HACKGATE: A murky Mail past the new Telegraph team wants to forget.

Why was the Information Commissioner’s 2006 Report ignored?

Telegraph editor Tony Gallagher: 58 Mail journalists used illegal surveillance services on his watch.

This morning, the Observer (and Guardian website) focus on investor nerves at the way Newscorp’s grip on the phone-hacking is loosening by the hour. The Independent on Sunday has a story strongly suggesting that emails surveyed by the Met Police last week have clearly fingered Ian Edmondson as being in on the practices taking place.

But in the Daily Telegraph, there is (as the police often say) ‘nothing to see’. No story anywhere on the main Home page refers to the scandal. Apart from one small comedic piece, there is nothing under ‘Comment’, and except for a three-day-old guest post about why Brendan O’Neill hates phone-hack complainant Tessa Jowell (don’t we all), the blogs are a Hackgate-free zone.

Last week, The Slog posted about the shadowy Barclay Brothers, their decision to hire, mob-handed, most of the Daily Mail’s former news floor….and the apparent lack of interest shown by their newly down-dumbed Daily Telegraph in the growing discomfort of Rupert Murdoch’s News International.

At the time, my main angle was the suggestion that this was no more than the
Ugly (proprietor) Sisters sticking together. But now I’m not so sure.

There’s an interesting table in the What Price Privacy report from the Privacy Commissioner in May 2006 – following the original Newscorp conviction. It records the use of private investigators of similar ilk to the ghastly Mulchaire by other UK national newspapers.In section 5.7, the ICO report observes that the services supplied to the national media

‘….included details of criminal records, registered keepers of vehicles, driving licence details, ex-directory telephone numbers, itemised telephone billing and mobile phone records, and details of ‘Friends & Family’ telephone numbers.’

Equally clear is that the information was almost always obtained with the help of corrupt policemen.

Way, way ahead at the top of this list is….well I never, The Daily Mail – with no fewer than 952 uses of these reptiles by a staggering 58 journalists.

Even the News of the World (with 228 uses by 23 journalists) lags far behind – although it is surely worth noting that 23 journalists is 22 journalists more than ‘one rogue reporter’.

Why didn’t somebody over the last five years show this ICO report to Prime Minister David Cameron? Even allowing for Dave’s legendary short attention span, it would be hard to escape the conclusion that Coulson’s defence was more waterlogged than watertight.

Anyway, the main point remains very clear to me: does it not strike one as extremely unlikely that, of the 58 Mail journalists partaking of murky electronic surveillance services, not one of them transferred with the gravy-train to the Barclay Bros Telegraph? And does this go any way at all towards explaining the Telegraph’s lack of enthusiasm for the chase re this one?

Footnote. Some more highlights from that Commissioner Table – suggesting that Fleet Street might well be in trouble from end to end. The first figure is the total number of contracts handed out to surveillance companies…the second is the number of hacks fine upstanding journalists involved:

Sunday People 802 50
Daily Mirror 681 45
Mail on Sunday 266 33
Sunday Mirror 143 25
Best Magazine 134 20
Evening Standard 130 1
The Observer 103 4

Does make you wonder who the sole mainliner was at the Standard.