LONDON -- Prime Minister David Cameron's former communications chief said under oath Tuesday that he was never involved in phone hacking when he was the editor of a Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid.
Andy Coulson was asked by his lawyer in court whether he was "ever party to or in agreement with phone hacking at the News of the World." Coulson answered: "No, I was not."
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Coulson said he would have considered the practice of illegal eavesdropping -- now known to have been widespread at the newspaper -- "a breach of privacy" and "lazy journalism." But he said he was not aware at the time that it was against the law.
He said in the years immediately after he joined the newspaper as deputy editor in 2000 he was aware "in vague terms" that it was possible to listen to another person's mobile phone voicemails by using a PIN code.
"I think it was in the ether," he said. "It was something that was gossiped about."
But he said he did not know "in any detail" how it was done.
Coulson and six others are on trial on charges stemming from the revelation that the News of the World eavesdropped on the voicemails of people in the public eye. All deny wrongdoing.
Coulson edited the News of the World from 2003 until 2007, then served as Cameron's chief spin doctor until resigning when the hacking scandal erupted in early 2011.
Amid the furor over the phone hacking, Murdoch closed the newspaper in July 2011. Dozens of journalists and police have been arrested in the scandal and Murdoch's company has paid out millions in compensation to hacking victims, mostly celebrities and public figures.