Behind Piers Morgan's Bet That Police Won't Link Him to Phone Hacking

Last Updated Jul 20, 2011 12:58 PM EDT

CNN host Piers Morgan has climbed out on a deliciously long limb in his denials that he knew of phone hacking at the News of the World or the Mirror, two tabloids he edited. Given the likely length and intensity of the police investigation, not telling the truth could be a huge risk for Morgan.

On Wolf Blitzer's show last night, Morgan blasted MP Louise Mensch for her questioning of News Corp. (NWS) CEO Rupert Murdoch yesterday, in which she referred to a passage in Morgan's book that talks about phone hacking. "That is a former editor of the Daily Mirror being very open about his personal use of phone hacking," Mensch had said. But Mensch misquoted the book. It doesn't specifically say that Morgan used hacking. It says:

Apparently if you don't change the standard security code that every phone comes with, then anyone can call your number and, if you don't answer, tap in the standard four digit code to hear all your messages. I'll change mine just in case, but it makes me wonder how many public figures and celebrities are aware of this little trick.
Morgan called Mensch a liar to her face:
She came out with an absolute blatant lie during those proceedings. At no stage in my book or indeed outside of my book have I ever boasted of using phone hacking for any stories.
For the record, in my time at the Mirror and the News of the World I have never hacked a phone, told anybody to hack a phone or published any story based on the hacking of a phone.
Mensch declined to repeat the misquote and Morgan claimed victory on Twitter.

The problem for Morgan is that phone hacking obviously was used at NOTW. And a British Information Commission report in 2006 found 681 instances in which the Mirror at some point paid a private investigator, Steve Whittamore, to allegedly obtain illegally private information on celebrities and other targets.

One former Mirror journalist said that in 2002, when Morgan was editor of the Mirror, the paper used a hacked voicemail to report that England football manager Sven-Goran Eriksson was having an affair with TV personality Ulrike Jonsson, according to the Guido Fawkes blog. Jonsson said recently that she's been shown evidence by police investigating the hacking that indicates it went beyond the NOTW.

Most damningly, the Mirror employed Jonathan Rees, a private investigator whose office was bugged by London police from 1999 onward in an investigation of officers suspected of taking bribes. The police recorded Rees paying police for information and then selling it to the Mirror and the NOTW. Morgan was editor of the Mirror between 1996 and 2004.

Morgan has been silent on all these links.

Morgan has one good reason to stoke the Mensch misquote controversy. It gives him a good reason to promote the 2005 book in which he displayed his phone hacking knowledge. Indeed, he tweeted yesterday:

To check veracity of Ms Mensch's ridiculous claim, read The Insider: Private Diaries of a Scandalous Decade. Published by Ebury #