There's a lot of explaining to do, and it's not just the phone-hacking anymore. British prosecutors announced brand-new, bribery-related charges against former Rupert Murdoch editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson on Tuesday: Brooks allegedly paid someone in the Ministry of Defense £100,000 to get a steady stream of stories while Coulson allegedly paid someone to get his hands on a magic phonebook with royals' phone numbers. Now, for Brooks and Coulson, their very long rap sheets have gotten completely laughable at this point, but these new bribery charges matter. We promise. Don't take our word for it, take New York Times assistant managing editor Jim Roberts's word:
Former top Murdoch editors, Andy Coulson & Rebekah Brooks. to be charged with bribery. Big.nyti.ms/T0VStO— Jim Roberts (@nytjim) November 20, 2012
"Big." That's a lot for the usually objective Roberts. And here's why: we already know these two are facing charges that have to do with hacking voicemails from 2000-2006 and they are due in court next September, but these bribery charges were uncovered during a parallel investigation, report The New York Times's Alan Cowell and John Burns and may end up as the tips of separate icebergs on their own. Brooks's charges stem from her time at The Sun—a lot of the alleged hacking happened at News of The World, and this is the first time Murdoch's Sun is being dragged into a legal battle, reports The Guardian's Dan Sabbagh.
What Brooks wanted was a steady stream of stories from a Defense official named Bettina Jordan-Barber, and allegedly paid her close to $160,000 to get those stories. Jordan-Barber and Brooks' top reporter John Kay, are both in trouble too. The Guardian's Sabbagh points out, "The timing of the alleged payments in the Brooks and Kay case – 2004 and 2011 – are for a far later period than the phone-hacking period. Hacking charges laid by the CPS against Brooks, Coulson and others range from October 2000 to August 2006..."
Coulson, on the other hand, allegedly wanted a something called the "Green Book"—a royal phone directory of sorts (in case they forget each others' phone numbers?) while he was the royal correspondent for News of The World and he was paying someone to get his hands on it. But his problems are Prime Minister David Cameron's problems, as Coulson famously served as the communications guru for the prime minister. Bribery, royals's phone directories, and prime ministers don't mix. Cameron is still figuring out his response to the Leveson Inquiry (the current public inquiry into the British Press).
Of course, the common denominator here is that these two are both connected to Rupert Murdoch in a way that few people are—they're his right hands (if he needed two), and he trusted them to run his papers. "There will be inevitably more 'who knew what, when' questions for Murdoch's News International" writes Sabagh. That goes for James. too. And if the father-son duos previous appearance at the inquiry is anything to go by, be prepared to hear a lot of Murdochs saying they knew nothing of the alleged practices both their executives were doing and had in common.