More Leveson positioning… questions now raised over picture of former dictator published by Murdoch’s Sun and New York Post
By Dan Sabbagh and Lisa O’Carroll
A Labour MP has told parliament he believes that a laptop was destroyed to eliminate evidence that a photograph of Saddam Hussein pictured in his underpants was obtained illegally – a picture of the former dictator that was published by the Sun and the New York Post on the front page of both Rupert Murdoch-owned newspapers in 2005.
Chris Bryant, speaking under the cover of parliamentary privilege in a debate on the Leveson report, said it was “difficult to see” how the editors of both newspapers and the reporters involved “could possibly pretend that they did not know” how the photograph was obtained “and that there had been criminality involved in the process of securing that photo”.
He added “for that matter” it was difficult to see how the editors could say that “they didn’t know that the laptop on which that information and that photograph was kept was destroyed, I believe so as to destroy the evidence of that criminality”.
The MP said he had information from “two well-placed people inside News International” that the newspapers paid “a substantial sum to a serving member of the United States armed forces in the United States of America for a photograph of Saddam Hussein”. He added that “a much larger amount was then paid via a specially set up account in the United Kingdom” to the same source.
The picture of Saddam wearing only Y-fronts – whose ultimate source was alleged to be the US military – was run on the front pages of both newspapers in May 2005. The Sun headlined the image: “The tyrant’s in his pants.” Meanwhile, the Post, crediting the Sun, opted for “Butcher of Sagdad”.
The MP did not name the editors of the newspapers. Rebekah Brooks was the editor of the Sun at the time, while Col Allan was then, and still is, the editor in chief of the New York Post.
Bryant asked for News Corporation’s powerful management and standards committee, which has investigated alleged corrupt payments to public officials, to “provide all the emails from Rupert Murdoch to News International staff as a matter of urgency that relate to this matter and, in particular, to the photo of Saddam Hussein”.
New Corp declined to comment on Bryant’s allegations other than to say that he was wrong about the management and standards committee, which the company said was continuing to co-operate with police.
Payments to public officials are illegal in the US and the UK, and 21 journalists at the Sun have been arrested as part of the long-running Operation Elveden investigation into corrupt payments in Britain. The US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act bans US-owned companies from bribing public officials,..