By Sergei Sayenko
Andy Coulson revealed on Thursday that he had access to top secret documents despite passing only basic vetting checks before becoming British Prime Minister David Cameron’s communications chief. The revelation is part of the ongoing Lord Justice Leveson Inquiry into media ethics and journalism practices following the News of the World’s phone-hacking scandal. The Voice of Russia’s Sergei Sayenko has more.
Coulson also said that he attended meetings of the National Security Council during his time as director of communications even though he did not have top level security clearance, known as developed vetting (DV).
Cameron’s spokesman was quick to retort that “security-checked people have top secret sight occasionally” and that “some people need to see top secret material sometimes.” Meanwhile, Coulson’s revelation has already provoked a wide public uproar in the UK, and Cameron’s spokesman’s statement is unlikely to soothe public resentment, our political commentator says.
He specifically points to the fact that by the time Coulson entered Downing Street in May 2010, British media published a spate of disclosures about illegal activities, including phone hacking, at the News of the World under his editorship. Coulson resigned as Cameron’s spin doctor in January 2011 after the phone-hacking scandal began to gather strength in Britain.
In 2007, Coulson tendered his resignation as editor of the News of the World after one of the newspaper’s reporters was found guilty of hacking the phones of British politicians and celebrities.
2007 also saw Coulson get the job as media strategist in the Conservative Party which has been headed by Cameron since 2005. The British PM has repetaedly been under intense criticism over his decision to recruit Coulson and turn a blind eye on the fact that Coulson only went through basic security checks before becoming Cameron’s communications chief. It seems that right now, Cameron is paying the price for his decision, our commentator says.
In evidence on Thursday, Coulson, who was arrested in 2011 but then released on bail, also disclosed that he held shares in News Corporation worth 40,000 pounds while working as Cameron’s press chief. Earlier, the BBC reported that Coulson got several thousand pounds from the owner of the News of the World, something that took place as Coulson worked in the capacity of the Conservative Party’s PR director.
All this indicates that even after resigning as the News of the World’s editor, Coulson continued to closely collaborate with Rupert Murdoch’s media empire. The Conservative Party was most likely in the know about this, our commentator says, referring to the party leaders’ desire to have their proxy in Murdoch’s media empire. It is already open secret that Cameron has met Murdoch seven times since he became Prime Minister, our commentator says, not ruling out that Coulson could have been one of the organizers of those meetings.
In any case, Coulson currently feels comfortable in the face of the scandal which he thinks may be settled by his powerful patron. Suffice it to remember that during Coulson’s arrest in the summer of 2011, Cameron quickly stood up for his former spin doctor, saying that he would like to give Coulson “one more chance.” This last chance was finally given to Coulson who, in a show of black ingratitude, has decided to wash the Cameron Cabinet’s dirty linen in public, our commentator concludes.