The transcripts of the official inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. More…

  • MR IAN HURST (affirmed).

  • Thank you, Mr Hurst. I'll invite you to sit down, please, and make yourself comfortable as you can.

    First of all, may I invite you to give us your full name?

  • My name is Ian James Hurst.

  • There is available to you, Mr Hurst, a redacted version of your witness statement, which was signed by you on 9 November of this year. May I ask you, please, to bring that to hand?

  • Mr Hurst, thank you very much indeed for putting the work into preparing this statement, and of course we'll go through what you have to say, but I feel it's appropriate just to start your evidence, as we deal with events in Northern Ireland, to make the point that there is a whole range of issues over and above the issues which are clearly within my terms of reference but connected to what happened in Northern Ireland over many years which add a layer of complexity, which I think is probably --

  • That's being very polite, sir.

  • -- an Inquiry all of its own.

  • So you won't consider it disrespectful if I take the view that there are some areas that I just don't think I have the time to investigate.

  • I have no interest in going into those areas now, sir.

  • Mr Hurst, your redacted witness statement with your signature at the end of it and the statements of truth --

  • Is that your formal evidence?

  • Please give us a bit of background. You tell us that you're a former member of British military intelligence and you served in that capacity in covert units in Northern Ireland between 1980 and 1991; is that correct?

  • That's true, sir, yes.

  • In a nutshell, what was your role, without going into any detail, of course?

  • I think it's probably wise just to make it clear so that we don't stray into any areas of the existence of the gagging order, which you're well aware of, so if I can rely upon the statement, sir. I think that's been imaginatively constructed to give you a flavour, basically in a round up: to recruit, develop and exploit human agents unit(?) within the paramilitary organisations, specifically Republican paramilitaries.

  • Thank you. In going through the history -- in your words, you describe it as a gagging order -- in formal terms, you are subject to an injunction brought out by the Crown against you in 1999 that fetters what you can say generally and indeed in particular to this Inquiry in relation to any of the detail?

  • So we'll keep off that, but what is relevant is that in 2004, I think you went off to live in rural France. Is that so?

  • Have you maintained links with the intelligence community informally?

  • We know that there was a programme which came out on Panorama in March of 2011 and which I saw yesterday for the first time. I'm grateful for you providing me with the DVD of it.

  • But in terms of the chronology, you were approached, I believe, by the producer of that programme, Mr Stephen Scott, in December of last year; is that correct?

  • That's correct, sir, yes, the Thursday before Christmas.

  • Thank you. The documentary, in essence, was about allegations of phone and computer hacking that was engulfing the News of the World at that time; is that correct?

  • Indeed it was, sir, yes.

  • Did you provide a short interview for the purposes of that Panorama programme? Or at least, to be more precise, what we see on the programme is an edited version of any interview you provided; is that correct?

  • Yes. There was a sketch which was done in my office, but then we also covertly recorded the -- one of the hackers involved. From memory, that coverage lasts about two and a half hours, and I think Panorama shows approximately one minute.

  • Yes, and so to provide us with the background to the precise evidence you can give about computer hacking -- you start dealing with this, Mr Hurst, in paragraph 106 your statement -- you were told by Panorama that it had information that showed that one of -- you say "our computers"; that's your computers -- had been hacked by News of the World or someone engaged on the paper's behalf in 2006; is that right?

  • Yes. The reason I make the point -- said one, we had a number of computers, one being the family computer that my daughters and my wife would use, and I had a laptop which was separate, and unfortunately the laptop went its merry way not that long ago, but before the programme, and we didn't have access to the hard drive. And clearly we were looking, in the sense -- just to give you some context as to why I had the hard drive, in November of 2007, the Ministry of Defence resurrected committal proceedings against me and I thought it was a wise move to remove material which I probably didn't want them to be able to access. So therefore I removed the hard drive to my machine and deposited it with a friend. And when Panorama came knocking, clearly that computer was of evidential value and it was my wife, actually, who remembered that I'd removed it for safe storage. So that became the focus.

  • During the course of the Panorama interview of you -- and I've seen it for myself -- you were provided with a sheaf of printed-off emails, I believe, which you were told had been obtained from your computer. Now --

  • -- did you confirm that to the Panorama interviewer during the course of that interview?

