LONDON (AP) — Four former News International executives were testifying before the British lawmakers Tuesday on the country's tabloid phone hacking scandal, an affair which has shaken Rupert Murdoch's international media empire.
All four are expected to field questions from Parliament's media committee about what they knew and when — and three have of them already cast serious doubt on the testimony given by the Murdoch family earlier this summer.
Committee chairman John Whittingdale has said that the latest hearing would attempt to uncover the truth about a critical piece of evidence, unearthed in 2008, suggesting that voicemail interception at the News of the World tabloid was far more widespread than claimed at the time.
Questions about who saw the evidence are critical to establishing whether there was an attempt to cover up the scale of illegal behavior at the now-defunct tabloid.
The News of the World stands accused of spying on a host of public figures, crime victims, and even terrorism survivors by systematically intercepting voicemail messages in an effort to get scoops. Allegations of computer hacking and police bribery are also being investigated by Scotland Yard.
The evidence in question was an email carrying the transcript of an illegally intercepted conversation and was marked "for Neville" — an apparent reference to the News of the World's chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck.
Because it apparently implicates others in the hacking, the email had the potential to blow a hole through News International's fiercely held contention that one reporter alone, Clive Goodman, had engaged in phone hacking.
If Rupert's son James Murdoch knew about the email — and was aware of its implication — it would lend weight to the suggestion that he'd approved a massive payoff in an effort to bury the scandal.
James Murdoch has said that he was not aware of the email at the time, but former legal adviser Tom Crone and ex-editor Colin Myler have contradicted him. Both are expected to explain themselves later Tuesday.