It seems no one is immune to the phone hacking scandal. A Beatle has admitted to being hacked and a CNN anchor is coming under fire for his alleged hacking. Two days ago a Guardian reporter landed in New York to see if any News Corporation papers in the States might have hacked any phones. On Thursday, British free paper Metro dug up a Guardian article from 2006 where current assistant editor of the Guardian, David Leigh, admitted to using a collection of dirty tricks to confirm stories and find scoops. "Investigative journalism is not a dinner party," he wrote five years ago. "But it all depends on what the target is."
Leigh admits to listening to the phone messages of a "corrupt arms company executive." It was easy for him. He didn't have to pay anyone. "The trick was a simple one: the businessman in question had inadvertently left his pin code on a print-out and all that was needed was to dial straight into his voicemail."
The letter was written after Clive Goodman, a News of the World reporter, was busted in 2006 for phone hacking. He was one of the first. When Les Hinton resigned and the extent of the hacking was still being revealed, Hinton claimed he only knew of Goodman's taudry investigation tactics. He thought the behavior was limited to him. Goodman went to jail for four months for hacking the voicemails of members of the British royal family.
Leigh called Goodman's shady activities "witless tittle-tattle."
I think the rule should be that deceptions, lies and stings should only be used as a last resort, and only when it is clearly in the public interest. And, as for actually breaking the law? Well, it is hard to keep on the right side of legality on all occasions. Like most investigative journalists, I have had my share of confidence injunctions, lost libel actions and threats of prosecutions under the Official Secrets Act.