  • In fairness, sir, the fax that I was shown on screen, which was the first time I'd seen is it, from memory I think was a three-page fax. I know later, from my own identifications -- I've identified it's a seven-page fax.

    That fax actually had not only material from my computer -- there was one specific extract from an email which I was familiar with and recognised -- but it also had other material which hadn't directly been connected to my machine. So it was a composite. It was a precis of information which they had collected and had forwarded to Dublin.

  • Yes, but amongst that information -- I'm just focusing on one aspect of it -- was there transcripts of emails which had been sent by or to you?

  • Yes, there was extracts. They'd actually cut and pasted emails out, so they were the original.

  • You tell us in your statement that the extracts of those emails had been sent by fax to the Dublin office of News of the World on 5 July 2006; is that correct?

  • That's correct, sir, yes.

  • Naturally enough -- this is so obvious it goes without saying -- you must have been very surprised by that information?

  • You say in paragraph 11, in terms of the technology, that at least for an expert it's not that difficult to hack into emails. You use a worm called the Trojan. Is that right?

  • That's correct, sir, yes.

  • We've heard reference to that. The way the Trojan is usually administered, if that is the right verb --

  • -- is that it's sent by email from X.

  • Usually the email has to be from a source you recognise, otherwise you won't open it as a matter of common sense.

  • You open the email and the effect of opening the email is to trigger a process whereby the Trojan starts burying into your hard drive, put very, very simply. Is that it?

  • Well, yes. In reality, sir, the type of Trojan which is deployed by newspapers or private detectives isn't that sophisticated and you have to open an attachment. The ones which would be used by governmental agencies would be --

  • -- for instance, would be on a microdot, on a full stop, so you wouldn't need to open the attachment, but the reason that is relevant, sir, is because in my case I had to -- either me or one of the family members would have had to have opened an attachment. But that's been helpful for forensic examination because clearly there's an audit trail to that actual action.

  • Thank you. Can we be precise then as to how this might have happened in your case? You take up the narrative in paragraph 12 of your witness statement, Mr Hurst. What you were told by the BBC, through their reporter, who is Mr Vivian White, was that they had ascertained that someone at the News of the World had engaged a private investigator to target you. Is that correct?

  • That's correct, sir, yes.

  • We're not naming that someone at the News of the World or the private investigator for these purposes. That private investigator had then employed a private detective specialising in applying and controlling computer viruses to do the hacking job, and this individual, who is the specialist hacker, as it were, was someone who was known to you, having served with you in the intelligence community in Northern Ireland for over three years; is that correct?

  • That's correct, sir.

  • That individual, the specialist hacker, we're going to call X for these purposes. Fair enough. During the making of the documentary, you asked if you could confront Mr X about what you'd learnt to allow him, as it were, to record his position; is that right?

  • Well, not true, sir. Let me just explain to you why. I was aware that there was probably gaps in knowledge at the BBC, and the reality is we needed to confront him and it was my suggestion that we confront him. It wouldn't be normal for the BBC to allow a member of the public to go and confront, possibly in a hostile environment, these type of characters but clearly I was intent on doing that and they sought and were given permission to do that.

    So I was aware there was a gap in knowledge and I needed to extract that information to be able to put together the jigsaw puzzle.

  • What happened is I think you telephoned Mr X, you sought to arrange a meeting with him and it culminated in a meeting at a local hotel; is that correct?

  • That's correct, sir, yes.

  • As you say in your statement, X said he was not surprised that you had made contact as someone else had told him two or three days earlier that Panorama were sniffing about.

  • The meeting with Mr X at this local hotel was secretly filmed by you; is that correct?

  • That's correct, sir, yeah.

  • And some of that film was shown on the Panorama programme; is that correct?

  • Yes. When he -- I won't name the person, but when he names the person within the media who directed him to carry out that act.

  • Then you say that when the meeting had finished, X agreed to let Mr Scott -- he's the producer of Panorama -- "be present for the summary of the points we had talked about". Is that right?

  • Yeah, I did that, sir, because I'm well-versed that mechanical means could fail, so the covert recording may fail, so it made sense to -- if he was agreeable, to bring in the producer and we did a complete review of the information which he voluntarily passed to me.

