The Sun claimed their private investigation into Meghan Markle was never illegal

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announce their engagement

As we discussed last week, The Sun paid an American private investigator to look into then-Meghan Markle’s life in 2016, when the British tabloids first learned that Meghan and Prince Harry were dating. Everything came to a head in late September and early October that year, with the first stories about “Harry’s Girl is straight out of Compton” and other racist sh-t. That was also when Harry issued his first statement decrying the racism and nasty coverage he was already seeing from the British press. It was clear, at that moment, that the tabloids were already crawling all over Meghan’s past, but the hiring of a private investigator was perhaps not known until much later. And God knows when they learned that the private investigator had gotten his hands on Meghan’s Social Security number. Well, the whole reason why we know that now is because the private investigator has come forward and apologized. The Sun also clarified their request:

U.S. private investigator Daniel Hanks told the BBC that he illegally obtained personal information belonging to Meghan and her family members, including her social security number, address and phone number. Hanks said he decided to come forward about his work for The Sun “to clear my conscience.”

Asked what he would say to Meghan and Harry directly, the private investigator said: “I’m deeply sorry for what I did…and I’m available if your lawyers need to talk to me. I’m ready to give you what I know. Supply you with any information. I just wish this had never happened.”

Hanks said he found all his information through “legal means” with the exception of the social security numbers, which he called “the key to the kingdom.”

The publishers of The Sun, News Group Newspapers, released a statement admitting to hiring Hanks. However, they said he “was not tasked to do anything illegal or breach any privacy laws — indeed he was instructed clearly in writing to act lawfully and he signed a legal undertaking that he would do so.” They added that The Sun did not request Meghan’s social security number or use the information he provided “for any unlawful practice.”

[From People]

On one side, I do think the Sun’s editors realized that they didn’t actually need to crawl through every part of Meghan’s history. She was always pretty “clean” in that way – no scandals, just the one divorce, no lawsuits or whatever. The tabloids quickly realized that all they really needed to do was pay Meghan’s family to talk sh-t about her. That, and all of the racist dog-whistles and outright racism. I will be very curious to see if Meghan and Harry’s lawyers do contact Hanks.

Also, it’s worth noting that very few royal reporters covered this story or even tweeted about it. That’s also showing their hand and telling on themselves. If they admit that Meghan was targeted in a really inappropriate, illegal way, then they might have to admit that their coverage was never fair or above-board. The silence from the usual royal-reporter crew has been absolutely deafening in recent days. Peter Hunt – someone who has been increasingly critical of how the Windsors have handled everything – was one of the few people to even tweet about it.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle visit Nottingham Academy

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, WENN.

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27 Responses to “The Sun claimed their private investigation into Meghan Markle was never illegal”

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  1. Lauren says:

    Because even with the illegal stuff they found nothing to pin on Meghan. As soon as they started talking to her trashy Markle family they found gold. Now what I want to know is why did Bill authorize #PoorJason to get Toxic Thomas to give up Meghan so early on. Why was Bill from so set to stop the wedding from ever happening? Because while the pacific tour was the catalyst, sht was happening before the wedding.

    • MsIam says:

      More insight on who was the racist in the family?

    • Laura says:

      Totally agree. I think William asked Harry about the color of any potential children when they first got together & then Charles asked once they were engaged. It was something neither one of them every thought of, Harry getting with a WOC, but once it became a thing, I think the whole family freaked.

      • BabsORIG says:

        The Sussexes never said that there were two family members that expressed concern, they said ONE senior royal member. So, no there is NO Bullyiam asked first and then Chuckie boy asked later. The Sussexes’ beef with Chuckie is based on 1) trust broken, his camp leaked false stuff about them, he refused to set any records straight in regards to those face leaks, he suddenly pulled security from them (just like he pulled Diana’s), cut off all contact and then continued to leak falsely that he was supporting them financially. Harry also indicated that he was willing to rebuild his relationship with his father, which he never says about his brother. All roads and arrows point to Kensington Palace as the source of concerns for Archie’s skin color and how that would make the monarchy look like.

      • LadyE says:

        @BabsORIG- they also said that there were ongoing discussions and we know that William tried to rope in Diana’s brother to “talk to” Harry. If it was William, it means he was saying this for an extended period (I understood Harry to speak about an incident when he was dating Meghan and Meghan referred to when she was pregnant) and I find it not credible at all that he was only saying this to Harry. Even if Charles didn’t raise it, he and the rest of the family surely knew that William had this “concern” and don’t seem to have done jack shit about it. Which, ok not as bad as William himself if he is the one, but definitely enabling racism which should be called out.

  2. MsIam says:

    Of course they will say they didn’t know or that every thing was “legal”. They know the lawsuit is coming. I just wonder if it will be filed here or in the UK?

    • BothSidesNow says:

      And let us not forget that the Sun was found to have conducted illegal wiretapping too, as they were able to access private messages! The Sun isn’t an institution that acts on legal foothold, they will use any illegal footing that they can.

    • Cessily says:

      I hope they file in every court possible and let the outcomes bring change. While there is freedom of the press, this is criminal. I am sure the tabloids know the laws very well, end running them for plausible deniability is not acceptable or forgivable.

