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Monday, August 26, 2002

Britain denies BBC hacking

THE British government dismissed as ‘utter drivel’ a claim by one of the country’s top journalists that officials may have hacked into the computers of the BBC to spy on reports before they were aired.

John Simpson, world affairs editor of the British Broadcasting Corporation, said in a book excerpted in The Sunday Telegraph that the BBC had investigated whether the prime minister’s Downing Street office was peeking into its computers.

Simpson wrote that officials had surprised journalists by phoning in to argue points made in reports before they were aired, apparently aware of what reporters were planning to say. ‘Proving that someone at Downing Street has been illegally hacking into the BBC computer to read scripts and running orders of forthcoming programmes is more or less impossible,’ Simpson wrote.

"There have been investigations, but no conclusive evidence has been found. Nevertheless, I have spoken to colleagues who are certain it has happened." The Telegraph said two other senior BBC journalists had confirmed that the broadcaster had probed possible computer security breaches after the 1997 general election. The probes focused on former employees who had entered government service and may have still had BBC computer passwords, the paper said.

A Downing Street spokeswoman called the allegations "complete rubbish and utter drivel." She was not aware whether the BBC had contacted Downing Street as part of any investigation of possible infiltrations.
The BBC would not comment on whether it had made such investigations.