  • I want to be clear, please, Mr Hurst, what your evidence is as to what Mr X told you and therefore which you have recorded. This is paragraph 14 of your witness statement.

  • Can you tell us, please, in your own words what Mr X told you? Maybe you don't want to the depart from paragraph 14. If so, just read it out.

  • No, I can quickly precis it for you.

  • We had a meeting -- and bear in mind I had known Mr X for a number of years -- and we had a drink, and in a relaxed atmosphere, he made it clear that these events took place a long time ago and there had been a lot much water under the bridge. He -- there was nothing personal in it, it was purely professional instruction, which I accepted and remain to this day accepting that position, and he outlined the majority of people involved in the conspiracy. I say "the majority". He was keen to leave out one or two for his own personal reasons, and I was happy for that to continue.

    And he more or less charted the events from the middle of June 2006 -- he states for a three-month period, and all documents he could access via the back door Trojan: our emails, the hard drive, social media, the whole range of -- I mean, he didn't say this, but the Trojan that we've identified would have allowed the cam, your web cam, so he could have actually seen me or my kids at the desk.

  • Yes, but we don't know yet from your evidence precisely as to how this Trojan got into your machine. Could you tell us about that?

  • Well, we know that because he has admitted he placed it. We know that because forensically there is a Trojan on the hard drive, and we know -- or I should say I have seen the evidence of the material which was recovered from my hard drive.

  • Did he tell you that he'd sent an email to you from a bogus address that you'd opened, clearly you must have opened the attachment, and it's by that means that the Trojan entered your hard drive?

  • Can we be clear as to the secret address, because what he said to you in the interview -- and I have the transcript of it here and I've checked it itself against the DVD, which, as I said, I viewed yesterday morning -- you asked him:

    "How did you get it off my computer? Just I'm [and then some words bleeped out] curious here.

    "Question: Easy.

    Then Mr X said it wasn't that hard, and he laughed. Is that right so far?

  • That's very true, sir, yes.

  • And then you said:

    "No, okay."

    Then Mr X said:

    "I sent you an email that you opened and that's it, it's in."

  • Then your question was:

    "From [and then words bleeped out] or from somebody else?"

    And he said:

    "No, I think I sent it from, erm, a bogus email address."

    Is that right?

  • That's what he says, yeah.

  • Then you said:

    "Do I have to open it in an --"

    And then he said:

    "It's off now, it's gone. It shouldn't even be on. It shouldn't remain on the hard drive."

    What he then says is that it's programmed to be on the hard drive for three months.

  • And then, as if were, in "Mission: Impossible" terms, it self-destructs. Is that the sort of --

  • It does, but forensically there's always fragmentation.

  • What he's saying to you then -- is that correct -- is it was he who sent it to you from a bogus email address? Would you agree with that?

  • I agree that's what he said. I don't necessarily agree that's what happened.

  • Because in your witness statement at paragraph 14, you suggest something different, that it may have come from a trusted media contact?

  • From a well-known newspaper?

  • To be clear about that, your witness statement is your own deduction or inference? It may be obtained from some various of evidence --

  • No, it's evidence-based, sir. It's evidence-based upon the forensic examination, the direct confrontation with the -- again, we won't name him, but there is, subsequent to this statement, further confrontation by me with the -- an individual who -- I'll give you an example, sir. Before we'd even had the machine examined, on 30 July I received a phone call from a former Times Newspaper senior person who stated that he'd received a phone call that morning and that they, the Times, the Sunday Times, wanted him to ring me --

  • To be fair, Mr Hurst, this isn't in your witness statement?

  • It isn't, sir, because it's happened this week but I'm giving you some context as to --

  • There's a bit of a problem about this. Can I just point it out to you? I'm not seeking to stop what you're saying, but if it isn't in your witness statement, the Inquiry hasn't received notice and --

  • Absolutely, sir. I'm just trying to give you a bit of context but if you don't want to take it, we can do it in part 2. I can give you the phone records and you can listen to it yourself.

  • Can we just divide this up into two parts and see if we can agree to this extent?

