Ex-Murdoch British CEO Brooks paid official for Saddam anthrax story
By Michael Holden
LONDON Feb 28 (Reuters) - Rebekah Brooks, the ex-chief executive of News Corp.'s British newspaper arm, told a London court on Friday she had paid a public official for a story about former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein planning to attack Britain with the poison anthrax.
Brooks, who is on trial on charges of sanctioning such illegal payments, said she agreed to pay for the 1998 report when she was deputy editor of Rupert Murdoch's Sun tabloid because there was an "overwhelming public interest" to do so.
However, she denies approving almost 40,000 pounds ($66,700)in payments to a Ministry of Defence official for a series of stories for which she on trial. She also denies charges of conspiracy to hack phones and perverting the course of justice.
On Thursday, Brooks admitted she had authorised payments to public officials, something which is illegal, on a "half a dozen" occasions from 1998 to 2009, a period which covered her time as time as editor or deputy of Murdoch's British tabloids, the Sun and News of the World.
Appearing for a sixth day in the witness box at London's Old Bailey court, Brooks said the public official, who was later revealed to be a chief petty officer in the Royal Navy, had called the paper about the threat from Saddam and the deadly poison anthrax.
"They said they had reason to believe ... that the government or the security services were covering up a plot by Saddam Hussein to bring in anthrax into the country for the start of a terrorist campaign attack," she said.
"It was very quickly brought to my attention because it was a public official and they were asking for money in return for information."
She told the court that she was called to Downing Street for a high-level meeting with senior security and political figures who confirmed its veracity. Continuación...