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News Corp. Asked to Give Details of Union Boss Surveillance

Dec. 9 (Bloomberg) -- News Corp. was asked to reveal who at its News of the World tabloid hired an ex-policeman to follow the leader of Britain’s transportation union after surveillance practices were analyzed at a judge-led inquiry into the press.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union said today it wrote to lawyers for News Corp.’s U.K. publishing unit asking who sought the covert surveillance of General Secretary Bob Crow and whether techniques such as phone hacking were also used.

The inquiry, a government response to the five-year-old phone-hacking scandal at the now-defunct tabloid, has heard evidence from celebrities, authors and crime victims who said they were mistreated by the U.K. press in its quest for scoops. London-based News International has admitted having people followed, including lawyers for phone-hacking victims.

The union, with more than 80,000 members, is “demanding information on the surveillance operation,” the group said in a statement. The union said Crow’s name is on the surveillance list of private investigator Derek Webb, who was hired by News International to follow dozens of people, including politicians, actors and a member of Britain’s royal family.

The union’s letter comes three days after England soccer player Peter Crouch sued the company, adding to dozens of lawsuits filed earlier by public figures alleging their phones were hacked. Police have said more than 5,000 people may have been targeted and potential victims are still being contacted by detectives.

‘Trawling’

The transport union said it gave evidence to Judge Brian Leveson outlining details of improper news-gathering techniques, such as reporters “trawling” through garbage cans at its national conference last year and harassment of union officials and their families.

The same investigator followed U.K. Member of Parliament Tom Watson, the union said. Watson, who is on a committee of lawmakers investigating News Corp.’s phone-hacking, has compared News International Chairman James Murdoch to an organized-crime boss and called for his resignation.

The union also said data about it was obtained illegally by another investigator, Stephen Whittamore, and made available for sale to the Mail on Sunday newspaper, published by Daily Mail & General Trust Plc, as early as 2002.

A message left with News International’s press office wasn’t returned. Oliver Lloyd, a spokesman for DMGT, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Larson in London at elarson4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

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