  • That in terms of what Mr X told you, rather than what you may have learnt subsequently, what he was telling you was it was he who'd sent you the bogus email?

  • But in terms of what you may have learnt subsequently, can we agree to this extent: that you have a different interpretation?

  • Well, it's not an interpretation, sir. People tell you porky pies and you're trying to work out -- deduce the wood from the trees, and you do that by evidence, not from conjecture.

  • Yes. Unless someone says otherwise, that's as far as I want to go into that issue. You've made your position very clear, if I may say so, and maybe it has to be investigated further in part 2.

  • I think it will be, sir.

  • In some months, if not some considerable time in the future.

    Can I go to paragraph 15, please, Mr Hurst.

  • Just before we move off on Mr X -- no, okay, okay. Let's go to 15. We can do it at the end.

  • Mr X also told you he'd attended a meeting in Leeds in mid-2006 with someone, another News of the World journalist:

    "Apparently X's, instructions were to obtain information and documents about activities connected to [your] ongoing investigations relating to matters in Northern Ireland. X confirmed to you that he had supplied the information obtained from my computer to others involved in the conspiracy."

    Is that part of the tape you have of Mr X?

  • We've got 14 hours' supplementary taping in addition to Panorama, but on Panorama he details this. As I say, that's contained -- that's an extract basically taken from the filming and also with the separate recordings that we had obtained independently.

  • So the unusual feature of your case is that the targeting of you is likely to have been not for the purpose of investigating issues relating to your personal privacy, if I can describe it in those terms --

  • -- but perhaps in a very different and, in one sense, sinister way, matters bearing upon your work in the intelligence community in Northern Ireland and any aftermath which flowed from that. Is that a fair analysis of it?

  • I don't think that's a fair analysis, sir. I think they were looking to obtain a commercial advantage as well.

  • By necessity, but equally that information that they were looking to obtain, because I was living in a foreign jurisdiction, was more than useful to others which some of these people have close associations to, which again will be a part 2 matter and not necessarily for part 1.

  • Thank you. You say in paragraph 16 that you also think they were trying to obtain information on an IRA informer or informant; is that correct?

  • He has told me that. That's what's contained in Panorama.

  • Thank you. In paragraph 17, you give a general opinion, which you're, of course, quite entitled to give, but more specifically in paragraph 18:

    "Police have admitted to me that documents and hardware seized in 2007 during the arrest of [someone whose name has been redacted] showed that the security of my computer had been compromised and information had been obtained from it."

    The position was reinforced by the arrest of X during 2009 when further information was obtained from his seized computers.

    You weren't told by the police of hacking of your computer until October of this year; is that correct?

  • That's correct, sir, yeah.

  • Which police force are we talking about here?

  • Metropolitan Police.

  • Can I put it into slightly more understandable symmetry?

  • The police were aware in February 2007, when documents were recovered from a hard drive involved in a separate investigation. At that stage, they were aware that not only my documents but that the phone records of the person that I refer to in the statement -- that his phone records had been obtained and that News of the World had paid £850 for that. At that stage, when they -- because me and the subject of that phone record are intimately linked, for one reason or another, they -- the police were aware in 2007, directly, unambiguously, that I and my family's security had been compromised and they took a decision not to inform us.

    That information was then leaked a matter of weeks later to a journalist, who will be giving evidence to this Inquiry shortly, and it was then produced in a book which was published in 2008, but unfortunately I didn't see sight of that book and wasn't aware of it.

    And then in April of 2009, when Mr X was arrested, again documents which clearly show that mine and specifically that my wife's information had been accessed -- my wife's a nurse, and they had obtained her CV, her PIN number and other associated documents concerned with our telephone, our address, and that information had then been passed on to a further specialist person, who I'm well aware of and well acquainted with his techniques, who then obtains the exact people that you are dialling, so the phone records.

    So there's copious amounts of knowledge that the police had. But more worryingly, my investigations identified the Serious Organised Crime Agency had possession of documents and computers which were relevant to me. I then made contact with the Serious Organised Crime Agency and engineered a meeting, a confrontation, which is video-recorded, two hours, and I put a series of questions to them, which is quite heated in points. I then write to the director general of the Serious Organised Crime Agency, inviting him to -- I detailed my children -- this is for key word purposes, so there's no excuse, me, and a whole range of subjects and then requested him to inform us of any documentation that he holds, and he politely refused, citing a public interest.

