have involved many and moved across borders.

And checking – why am I not surprised by the release below??!!

Cato Policy Report, November/December 1997 New Staff in Defense, Education, and Information Murdoch Joins Board of Directors (​olicy_report/cpr-19n6-10.h​tml )

July 19 at 4:09pm

John Tucker

Jheezzz – yea an Independent investigation(s) – really that cant be stressed strongly enough:

NoW hacking suspect worked for the police as an ‘informer’

He gave a “substantial volume of information that was extremely useful” to Scotland Yard and the security services. In return, Thurlbeck received confidential information from the Police National Computer (​.uk/standard/article-23971​221-hacking-suspect-worked​ )

You couldn’t make this stuff up.

July 19 at 5:17pm

Jeffrey Davis

I doubt they thought there was anything other than what they found. In any sufficiently long text there’s going to be stuff that can be cherry picked for ambiguity and spun to fit what you want. The trick — and the right does this remorselessly — is to get there first and to be louder than your opponent.

July 20 at 9:04am

Beverly Class

Cato Institute being Koch, Crane run.(The Cato Institute is a libertarian think tank headquartered in Washington, D.C. It was founded in 1977 by Edward H. Crane, who remains president and CEO, and Charles Koch, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the conglomerate Koch Industries, Inc., the second largest privately held company (after Cargill) by revenue in the United States.)

July 20 at 4:34pm

Mike Roddy

The “Climategate” breakin was a sophisticated operation, found to have originated from a Russian server. The Kochs are the prime suspects- their family has longstanding contacts with Russian criminals in the oil and gas industry who share their goal of discrediting climate science. Koch has the means, motive, and opportunity.

They were clever to download to a Russian server. If anyone pokes around over there, he would be murdered.

July 20 at 9:17am

Frank Decoding SwiftHack

Actually we don’t have much indication of a Russian connection, except that the was first uploaded _to_ a Russian server, and that the “A miracle just happened” message came from a different Russian machine. Also, the cyber-attack on RealClimate — where the attacker attempted to publicize the file under the guise of a RealClimate blogger — was launched from a Turkish machine. The subsequent message on the Air Vent blog reportedly came by way of a Saudi computer.

— frank

July 20 at 11:04am

Lionel Smith

Is Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal still a major shareholder in News Corporation?

Mentioned here:​ex.php?title=News_Corporat​ion

July 22 at 11:56am

James Hwang

Nothing will change unless money is taken out of politics. Technically, the legal precedent set by Citizens United could be used to justify bribery. It’s scary stuff.​ch?v=krq7KOkntH4

July 19 at 3:59pm


Hackers Vow to Release News Corp. Emails​le2/0,2817,2388693,00.asp

July 19 at 3:38pm

Thomas Manson

Feaux News strikes back!​27080_3-20080746-245/fbi-a​rrests-more-than-a-dozen-i​n-anonymous-hacking-invest​igation/

July 19 at 5:59pm

Derrick Gibson

I’m shocked – shocked – to learn that the entire scope of ‘Climategate’ is nothing but a tempest in a teapot.

July 21 at 6:17am

Sueann Castillo Torres

Boy Derrick, you’re on a roll this morning!!

July 21 at 10:20am

Bart Laws

Highly speculative, but I’d put it on the list of items to investigate, yes.

July 19 at 1:40pm

Tom Martin

“Now it is entirely possible that News Corp wasn’t involved. But there is no way of knowing until we get a thorough and independent investigation.” Smear and run.. Thank Goodness the left’s modern propaganda minister.
Sal Alinski never taught that kind of stuff.

July 21 at 1:29pm

James J Pitcherella

Listen to any USA weather report on amazingly long droughts, baking temperatures or extreme weather and you will not hear a peep about climate change. I think that’s because Murdoch and maybe some other media “Mongols” have made mentioning climate change a reason to fire weather forecasters.

July 20 at 2:00pm

Richard Drake

Hilarious. Thanks for leaving the biggest laughs till the end.

July 19 at 2:51pm


There should definitely be a world wide investigation into newscorp. Lulzsec should definitely start posting their emails. It would be interesting to see more of their emails too. Especially from Fox & from the newscorp papers in Australia, who have an extreme right wing bias. Now is the worlds chance to rid ourselves of this despicable organization “viewscorp”. There is rarely any actually unbiased news that comes from them anymore. Everything goes through the filters & comes out the other side with a conservative spin.

July 19 at 4:36pm


Everything in the Mainstream Media, not just NewsCorp, goes through the filters and comes to you processed that way.

Don’t think for one moment that should NewsCorp be wiped from the Earth (oh frabjous day!) that we will then have clear, unbiased, objective, honest media reporting from what remains.

July 20 at 4:11am

Bob Ward

I would recommend not getting too carried away with this particular conspiracy story – it has about as much credibility as the ludicrous claims that climate change scientists are engaged in a Communist plot to introduce a world government.

News Corporation owns a lot of newspapers, many, but not all, of which express degrees of climate change denial, reflecting a strand of right-wing political opinion that is present in the countries in which they are operating. The public statements made by James Murdoch, chief executive of News Corporation, do not promote climate change denial:​lifeandstyle/2009/jun/07/j​ames-murdoch.

