In a new turn to the News of the World phone hacking scandal, it has emerged that the former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain may have his computer hacked raising concerns about national security.

The Guardian reported that Mr. Hain had been told by the Metropolitan police that they were investigating evidence that his computer and those of senior Northern Ireland civil servants and intelligence agents, may have been hacked by private detectives working for Rupert Murdoch's News International.

“The suggestion that the Minister's computers, containing sensitive intelligence material, may have been compromised is the most serious sign yet that newspaper malpractice extended far beyond the hacking of mobile phone voicemail, into the realm of other electronic data,” it said.

Mr. Hain, a Labour MP, was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland between 2005 and 2007 and would have had “access to classified information about informers and security'', the Guardian said.

“It is understood from legal sources that Hain is to be asked to confirm material obtained by the police investigators comes from his computer. It is not known if Hain has been informed of the nature of the material identified,'' it said.

Tom Watson, a Labour member of Parliament's culture, media and sport select committee, investigating the hacking scandal, said “targeting the computers of ministers with high-security clearance takes this police investigation to another level''.

News International also declined to comment.

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