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Sky News admits to hacking e-mail accounts


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Sky News, the Murdoch empire's British satellite news station, issued a statement in which it admits to using e-mail hacking on two separate occasions. Sky News has attempted to justify the hacks, claiming that they were in the public interest. However, the Computer Misuse Act, which outlaws interception of e-mails, has no public interest defense.

On both occasions, the hacker was Sky News North of England correspondent Gerard Tubb. He broke into the Yahoo e-mail of "canoe man" John Darwin, who faked his own death to allow his wife, Anne Darwin, to claim a large life insurance settlement. These e-mails were published by Sky News and handed to the police.

Tubb also broke into the e-mail of a suspected pedophile and his wife. Those e-mails were never published or broadcast.

Sky News head John Ryley has defended the hacking, arguing the Darwin e-mails were instrumental in securing convictions for deception for both husband and wife. The broadcaster has specifically attacked the Guardian newspaper, which broke the story. He pointed out that Guardian journalist David Leigh hacked into the phone of an illegal arms dealer, and claimed that it was in the public interest to do so.

The e-mail hacking is the latest in a long string of hacks performed by or on behalf of Rupert Murdoch's British publications. The use of phone hacking—breaking into voicemail accounts by guessing the PINs used to secure them—first came to light in 2005, but the issue garnered little attention or interest as the victims appeared to be celebrities and members of the Royal Family. This changed in July of last year, when the Guardian revealed that the Murdoch-owned News of the World had broken into the voicemail of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler. This ultimately triggered the ongoing Leveson inquiry, which is investigating phone hacking and police bribery.

Subsequently, it emerged that other Murdoch publications also engaged in similarly illegal activity. A journalist at The Times broke into the e-mail of an anonymous police blogger "Nightjack," using the information discovered to reveal his name.

The Guardian has also claimed that Sky News' parent company, BSkyB, worked with hackers to crack the encryption system used by rival broadcaster ONdigital. NDS, owned by News International (which, in turn, owns the companies that own Murdoch's UK newspapers), was found to have funded hacking group THOIC ("The House of Ill Compute"), which subsequently distributed cracks for ONdigital's encryption. ONdigital went out of business in 2002.

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