The scandal about the alleged hacking of thousands of British citizens’ phones by the UK News of the World led to that newspaper’s closing and the questioning of owner Rupert Murdoch and his son, James Murdoch, by British officials. (It also led to much discussion about the privacy and security of telephone voicemail systems.) Now, the New York Times reports that the voicemail hacking scandal has spread to the Murdochs’ Times of London and it could include e-mail hacking:
The hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch’s British newspapers took a new turn on Thursday when a lawmaker said police investigations had spread to the flagship Times of London. The revelation came a day after lawyers said an e-mail referring to “a nightmare scenario” of legal repercussions from widespread phone hacking at the News of the World tabloid was deleted from James Murdoch’s computer less than two weeks before the police opened investigations.
The lawmaker, Tom Watson, from the opposition Labour Party, who has been a central figure in the inquiries into phone hacking, said in a message on Twitter that Scotland Yard had “confirmed to me they are investigating” The Times “over e-mail hacking.” […]
The development was significant in two regards: it focused attention on e-mail hacking rather than the illicit voice mail interception at the center of inquiries so far, and it suggested that the most august of the Murdoch publications in Britain was not immune from scrutiny.
The case apparently was related to an episode in 2009 when a reporter who has since left The Times of London exposed the identity of a police officer who blogged under the pseudonym Nightjack, according to British news reports. […]
The newest twist came less than 24 hours after Linklaters, a law firm representing News International said the deletion from James Murdoch’s computer was part of an “e-mail stabilization and modernization program” in which accounts were “being prepared for the migration to a new e-mail system.” […]
News International has given varying accounts about what e-mails it has, where they are and why it did not immediately make them available to investigators. At one point, it said that its e-mail archive had been lost on the way to storage in Mumbai, India; at another, it said it could only retrieve e-mails that were less than six months old.
But new intimations that the company may have purposely destroyed evidence are raising questions about whether the company might be investigated for obstruction of justice.
A judge accused News International last month of destroying possibly relevant e-mails. And The Guardian reported Tuesday that the police were examining “an enormous reservoir of material from News International’s central computer services” that was “deliberately deleted from News International’s servers.”