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How many British phone-hacking inquiries are enough?

Since the News of the World scandal went into hyper drive two weeks ago, Britain has been overloaded with high-level officials announcing inquiries into the matter. But has the country gone overboard in its rush to inquire? According to the Guardian‘s Andrew Sparrow, there are now 10 separate probes going forward. Yes, it’s a fast-moving, ...

Since the News of the World scandal went into hyper drive two weeks ago, Britain has been overloaded with high-level officials announcing inquiries into the matter. But has the country gone overboard in its rush to inquire?

According to the Guardian‘s Andrew Sparrow, there are now 10 separate probes going forward. Yes, it’s a fast-moving, expansive story with tentacles into a number of areas (police corruption, media ethics, political influence). But 10 separate inquiries? Surely, in this age of British austerity they can’t all be needed.  

Today, three new inquiries were announced by Home Secretary Theresa May in response to the shake-up at the top of Scotland Yard. One will look at the relationship between the media and the police; another will look at police corruption in general; and a third will look at the independent police complaints commission — the internal investigative arm of the police — and whether it needs new authorities (given that they seem to have missed a lot of police corruption lately).     

Meanwhile, all of Britain is on tenterhooks awaiting the testimony of Rupert and James Murdoch at a parliamentary inquiry tomorrow ( before one of two committees exploring the fallout from the scandal).

There are also two judge-led inquiries set up by Prime Minister David Cameron: one of which will look specifically into phone hacking, and the other, more generally, into media standards in the country. Additionally, there are two criminal investigations by the police — the first stems from a January civil lawsuit brought by the actress Sienna Miller and other celebrities against News International for allegedly hacking their phones; the second opened this month to look into police bribes by people connected with Murdoch-owned papers. Not to be outdone, there’s also an internal News Corp investigation led by Joel Klein.

And then of course there’s the preliminary inquiry opened last week in the United States by the FBI looking into whether News Corp. employees tried hack the phones of September 11 victims (technically, this is probe  No. 11).

What does it all amount to? Too early to say, but the flood of new information, allegations, leaks, rumors — and added noise — isn’t likely to ease up anytime soon.

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