As Eric Boehlert explained yesterday, the revelations of widespread phone-hacking at News of the World -- and News Corp.'s quickly unraveling cover-up -- are starting to look a lot like Rupert Murdoch's Watergate.
But new allegations suggest an increasingly apt comparison to the actions of another right-winger as well: Oliver North. North (who, interestingly enough, is a current News Corp. employee) "shredded stacks of memoranda and messages" in an effort to cover up the Iran-Contra scandal.
Today, the Guardian reported that "[p]olice are investigating evidence that a News International executive may have deleted millions of emails from an internal archive, in an apparent attempt to obstruct Scotland Yard's inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal." According to the Guardian:
The archive is believed to have reached back to January 2005 revealing daily contact between News of the World editors, reporters and outsiders, including private investigators. The messages are potentially highly valuable both for the police and for the numerous public figures who are suing News International.
According to legal sources close to the police inquiry, a senior executive is believed to have deleted 'massive quantities' of the archive on two separate occasions, leaving only a small fraction to be disclosed. One of the alleged deletions is said to have been made at the end of January this year, just as Scotland Yard was launching Operation Weeting, its new inquiry into the affair.
The story gets stranger from there. According to the Guardian, News Corp. "originally claimed that the archive of emails did not exist," and one News of the World editor reportedly insisted "that the emails had been lost en route to Mumbai." Several months ago, News Corp.'s attorney was forced to retract these claims. Still, the Guardian reports that police believe a company executive tried to delete large portions of the email archive before it was handed over to investigators:
The original archive was said to contain half a terabyte of data - equivalent to 500 editions of Encyclopaedia Britannica. But police now believe that there was an effort to substantially destroy the archive before News International handed over their new evidence in January. They believe they have identified the executive responsible by following an electronic audit trail. They have attempted to retrieve the data which they fear was lost. The Crown Prosecution Service is believed to have been asked whether the executive can be charged with perverting the course of justice.