Columbia Journalism Review ask the right questions about this murky investigation:
The New York Times… piqued my interest by… writing this… on Sunday:
“Dozens of people — lawyers, forensic accountants, forensic computer technicians and, sometimes, police officers — gather daily at a site in Thomas More Square here, where News International is based, searching through 300 million e-mails and other documents stretching back a decade.”Here we are presented with the spectacle of police and News Corp. cheek-by-jowl investigating together a scandal that the company… covered up… for years and which involves the police themselves. If you think that sounds a bit awk, you’re not alone.
Behind it is a sticky question: What happens when an organization accused of systematically breaking the law is a news publisher with legitimate interests in protecting confidential sources? The tension is thick on the ground: News International’s newspapers are under criminal investigation for thousands of alleged crimes, including deadly serious ones like bribing police and other public officials, but the company also has sensitive information regarding its legitimate newsgathering.
On one hand, giving cops free run of the place could easily result in the exposure of confidential sources and the chilling of future whistleblowers, who would understandably think twice about ever talking to the press.
On the other, after years of News Corp. stonewalling, police can’t simply trust the company to sift through its own data on the cops’ behalf.