As the phone-hacking scandals surrounding Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation's British media proliferate – "with worse to come" – an elaborate, well-laid plan is emerging. Its main goal appears to be to emasculate Murdoch and his Transatlantic media empire – not just in the United Kingdom but also in the United States, where his primary holding is the Fox News television network.
The purported authors of this alleged campaign are also gunning for British Prime Minister David Cameron whose career is consequently on the line less than two years after taking up residence at 10 Downing Street.
Most political watchers on both sides of the Atlantic subscribe to this interpretation, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources in Washington, New York and London. So does Murdoch himself, say our New York informants. He does not believe for a minute that an eight-year old phone hacking episode could suddenly explode in 2011 with tornado force without a guiding hand.
To ward off what he sees as a conspiracy to bring him down, Murdoch last week hired an outside team of strategists and publicists, with more experience on the American scene than in the UK. They are Alex Bigg and James Lundie, of Edelman, the world's biggest PR firm; and Steven Rubenstein of Rubenstein Public Relations, a fixture in New York communications which has a long history with the Murdochs.
Murdoch's in-house team is led by Joel Klein, who once headed the US Justice Department's antitrust unit, and Matthew Anderson, who runs News Corp's strategic section in New York.
Corruption and sleaze charges aim at disabling Murdoch in America
The prevailing suspicion in the circle around Murdoch and many observers is that lurid sensations are being fed into the hungry maws of the British press for the purpose of infecting Murdoch's mass media in America. The plan is to disable and discredit the Right-leaning Murdoch news outlets in the US by planting the impression in the minds of the big American audience that they are all tainted with corruption and sleazy new-gathering practices.
At the very least, those outlets will be forced to "lower" their anti-Obama tone – and that too would give President Barack Obama an important edge in his contest for re-election.
An internationally-recognized political figure was sought out to provide sensational revelations of past shady ties with Murdoch's News Corp. amid innuendo that he used them to make his mark.
David Cameron, prime minister since May 2010, fit that bill.
He was not to know that one day those ties would snap back in his face or that he would have to defend his reported 26 meetings with senior News Corp. executives, including the News International executive Rebekah Brooks. She was interviewed by the police Sunday, July 10 in connection with charges that editors and newsmen of the now defunct Murdoch-owned News of the World tabloid procured juicy scoops by illegally hacking phones and bribing police officers during her term as editor. The paper was closed when the scandal first broke.
Nor did Cameron ever dream he would be forced to face a packed and rowdy House of Commons to publicly "regret" hiring Andy Coulson, another former editor of the tabloid, as his first communications director at Downing Street.
This colossal lack of judgment was paraded day after day as Coulson was photographed under arrest – and again when he was conditionally released – in connection with the same hacking and bribery charges.
Obama places Libya fiasco at Cameron's door
The British premier was also targeted for reasons over and above his personal weaknesses and ill-judged past connections. He was fair game because of the ire he has aroused in Washington.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources reveal that Washington has a score to settle with him for twisting the arms of US President Barack Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and NATO chiefs last February to launch the failed military venture for ousting Muammar Qaddafi.
So eager was the new British prime minister to win his spurs as a war leader that he deployed large British special operations units and intelligence teams in Libya in the second half of February – a month before the US and NATO began their air offensive on March 19.
Sources in Washington say that were it not for Cameron's enthusiastic pressure, the Obama administration and NATO would have heeded the warnings of military experts that a war against Qaddafi was unwinnable and never gone in.
Obama saved America from a death-trap in the nick of time, they say, by pulling back two weeks into the operation (April 4) and handing the lead-role in the war to NATO. Otherwise, American troops would have been dragged into the fray (for which the USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit were already standing by off the Libyan coast) and the United States would have been entangled in a third war after Afghanistan and Iraq.
"Politicians pay a price for these kinds of strategic and military mistakes," said one of our Washington sources.
Washington also has an Afghan score to settle with Cameron
The White House also has a large bone to pick with Downing Street on Afghanistan. Against the British boast that the UK is America's most important military ally in the West, Cameron is accused of ordering the British contingent in Afghanistan to withdraw from combat and stay put in its Helmand base.
This is deeply resented by the president and the American military establishment. Leading administration voices in Washington have been heard grumbling that nothing has changed in UK-US relations since the Conservatives came to power and denigrating the prime minister as "a Gordon Brown clone."
This is a reference to the Labor prime minister before Cameron who was seen as the most anti-American British leader in many years. After coming to power in 2007, Brown pulled British units in Iraq out of war zones into well-secured camps and had most evacuated by 2009.
After the Labor minister's fall, the rise of former opposition leader Cameron was initially welcomed in Washington with a sigh of relief. Not any more.
This week, he won a reprieve from the agonizing pressure generated by the hacking and corruption scandal surrounding the Murdoch media in Britain and closing in on Downing Street. But it may be short-lived. He is widely expected to find himself more and more with his back to the wall as his authority declines.
Last minute: Pressure on the News Corp in the United States shot up late Thursday, July 21, with the charge that Fox News television channel (like the defunct British News of the World) was involved in illegally hacking private telephone records by means of a "black ops" department.
Dan Cooper, a former executive of Fox, published the charge.
US Senators are also calling for Les Hinton, who resigned last week as head of the Murdoch-owed Dow Jones and Wall Street Journal, to be quizzed on his knowledge about phone hacking during his stint in Britain.