Finger-Pointing and Confusion Dominate News Corp. Hearings

James Murdoch may be called in to testify as soon as next week

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Former News of the World legal chief Tom Crone and editor Colin Myler faced questions from Parliament on Tuesday, but unfortunately their appearances didn't yield too many answers. Crone and Myler are the two former News Corp. employees who accused James Murdoch of misleading Parliament about his knowledge of phone hacking at the tabloid during his own hearing in July, a charge that they reiterated in their testimony. And just as he did six weeks ago, Murdoch denied the accusation in a statement following Myler and Crone's appearance. We know one thing for sure: somebody's lying. However, that leaves a number of things that we don't know at all, including what happens next.

The biggest question left unanswered centers on how much James Murdoch knew about phone hacking at News of the World when it was going on. According to Crone and Myler, Murdoch knew that phone hacking was more widespread than the activities of Glenn Mulcaire, the tabloid's private investigator, and former royal editor Clive Goodman--the two men were jailed for phone hacking offenses in 2007--after he agreed to a £425,000 settlement with phone hacking victim Gordon Taylor. The proof, Crone and Myler say, came in the form of a letter addressed "for Neville" in reference to News of the World reporter and alleged phone hacking reporter number two, Neville Thurlbeck. Crone said in the hearing, "It was clear evidence that phone-hacking was taking place beyond Clive Goodman. It was the reason that we had to settle the case. And in order to settle the case we had to explain the case to Mr. Murdoch and get his authority to settle."

Murdoch denied Crone's allegations directly in a statement that he issued following the hearing. "[Mr. Crone and Mr. Myler] did not show me the email, nor did they refer to Neville Thurlbeck," reads Murdoch's statement, referring to a 15-minute meeting during which the two men supposedly informed him about Thurlbeck's phone hacking practices. "Neither Mr. Myler nor Mr. Crone told me that wrongdoing extended beyond Mr. Goodman or Mr. Mulcaire."

So we're left with the classic he-said-they-said scenario. Crone and Myler insist that Murdoch is lying, but they can't remember any specific details about the meeting that would serve as proof. Murdoch says that Crone and Myler are lying, but likewise, has not provided any specifics. "And there remains the mystery..." writes Roy Greenslade at The Guardian. "If the questioning was supposed to bring clarity to the contradiction between Murdoch's evidence and the subsequent public statement made by Crone and Myler, it tended to do just the opposite." Andrew Hough at The Telegraph says that the lack of clarity could prompt Parliament to summon James Murdoch to testify once again, and the committee's expected to make that announcement next week. Regardless, suggests Vicki Young at the BBC, "It seems this particular spat could come down to one man's hazy recollection against another. With access to the full documents, Lord Justice Leveson may be the only person able to get to the truth."

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