    And then we exchanged further communication, which I'm more than happy to provide under discovery to his Honour, and he then relented subsequently, which was very good of him, and passed it to the MPS.

    So I don't -- my major bone of contention here today is focused upon those who have knowingly contrived and have conspired to place me and my family in a position of danger.

  • It sounds as if, Mr Hurst, that apart from you being of considerable assistance to the Inquiry now, will continue to be of assistance to the Inquiry in part 2, when that takes place, but I think for present purposes, that's all I have to ask of you, Mr Hurst.

  • Hmm. Yes. Thank you very much.

  • Thank you, sir. Can I take this opportunity -- because we're dealing with culture and the way that they have operated, can I read out a very short sentence which encapsulates, from the hackers' point of view, exactly the mindset?

  • Where is this sentence from?

  • It's from the Panorama programme.

  • That's fair enough.

  • I actually have the recording, sir, but I wouldn't be so bold as to play it without your permission.

  • This, I think, sums it up:

    "Then again, when all this was happening, Andy Coulson was the editor and he is fucking big pals with a lot of powerful people, including top police officers."

    That is exactly what you're dealing with here, ladies and gents: corruption.

    Just to reiterate on that, sir, when that sentence was made to me, I then investigated further, as I made clear in my statement, and I would ask, sir, with respect, that you make it clear to the MPS that they provide with you all intelligence of police corruption, including at the very highest level, because it is there, sir. I've seen it. It's out there in journalistic circles today and it's incumbent upon the MPS to provide to you all material which is relevant to the culture and practice, which has resulted in this debacle.

  • I would certainly be very keen to see any evidence that goes to the culture of the relationship between the press and the police, because that is the module to which I am going to turn when I have concluded this particular phase of the Inquiry.

  • The reason I make that point, sir -- I understand it's for part two, and as I make clear --

  • No, it's not quite part two; it's module two. It's the next bit.

  • Okay. The documentation that I've seen and others have seen, including Parliamentarians, clearly shows the corruptness which was allowed to continue and the culture was encouraged, which would not have allowed phone hacking or computer hacking to have taken place over such a sustained period if it didn't have the cover and the protection of very senior police officers.

  • Let's unpick that a bit, Mr Hurst. If you have any documentation --

  • -- that impacts upon that issue, then I'd be very grateful if you would send it in to the Inquiry.

  • I think it's incumbent upon the MPS first to make a full disclosure to you, sir.

  • It may be it is, it may be it isn't, but if I know what I'm looking before because you've provided me with it then I can --

  • I'm sure if you speak to Mr Davies, who's coming to tomorrow, he'll confirm the existence of it. But it is a matter, sir -- it is a serious matter. There's a lot of material out there which the MPS hopefully have already disclosed to you, but I understand from your tone now that you haven't seen it.

  • No, no, don't draw any inferences from my reaction to your observations. That would be quite wrong.

  • All I do say is that if you have any documentation that you think will assist the Inquiry in relation to any of the modules that I'm now currently considering -- that's press and the public, which I'm now doing, press and the police and press and politicians -- if you pass it through to the Inquiry, then it will be given appropriate attention.

  • I do say in the final paragraph that we will be making a detailed submission for part 2, so, you know.

  • All this will happen in due course, I'm certain, sir, but I'd like to just stress, sir, it is really -- it's not for the member of the public to do the work of the MPS here. The MPS have let society down. They should be making a full disclosure to you. I've written to them, asking them to make those documents available to you.

  • Yes, Mr Hurst, that's as may be, but what I don't want to do --

  • -- is to dance around the topic. I need to know what I need to know. If you can help point me in the direction of what questions I should ask, pointed questions --

  • -- then provide it, and the fact that you've done it as a member of the public as opposed to the police having volunteered doesn't matter to me. I just need to know. What I don't know is what I don't know. Do you see the point?

  • I take your point, sir.

  • Right. But this isn't part 2 of the terms of reference.

  • Which, of course, is some time off.

  • Right. Thank you very much.

  • The next witness is Ms Jane Winter, please.