‘The Sun’ newspaper in the UK does not promote climate change denial, nor did the ‘News of the World’ – indeed it launched a very successful ‘Go Green and Save’ campaign in February 2009:​.uk/news-of-the-worlds-mob​ile-recycling-campaign-pay​s-out-%C2%A31m-to-readers/​3010517.article.

As for the Neil Wallis connection with the University of East Anglia, you can see from this news article in the ‘Eastern Daily Press’ (the local newspaper in the area in which the university is located) that UEA contacted the Outside Organisation for public relations help during the ‘Climategate’ crisis:​s/crime/ex_news_of_the_wor​ld_man_advised_uea_over_cl​imategate_1_965732.

Wallis had joined the Outside Organisation as a freelance consultant in 2009, as you can see from this cached version of a page that was posted on the organisation’s website (Wallis’s name and details have now been removed):

Wallis left the ‘News of the World’ in August 2009, and his departure was not, at that time, being publicly linked to the phone-hacking scandal:​media/2009/may/01/neil-wal​lis-news-of-the-world.

Given that Wallis had just started to try to make his living from public relations, it is a little far-fetched to suggest that he would have been trying his best to fail, rather than succeed, in countering the negative publicity for UEA. He was at least partly responsible for arranging this big ‘sympathetic’ feature about Professor Phil Jones by ‘The Sunday Times’ (also owned by News International): http://www.thesundaytimes.​​ironment/article15063.ece.

As for the identity of those involved in the unauthorised release of the ‘Climategate’ e-mails from the University of East Anglia, the investigation by Norfolk Police is continuing: http://www.norfolk.police.​uk/idoc.ashx?docid=46a7ce0​3-9c41-42cf-b47a-fe90d46a0​750&version=1.

An earlier investigation by ‘The Guardian’ suggested the possible involvement of somebody based on the east coast of North America:​environment/2010/feb/04/cl​imate-change-email-hacker-​police-investigation.

And in case you suspect me of being affiliated to Climate Depot or some other lunatic group, I am policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at London School of Economics and Political Science:​ham.

July 25 at 5:52am

Joseph Romm

Going green campaigns mean zilch! Murdoch himself went green.

July 25 at 7:45am

Beverly Class​ource-murdoch-bugged-late-​night-show-green-room-5000​931/

July 20 at 4:31pm

Beverly Class

” during this period that Mr. Webley alleged that Sky bugged the dressing rooms of guests in order to get candid off-air scoops, and, in a roundabout way, led to the emotionally charged phone call I received from Mr. Webley in late April. As detailed by YBH! earlier this week, Mr. Webley was quite concerned that he would suffer retribution from Mr. Murdoch’s organization for allegedly revealing this information to the British government during the BSkyB (Sky TV’s parent company) buyout review. (Before his death this past May, BBC radio presenter and musician Big George Webley alleged that a News Corp. entity bugged dressing rooms of celebs and politicos as far back as 1990. The allegation, if true, would show that News Corp. had a pattern of bugging/hacking over a long period of time that went far beyond a rogue editor or reporter for News of the World.)

July 20 at 4:39pm

Grant McDermott

I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but seeing it seems apposite to repeat here:

I recently listened with supreme amusement to arch AGW-denialist James Delingpole on Jeremy Vine’s show (BBC Radio 2), expressing indignation about the “cynical timing” of phone-hack scandal by “liberal left media”, given the B SkyB takeover.​ammes/b012fr12

Um, Climategate? COP15? The hypocrisy knows no bounds!

July 21 at 11:57am

Audrey Fisher

Just so everyone doesn’t think I’m chasing rainbow, neither is Joe( author). If Murdoch want real vindication of all his company’s alleged hacking, then this is his opportunity to prove everyone wrong. I seriously doubt Rupert / James et al will make this happen. Let’s hope the Guardian will continue to press the hacking issue and keep the MET’s feet to the fire.

July 20 at 3:25pm

Roger Anderson

Well I soured on the republican party ( I’m still bitter) because I felt betrayed when the Watergate revelations proved to be true. Faux News will probably see that same cancer spread among some of their readers.

July 21 at 9:54am

Thomas Manson

As soon as this story broke, I wondered this same thing… Did News Corp have something to do with the Had CRU Hack? So glad Joe you wrote this piece on it. I expect many of us that follow Climate Progress have wondered the same thing over these last few years. SO any chance of an investigation?

July 19 at 5:44pm

Frank Decoding SwiftHack

Hey Joe, didn’t you say back in April that you and your team would like to do some investigative work? Well, here’s a good project right on your lap!

— frank,

July 20 at 9:35am

Justin McClure

I said at the start this is going to be gigantic. Flood gates are open and this is not what I expected. Thinkprogress, thumbs up!

July 21 at 12:42pm


“But this also suggests… how corrupted Scotland Yard was.”

Why the use of the past tense?

July 20 at 4:08am


I’m busy now but want to throw this here: How sophisticated have been the attacks on the email server or user accounts?

July 19 at 3:31pm

Frank Decoding SwiftHack

Prokaryotes, I think the most authoritative source of information so far on the circumstances of the attack will be the material accompanying the Muir Russell report (​ ), especially the notes of the Muir Russell inquiry’s meetings with the CRU and UEA information systems staff. I blogged a little bit about those.

— frank,

July 20 at 9:47am


Comments are closed.