UK hacking like Watergate scandal, Bernstein says

LONDON Thu Sep 29, 2011 6:04pm EDT

Carl Bernstein gestures during an interview in his apartment in New York June 1, 2007. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Carl Bernstein gestures during an interview in his apartment in New York June 1, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

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LONDON (Reuters) - The phone hacking scandal that engulfed Rupert Murdoch's media empire could turn out to be Britain's "Watergate" with fallout that lasts for decades, former Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein said on Thursday.

The American journalist, who helped win his newspaper a Pulitzer Prize for his work on the 1970s crisis that brought down U.S. President Richard Nixon, said there were "striking" parallels between the two cases.

They both involved allegations of corruption at the highest levels and have fueled the public's loss of trust in national institutions, particularly the government, he said.

"The parallels are really striking. Both are shattering cultural moments of huge consequence that are going to be with us for generations," he told a debate in London organized by the Guardian newspaper.

Bernstein said he had always resisted the temptation to compare other important events to the Watergate scandal since he reported on the 1972 burglaries at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington.

"But this is for real and the parallels are remarkable," he added. "It is about a sensibility that corrupted a free institution and the consequences of that are so far-reaching."

News Corp has been rocked by the scandal since July when it was revealed that people employed by one of its British newspapers had hacked into the mobile phone messages of murder victims as well as celebrities and politicians.

The events have exposed awkward links between the media and senior politicians and police. British Prime Minister David Cameron has spoken of the need for a new relationship between politicians and media owners and the country's most senior policeman has resigned.

However, while Nixon became the first serving U.S. president to resign and a number of his officials were prosecuted, Cameron has so far emerged largely unscathed from the crisis.

The Conservative leader has been criticized for hiring a former Murdoch newspaper editor as his media chief, but Cameron has apologized for that decision and has rejected suggestions that his judgment is flawed.

Bernstein said the hacking scandal had damaged the reputation of Britain's politicians, regulators and media. The same pattern has been repeated in other countries, although often for different reasons.

"Our institutions have lost the trust of the people," he said.

"If there is a single thing going on today, from the Middle East to New York to Greece, Britain, all over the world, it's a loss of trust in our institutions."

(Editing by Michael Roddy)

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Comments (3)
Tiu wrote:
I think you’ll find much of this muck spread during the Tony B Liar era. That cretinous excuse of a human perverted the course of democracy.
His financial policy meddling were in no small part a major cause of the current global financial crisis. He is a criminal who should be called to account for his crimes (also happens to be Murdochs daughters god-father!!).

Sep 29, 2011 9:36pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Missourimule wrote:
Oh yeah? I wonder how he feels about Obama’s Solyndra? Anything there? Nah, I s’pose not — after all, Obama’s a Democrat, and why would a big-time investigative journalist want to waste his time trying to dig dirt on a Democrat?

Sep 29, 2011 12:05am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Tiu wrote:
@ Missourimule, the “professional politicians” who join a party many not necessarily be using that party for anything other than their own agenda. Tony B Liar was theoretically a “Labour” politician. Labour traditionally supported the workers side of the equation. Tony B Liar sold out workers and funnelled the wealth of nations to his off-shore (tax-evading) bankster buddies.
If there’s dirt on a Democrat don’t be shy about exposing it.

Sep 30, 2011 8:35am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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