Rebekah Brooks to testify despite hacking arrest

LONDON - Former News International executive Rebekah Brooks has maintained her innocence of any criminal offense in Britain's phone hacking scandal and a spokesman says she will testify to a British parliamentary committee examining the matter despite being arrested in connection with the case, her spokesman confirmed Monday.

Brooks once edited the News of the World tabloid, where the hacking offenses allegedly occurred. Rupert and James Murdoch also are to be grilled by British lawmakers Tuesday.

She was arrested Sunday on hacking charges and bailed out some 12 hours later, so her appearance had been in question. But David Wilson, her spokesman, confirmed that she would indeed attend the hearing.

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Meanwhile, Brooks' lawyer, Stephen Parkinson, said she wasn't guilty of any criminal offense and insisted police face serious questions about why she was arrested on suspicion of phone hacking and bribery.

Parkinson said Brooks was held and questioned for nine hours on Sunday, but detectives did not accuse her of any crimes.

He said Monday that police would "have to give an account of their actions" considering "the enormous reputational damage" Brooks' arrest had caused.

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The arrest of the 43-year-old Brooks, often described as a surrogate daughter to the 80-year-old Murdoch, brought the British police investigations into the media baron's inner circle for the first time.

Brooks, the ultimate social and political insider, dined at Christmas with UK Prime Minister David Cameron, with whom she is friends. His Conservative-led government is now facing increasing questions about its relationship with Murdoch's media empire.

It has spurred speculation that Murdoch's old friend Les Hinton, who resigned Friday as publisher of The Wall Street Journal, or his 38-year-old son and heir apparent, James, could be next.

Until her resignation Friday, Brooks was the defiant chief executive of News International, Murdoch's British newspaper arm, whose News of the World tabloid stands accused of hacking into the phones of celebrities, politicians, other journalists and even murder victims. In the tumultuous last two weeks, she had kept her job even as Murdoch shut down the 168-year-old News of the World and tossed 200 other journalists out of work.

On Sunday she showed up for a prearranged meeting with London police investigating the hacking and was arrested. She questioned on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications -- phone hacking -- and on suspicion of corruption, which relates to bribing police for information.

Brooks' spokesman said police contacted her Friday to arrange a meeting and she voluntarily went "to assist with their ongoing investigation." He claimed that Brooks did not know she was going to be arrested.

Brooks' arrest was the latest blow for Murdoch, the once all-powerful figure courted by British politicians of all stripes. Now Murdoch is struggling to tame a scandal that has already destroyed News of the World, cost the jobs of Brooks and Hinton and sunk the media baron's dream of taking full control of a lucrative satellite broadcaster, British Sky Broadcasting.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said Murdoch "needs to come absolutely clean about what he knew, about what his senior executives knew, and why this culture of industrial-scale corruption -- so it is alleged -- appeared to have grown up without anyone higher up in the food chain taking any real responsibility for it."

Cameron, himself under huge political pressure over the intensifying scandal, said Monday that Parliament should delay its summer break so he can brief lawmakers.

Parliament is due to break up for the summer on Tuesday, but Cameron said that "it may well be right to have Parliament meet on Wednesday so I can make a further statement."

Meanwhile, hours after Brooks' arrest, Paul Stephenson, the head of Scotland Yard, said he was resigning as commissioner of London's force because of "speculation and accusations" about his links to Neil Wallis, a former News of the World executive editor who was arrested last week in the scandal. Wallis worked for the London police as a part-time PR consultant for a year until September 2010.

Stephenson said he did not make the decision to hire Wallis and had no knowledge of allegations that he was linked to phone hacking, but he wanted his police force to focus on preparing for the 2012 London Olympics instead of wondering about a possible leadership change.

"I had no knowledge of the extent of this disgraceful practice and the repugnant nature of the selection of victims that is now emerging," Stephenson said. "I will not lose any sleep over my personal integrity."

In his resignation speech Stephenson made pointed reference to Cameron's hiring of Andy Coulson, a former editor of the shuttered tabloid who was arrested earlier this month over hacking.

As for Brooks, who stepped down Friday, she said she was going to "concentrate on correcting the distortions and rebutting the allegations about my record."

She was editor of News of the World between 2000 and 2003, when some of the phone hacking took place, but has always said she did not know it was going on, a claim greeted with skepticism by many who worked there.

At an appearance before U.K. lawmakers in 2003, Brooks admitted that News International had paid police for information. That admission of possible illegal activity went largely unchallenged at the time and lawmakers are keen to ask her about it again.

Police previously arrested nine other people, including several former News of the World reporters and editors, over allegations of hacking and bribery. Those include Coulson, a former News of the World editor who became Cameron's communications chief before resigning in January. No one has yet been charged.

Even more senior figures could face arrest, including James Murdoch, chairman of BSkyB and chief executive of his father's European and Asian operations. James Murdoch did not directly oversee the News of the World, but he approved payments to some of the paper's most prominent hacking victims, including 700,000 pounds ($1.1 million) to Professional Footballers' Association chief Gordon Taylor.

James Murdoch said last week that he "did not have a complete picture" when he approved the payouts.

Hinton, too, could face questioning over wrongdoing at the News of the World during his 12 years as executive chairman of News International. But Hinton is an American citizen living in the U.S., so British authorities would have to seek his extradition if he refused to come willingly.

Chandrashekhar Krishnan, executive director of Transparency International UK, said British prosecutors seeking to prove that bribes that were approved at a high level would have to uncover strong evidence such as memos or minutes of a meeting.

"That usually proves to be very, very difficult," he said.

Rupert Murdoch is eager to stop the crisis from spreading to the United States, home of many of his most lucrative assets -- including the Fox TV network, 20th Century Fox film studio, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post. The FBI has already opened an inquiry into whether 9/11 victims or their families were also hacking targets of News Corp. journalists.

On Sunday, Murdoch took out full-page ads in British newspapers promising that News Corp. would make amends for the phone hacking scandal, with the title "Putting right what's gone wrong." News Corp. vowed there would "be no place to hide" for wrongdoers.

That followed a full-page Murdoch ad Saturday declaring, "We are sorry."

Murdoch's critics say that is not enough. Labour Party leader Ed Miliband said Sunday that Murdoch has "too much power" in Britain and his share of media ownership should be reduced.

Murdoch still owns three national British newspapers -- The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times -- and a 39-percent share of BSkyB.

At Tuesday's committee hearing, which will be televised, politicians will seek answers about the scale of criminality at the News of the World. The Murdochs will try to avoid incriminating themselves or doing more harm to their business without misleading Parliament, which is a crime.

Police, meanwhile, are under pressure to explain why their original hacking investigation several years ago failed to find enough evidence to prosecute anyone other than News of the World royal reporter Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire. Detectives reopened the investigation earlier this year and now say they have the names of 3,700 potential victims.

Records show that senior officers had numerous meals and meetings with News International executives in the past few years.

Stephenson, who became police chief in 2009, said he had "no knowledge of, or involvement in, the original investigation into phone hacking in 2006." He said he was "unaware that there were any other documents in our possession of the nature that have now emerged."