A trove of documents and statements released by Britain's Parliament in the News Corp. phone-hacking scandal implicates top former executives while contradicting testimony of James Murdoch on what and when he knew about the illegal practices.
The contradictions mean Murdoch, News Corp.'s chief operating officer, may be called to Parliament to answer more questions about a confidential settlement he approved with Gordon Taylor, according to a statement issued by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which is investigating the scandal.
Taylor, the chief executive officer of the Professional Footballers' Association, was a victim of hacking by News Corp.'s defunct News of the World tabloid.
The documents and statements prompted lawmakers to request explanations for inconsistencies from several executives, including Andy Coulson, the tabloid's former editor, and Les Hinton, who recently resigned as publisher and CEO of Dow Jones & Co. and had led News Corp.'s British publishing unit.
The most critical new evidence the committee is working to get to the bottom of are accusations made in a 2007 letter from Clive Goodman, the former royal reporter at the center of the scandal. Goodman claims in the letter, which was released Tuesday, that hacking was widespread at News of the World, editors discussed it during editorial meetings and that he was promised his job back if he didn't reveal the problem to law enforcement.
"The Goodman letter is devastating because, if it's accurate, the whole foundation of the company's defense and all the evidence they gave to all the inquiries was bogus," said Tom Watson, a Labour Party lawmaker and member of the committee probing the allegations. "If Goodman's accurate, then this is the smoking gun."
Murdoch told lawmakers last month that he hadn't realized until late 2010 that phone hacking was widespread at the News of the World. That's been contradicted by Tom Crone and Colin Myler, two former executives of the tabloid, who said they informed him in 2008 about an email that suggested more reporters had been involved.
Goodman had pleaded guilty to illegally accessing messages left for aides to Britain's royal family.
Goodman said in the letter Hinton's decision to fire him after his conviction was "perverse" because his hacking activities had been carried out with the "full knowledge and support" of staff members, whose names were redacted in the letter. Other reporters also engaged in hacking without being fired, he said.
Four days after the date of the letter Goodman sent to Hinton, Hinton testified to Parliament that he believed Goodman was the only News of the World reporter who had hacked voice mails.