LAUTH INVESTIGATIONS INTERNATIONAL INC.
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When Media and Private Investigation Hacks Privacy –Indecency Exposed
By Indianapolis Private Investigator, Lauth Investigations International, Inc., July 17, 2011
LONDON - Worldwide reports of bribery, illegal surveillance, planting evidence and phone
hacking appear to provide only a glimpse into the questionable activities that have occurred at
the highest levels of the 168-year-old British tabloid, News of the World and its owner Rupert
Murdoch. The top international news story is now focused on less than acceptable investigative
practices used throughout the news reporting industry to gain the lead in stories highlighting
the private lives of celebrities and even murder victims.
Allegations that News of the World was paying police for news tips and sending less than
responsible private investigators on missions to not only infiltrate the secretive lives of
the Royals but contentions of planting evidence to discredit witnesses have also surfaced. The
recent accusations have illuminated a corrupt relationship between tabloid representatives,
world elite, the police and the dark underworld of private investigators.
If you think this scandal only affects the Brits, take into consideration Murdoch’s media
holdings include Fox Broadcasting, Fox News Channel, National Geographic, the New York Post,
Wall Street Journal, as well as several other international newspapers and television networks.
Within 24-hours the recent developments into the news reporting practices have resulted in the
arrest of Rebekah Brooks, former Chief Executive of News International and the resignation of
Scotland Yard Chief Paul Stephenson, followed by Commissioner John Yates stepping down Sunday
evening. The avalanche has prompted Prime Minister, David Cameron to call for an emergency
parliament session. Due to Cameron’s alleged relationship with Brooks and others from the
Murdoch Empire, it appears the scandal has the potential of bringing down the very leadership of Britain.
Despite the international ramifications as a result of horrific police and media plunders, to
include unlawful investigative practices, the case that appears to have triggered public outrage
and further investigation into the a media empire is the disappearance of Amanda “Milly” Dowler,
a 13-year-old little girl who went missing in 2002 and later found to be a victim of abduction
and homicide. On 23 June 2011, Levi Bellfield was found guilty of Dowler's murder and sentenced
to life in prison
On July 4, 2011, the Guardian newspaper reported that Scotland Yard had discovered Dowler's
voicemail had been accessed by journalists working for the News of the World and the newspaper's
private investigator Glenn Mulcaire. During Scotland Yard’s investigation, police detectives
discovered that messages had been deleted in Dowler's voicemail to free up space for new messages. The
messages illicitly deleted deceived Dowler’s family into thinking that their daughter was still
alive. A family already traumatized by the disappearance of their daughter, were led by false
hope due to unfavorable private investigation techniques that not only deleted voicemail – but
evidence- in a murder investigation.
The case of a little girl abducted and murdered has exposed the fine line that private
investigators and those responsible for cooperatively working with law enforcement must follow
when probing people’s lives. Responsible private investigators realize the importance of their
role in any investigation and follow legal methods of collecting evidence and interviewing
witnesses, becoming a valuable asset in police investigations. The Dowler case reflects clear
tampering of evidence and brings attention to often illegal practices and even ruses some private
investigators use to gain information. While tampering with evidence is clearly illegal other
methods like using a ruse to obtain private information, referred to as pretexting is often
considered unethical. Though laws exist to protect privacy, they do not necessarily prevent a
private investigator from taking surveillance photos, accessing records, listening in on
conversations or using some pretexts to get information that would otherwise be confidential.
Private investigators must remain mindful of local, state and federal laws when conducting
investigations making judgment calls when deciding how to pursue a case to include proper evidence
collection so admissibility in court is not compromised. Laws protecting privacy vary from state
to state in the US. For instance, federal law prohibits hacking into e-mail, but without further illegal
activity, it's only a misdemeanor and most states follow suit. Aside from overzealous journalists
obtaining access to private emails, voicemails, and other personal information, other threats
include the hackers, government, insurance companies, attorneys, employers and even the ex-spouse.
Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 provides that any person
whose communication is intercepted, disclosed, or intentionally used can file a civil lawsuit.
Most states throughout the US have adopted federal law and some have initiated statutes providing
more protection. Most private detectives can be licensed to investigate crimes but do not have
powers to arrest or detain the subject. When recording phone conversations one must take into
consideration whether they are abiding by state laws requiring “one-party consent” or “two-party
consent” or if more than two individuals are involved “all-party consent” applies. Private
investigators utilizing GPS tracking devices creates even more confusion as the US Supreme Court
has upheld several cases of law enforcement utilizing warrantless use of tracking devices such as a
GPS device installed on a vehicle, and determined it did not infringe upon the person’s privacy or
hinder the individual’s use of the vehicle therefor it was not considered a violation
of the Fourth Amendment. Private investigators in New Jersey are allowed to utilize GPS tracking
devices to investigate cases of cheating spouses. Recording conversations utilizing recording
devices (wiretapping), is illegal as well as entering private property while surveillance on
public property is permissible.
The Dowler case has brought to light the importance of utilizing reputable private investigation
services who also exercise judgment. Private investigators can be crucial to a police investigation
and court preparation. Because an investigation and case can easily be compromised by one misstep,
choosing a licensed and qualified private investigator with a history of working directly with
investigative local, state and federal law enforcement agencies is crucial to protect evidence,
witnesses and even victims from further traumatization.
Sadly, it took a little girl’s
disappearance and murder to expose the corruption of a media kingdom and cohorts and the importance
of working with those who exercise judgment and most of all decency when penetrating personal
Author - Kym L. Pasqualini
Lauth Investigations International, Inc.
201 N. Illinois St., 16th Fl.-South Tower
Indianapolis, IN 46254
Please contact Indianapolis Private Investigator, Thomas Lauth, for any investigations needed at 800.889.3463 or visit www.lauthinvestigations.com