By Brad Friedman on 7/18/2011, 8:14pm PT  

Good grief. So, this happened today...

No, Rupert Murdoch didn't really die. But The Sun, another paper owned by his News International, was hacked by the "hacktivists" of Anonymous and/or LulzSec. At least one of the hackers involved is said to have also been involved in the HBGary Federal hack earlier this year in which some 70,000 emails were stolen, posted on the Internet, and turned out to reveal they were working with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to develop a plot which included targeting me and my family, among other progressives perceived to be enemies of the U.S. Chamber.

The hackers say they have also stolen thousands of emails from The Sun and News of The World and plan to release them tomorrow according to Andy Greenberg at Forbes...

Just a day after the arrest of Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of New Corp.'s British subsidiary and editor of its The Sun newspaper for phone hacking charges, the hacker groups took credit Monday for defacing the paper's website to redirect to a fake homepage (archived here) that claimed its owner, News Corp. chief executive Rupert Murdoch, had died of a drug overdose.

Worse may be ahead for the The Sun than mere graffiti: A hacker who goes by the handle Sabu claims that the hacker groups had also accessed The Sun's and defunct sister paper News Of The World's emails, and may release them in coming days. "Sun/News of the world OWNED," he writes. "We're sitting on their emails. Press release tomorrow."

Sabu and other Anonymous-related twitter feeds followed by twittering email addresses and passwords for Rebekah Brooks and Bill Akass, an editor who has held positions at The Sun and News of the World, and Danny Rogers, currently online editor at The Sun.

"We have owned Sun/News of the World," added a tweet from LulzSec, the hacker group that went on a hacking spree targeting the CIA, Sony and PBS earlier this year only to supposedly disband last month. "That story is simply phase 1 - expect the lulz to flow in coming days."

No word yet on whether we'll learn tomorrow, when the emails are released, that Murdoch also had a $12 million plot in the works to try and undo me, as the Chamber did.

Later in the day News Corp.'s Times of London was also reportedly taken down by the hackers, and at this hour, the website of News International, the British arm of News Corp., is inaccessible.

But all of that is the "fun" part. Here comes the troubling part. While Murdoch didn't actually die today, one of the whistleblowers at the heart of Murdoch/News Corp.'s News of the World hacking scandal, apparently did...

As detailed by Talking Points Memo:

In another twist in the News Of The World scandal, a former reporter for the tabloid who initially alleged that editor Andy Coulson knew about the practice of phone hacking by his staff, was reportedly found dead Monday.

The Guardian reports that though police wouldn't confirm the identity of the man found dead, it is believed to be Sean Hoare, formerly of NOTW and The Sun, who worked under Coulson but was fired for alcohol and drug problems in 2005. According to the police report, "the death is currently being treated as unexplained, but not thought to be suspicious. Police investigations into this incident are ongoing."
Hoare reported on show business for NOTW, and was the first journalist to go on the record with allegations that Coulson knew about the hacking operations. He told the New York Times last September that Coulson not only knew about the practice, but "actively encouraged me to do it."
Hoare told The Guardian that reporters would go to the news desk to locate someone and would have an answer within "15 to 30 minutes": "You'd just go to the news desk and they'd just come back to you. You don't ask any questions. You'd consider it a job done. The chain of command is one of absolute discipline and that's why I never bought into it, like with Andy saying he wasn't aware of it and all that. That's bollocks."

After leaving NOTW some years ago, in the wake of the emergence of the now-very-quickly-growing Murdoch/News Corp. hacking scandal, Coulson was hired by British Prime Minister David Cameron to serve as his Communications Director. Coulson was arrested last week.

I suppose it's also worth noting that the British police who report that Soare's death is "currently being treated as unexplained but not thought to be suspicious", are also fingered as part of the hacking scandal in which police were allegedly bribed for cell phone numbers used to hack into the voice mails of celebrities, politicians, a murder victim and, reportedly, troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Golly. It's "great" to be back.

(BTW, as mentioned in the previous item, I'm buried deep in a fairly large series of stories, so may be quiet-ish for a bit around here until I can pop those...unless the Chamber or Murdoch or...someone else...gets me first.)