  3. Humbugged says:

    Yet The Sun had somebody turn at her nieces door

  4. Lyra says:

    These people are sociopathic. Publications like that should end mostly because they spread misinformation and engage in criminal behaviour

  5. LadyE says:

    The Sun’s statement is really interesting. This isn’t my area of law, so I don’t know whether any liability attaches to them in this situation (would be interested to hear). But, these are the known facts (established by multiple sources/documentary evidence):

    1. The Sun hired this PI with a written agreement not to acquire information illegally. PI signed and acknowledged this.
    2. Following from 1- The Sun did not request Meghan’s social security information.
    3. PI provides 90 page dossier to The Sun. *** This is the important part*** The dossier CONTAINS Meghan’s social security number.
    4. The Sun uses information from dossier either directly or as leads to find other sources/information

    The point being that The Sun knew the PI broke the law. It’s technically true that they didn’t tell him to break the law and it is in an extremely narrow sense true that they didn’t “use” his illegally acquired information in the sense that they didn’t for example publish her SS# or run their own searches based on her SS#. The information in the dossier was I think not identified with *NOTE- this information was found from running her SS#* So, in a very narrow sense the Sun didn’t “know” what information was potentially tainted.

    Like I said, this isn’t my area of law, so I don’t know if The Sun is covered under US law. Possible. But, morally/ethically? They are completely busted the moment they saw that her SS# was in the dossier and didn’t fire him, potentially report him (it was given to the US branch office), or seek to expunge anything coming from his illegal activity from the dossier. Nasty, disgusting people. Perfect example of “well, if it’s not illegal, it should be!”

    • Persephone says:

      @Ladye The real question is: would he/they have done this illegal and extremely intrusive search is Meg was a blonde white girl?

      • LadyE says:

        I don’t think that is the “real” question, but to answer, yes, they and he would have 100%. Please don’t conflate the extraordinary racism directed at Meghan with the invasive and illegal media practices of UK tabloids to suggest that only bipoc are subjected to these practices. That is not at all true. How the information is used and what is written by the tabloids is hugely influenced by racism, class, and xenophobia, but the investigative practices are very much standard. Google Millie Dowler, Levenson Inquiry, Prince Harry’s ongoing phone hacking lawsuit, the organization HackedOff for just a taste. This predates Meghan and Harry and is not in any way new to UK tabloids.

    • Snuffles says:

      I’m no legal expert either, but I’m guessing if they used any of the information that was obtained illegally, they could be liable.

      • LadyE says:

        Without dusting off my law school books, I think it would come down to if the information was in the public interest to publish (how one evaluates information about a British prince’s girlfriend as “public interest” I have nooo idea lol). Press protections are pretty strong generally in this regard. There’s no question that HE is in a ton of legal trouble, but The Sun, I really don’t know. Think about for example Chelsea Manning- she broke the law and provided classified information to media groups that was then published. She was prosecuted, but not the media sources that ultimately published the information.

    • Petra says:

      Any reputable media outlet would have fired the private investigator once they saw the SS#. The statement from The Sun tells me they knew the action was wrong/illegal territory. It seems The Sun did everything to immune themselves of culpability if /when the shit hits the fan. Meghan and Harry should not contact the investigator, a state prosecutor may look into what The Sun affiliate in the US did on their behalf.

      • LadyE says:

        Agreed completely. It’s possible they are just within the law, but it doesn’t make it not incredibly unethical and Meghan and Harry should definitely not talk to the PI- he should be prosecuted in the US.

      • iconoclast59 says:

        @Petra, @LadyE, I would think that, from a journalism ethics standpoint (if not a legal one), once The Sun realized that illegally-obtained information was in that dossier, they would be obligated to pitch the whole thing, since they had no idea which information was obtained through legitimate means versus criminal activity.

    • Emily_C says:

      In writing, they told him not to do anything illegal. Then in spoken communication, they told him to go ahead and do illegal things. This is what the private investigator says anyway, and I believe him. Which means they were trying to cover their asses legally with the written document, while doing the same old criminal shit they’ve always done.

      • RoyalBlue says:

        ding, ding, ding. we have a winner! This is exactly it. They made sure they covered their asses.

    • Where'sMyTiara says:

      My question: does it still constitute identity theft if they acquired her SS ID information w/o her consent, even if they didn’t use it to commit wire fraud or other crimes? Is the mere obtaining of her SS number w/o her knowledge of consent, a crime? B/C I think it might be a Federal crime in the States.

  6. Vanessa says:

    I believe that the sun did do something illegal and their trying to cover their behinds they don’t wanted Harry and Meghan to sue .

  7. Jay says:

    I’m unsure if the defense “I did everything legally except this one big crucial thing” should fly.

    Also, if the paper had Meghan’s social security number, wouldn’t they have been bound by the EU’s strict privacy protocols about protecting information?

    • La says:

      Jay that’s an interesting point. GDPR is no joke and those fines and penalties could be huge. And I wonder how Brexit impacts those laws for violations occurring in the UK?

  8. Izzy says:

    If this PI has any receipts showing he WAS asked to use illegal means, regardless of any written agreement, I hope he turns all of it over to the Sussex legal team.

  9. BnLurkN4eva says:

    These people are so vile and I hope someone is able to take them down one day. I hope I get to live to see that occurrence because they truly need to be ousted from society.