What Did Les Hinton Know About the News Corp. Wiretapping, and When Did He Know It?

The wiretapping scandal rocking Rupert Murdoch's British newspaper holdings is getting bad enough that Rupert is ducking questions from his own Fox Business reporters. It could also reach across the pond to his beloved acquisition, the Wall Street Journal.

Les Hinton was installed as the CEO of Dow Jones shortly after Murdoch bought his new toy and thus ultimately responsible for the Journal, Barron's, and all of the company's news operations. But prior to that he was the executive chairman at News International Group, which ran the Murdoch papers that are now accused of illegally wiretapping government officials and celebrities, and then paying off said officials and celebrities to keep quiet about it after they got caught.

Hinton is no stranger to controversy. He testified before the House of Commons in March 2007, assuring members of Parliament that News International had conducted a thorough inquiry into former News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman's wiretapping exploits and determined that "he was the only person" at the companys's papers who had been tapping phones. Yesterday the Guardian reported that "27 different journalists from the News of the World and four from the Sun"—both News International papers—made more than 1,000 requests to private investigators for wiretaps, phone records, and other illegal invasions into private data. Either Hinton lied to Parliament, or he had absolutely no clue what was going on at his own papers.

What's more, at some point after Goodman was jailed in January 2007, News International began paying out more than $1.6 million in settlements to Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, for alleged wiretapping of his phone by News of the World reporters. Taylor's involvement was undisclosed until the Guardian reported it yesterday, and the payments were contingent on keeping the story quiet—hush money. It's not clear from the Guardian's reporting when, precisely, the payments began, but they started after January 2007 and Hinton was in charge of News International until December of that year. In other words, Hinton, the man who now oversees the Wall Street Journal, appears to be up to his neck in a criminal wiretapping conspiracy back in England. He's been called to testify before Parliament about it again next week, the Guardian reports. We're sure his American employees will be very curious as to what he has to say.

Calls to Hinton were not returned. A Dow Jones spokesman referred to us to a News International spokeswoman, who did not respond to an e-mail inquiry.