A police investigation is taking place into claims private investigators working for News International were involved in computer hacking.
The investigation is being carried out by detectives from Scotland Yard’s Specialist Crime Directorate. It is separate from the phone hacking investigation.
The team of officers from Operation Tuleta are looking at the activities of individuals who were paid by News International, including a firm of private detectives offering “ethical hacking”.
Officers are understood to be collecting evidence about the activities of a former Army intelligence officer who is said to have offered hacking services to the journalists.
The probe was prompted by allegations that Martin McGuinness, the Sinn Fein MP, was a British spy. They first surfaced in Irish newspapers five years ago and were vehemently denied by Republicans.
Unpublished documents relating to the claims have now been unearthed by Scotland Yard.
The allegations focus on the use of “Trojan” emails. These involve a hacker sending a computer virus to the target’s computer. The virus then allows full access to the computer’s contents.
The investigation will examine allegations that information was then written up into memo form and faxed to the News of the World.
It is understood that some of this information was allegedly sent to the News International bureau in Dublin, although it is not known who it was sent to there. The private detectives, including a former member of the Force Research Unit (FRU) of the British Army, cannot be named for legal reasons.
Two of those targeted are believed to be Kevin Fulton, an alleged former British agent within the IRA, and Martin Ingram, a former British army intelligence officer. Mr Ingram, who was a member of the FRU, is the co-author of a book, Stakeknife, in which he disclosed details of the most highly placed British spy in the IRA, saying he was a man called Freddie Scappaticci. Mr Scappaticci denies he was an intelligence source.
The Sunday Telegraph has learnt that Mr Fulton met detectives last week and was asked if information from his computer had ever appeared in print without permission.
Mr Fulton told detectives of material relating to Mr McGuinness that had been stored on his computer.
Mr Fulton had believed that some of the information had been leaked by police who had seized his computer in a raid on this home in 2005. This alleged leak led Mr Fulton to complain to the Police Ombudsman in Northern Ireland, but his complaint was rejected due to lack of evidence.
The new discoveries apparently exonerate the police and suggest the information may have been stolen from his computer by a hacker. Mr Fulton wrote to the police in April alleging that some of his emails had been intercepted in 2006 by people acting on behalf of News International. In response, the Metropolitan Police replied to him: “As a result of the new inquiry being conducted by the [Met] into the unlawful interception of voicemail messages (Operation Weeting) and the various court actions relating to News International, the [Met] has received a large number of inquiries and allegations relating to access to private data that are broader than voicemail interception …
“The [Met] has set up a small team in order to assess the various allegations that have been made with a view to establishing whether there is available evidence and if it would be appropriate to conduct any further investigation into these activities.”
The latest disclosures follow a BBC Panorama investigating into the computer hacking claims.
The programme named Alex Marunchak, a former News of the World executive, as having obtained the emails. He denies any involvement.
In the programme, Mr Ingram said: “The BBC has shown me documents which contained parts of emails exchanged between me and a number of other people while I was living in France and some of these were later faxed to the Dublin office of the News of the World.
“The irony of the illegal procurement of information from my computer is that it was obtained by someone who also once worked for the Force Research Unit in the British Army. This person was being paid by News International to hack into my computer.”
It is understood that the officers investigating the computer hacking claims have had no contact with News International.
News International declined to comment.
Elyssa D. Durant, Ed.M.DailyDDoSe © 2007-2014