Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Leveson Inquiry : Peter Hain Warned Computer May Have Been Hacked By Private Detectives

 Police tell former Northern Ireland secretary he may have been targeted by investigators employed by News International
Peter Hain – who has been warned that his computer may have been hacked – was Northern Ireland secretary from 2005-2007. Photograph: Sportsphoto/Geoff Newton
The former Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain has been told by the Metropolitan police that they are investigating evidence that his computer, and those of senior Northern Ireland civil servants and intelligence agents, may have been hacked by private detectives working for News International.

The suggestion that the minister's computers, containing sensitive intelligence material, may have been compromised is the most serious sign yet that newspaper malpractice extended far beyond the hacking of mobile phone voicemail, into the realm of other electronic data.

The investigation into computer hacking is being carried out by detectives from Scotland Yard's specialist crime directorate. It is separate, but related to the phone hacking investigation.
Officers from Operation Tuleta are looking at the activities of individuals who were paid by News International, including a firm of private detectives allegedly offering "ethical hacking".

They are also looking at allegations about the detectives' connections within News International.

A spokesman for Hain would not directly comment on the news of recent contacts between him and the police but said: "This is a matter of national security and subject to a police investigation so it would not be appropriate to comment."

News International has declined to comment, but said on Monday night that Operation Tuleta was looking at a number of newspapers.

Hain, Labour MP for Neath, was Northern Ireland secretary from May 2005 to June 2007 when he was involved in sensitive peace negotiations. He will have had access to classified information about informers and security. It is understood from legal sources that Hain is to be asked to confirm material obtained by the police investigators comes from his computer. It is not known if Hain has been informed of the nature of the material identified.

Tom Watson, a member of the culture, media and sport select committee and a campaigner against phone hacking, said: "Phone hacking is one thing, but targeting the computers of ministers with high-security clearance takes this police investigation to another level. It also raises questions for News International about whether its management were aware."

The Metropolitan police arrested a 52-year-old man last week under investigation for computer hacking. His name has not been disclosed. He has been released on police bail until early December.

The allegations focus on the use of Trojan emails. These involve a hacker sending a computer virus to the target's computer. The virus then allows access to computer content as the keyboard is used.

The revelation comes on the day the Leveson inquiry into press standards heard from Ian Hurst, a former British army intelligence agent, who used to recruit and run agents within the IRA in Northern Ireland. Hurst, who also used the pseudonym Martin Ingram, told the inquiry he understood his computer was hacked into by a Trojan Horse virus in 2006 by private investigators working on behalf of the News of the World....read more