- The Independent says Brown may have been a target when he was chancellor
- Brown and police refuse to comment
- Police are probing e-mail hacking in connection with phone hacking
- The scandal started at News of the World and has spread
Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's e-mail may have been hacked by private investigators working for British newspapers when he was the country's top finance official, the Independent newspaper reported Monday.
London's Metropolitan Police launched an investigation in June into potential computer hacking on behalf of newspapers, after opening separate investigations earlier in the year into phone hacking and police bribery.
Authorities refused Monday to confirm they are investigating the potential hacking of Gordon Brown when he was chancellor under Tony Blair. Brown's office did not immediately respond to CNN requests for comment.
But another former top government official said police had spoken to him about the possibility that both his government and personal computers were hacked.
Peter Hain, a former Northern Ireland secretary who has long been at the heart of the Labour Party, said police had talked to him about potential hacking between 2005 and 2007.
Much of the controversy around phone hacking has centered around the best-selling Sunday tabloid News of the World, which was shut down by proprietor James Murdoch in July in the face of the scandal.
The defunct newspaper's parent company, News International, declined to comment on the Independent story. The Independent does not name the newspaper alleged to have employed the private detectives who targeted government ministers.
One person has been arrested in connection with the computer hacking investigation, known as Operation Tuleta. The suspect, a 52-year-old man, was detained in the city of Milton Keynes on November 24 and released on bail until March, police said.
Sixteen people have been arrested in connection with the phone-hacking probe, Operation Weeting, and eight people have been arrested in Operation Elvedon, the bribery probe -- including two of the same people arrested over phone hacking.
The phone-hacking story, long a bugbear of a handful of high-profile celebrities, journalists and politicians, exploded into international prominence last summer with the revelation that people working for the News of the World illegally eavesdropped on the messages of a missing teenager who later turned out to have been murdered.
Two former editors of the News of the World, Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, have been arrested and released on bail.
Prime Minister David Cameron has been criticized for hiring Coulson after the editor resigned when subordinates pleaded guilty to phone hacking. Coulson maintains that he was not aware of the illegal activity.
The government set up an independent inquiry running alongside the police investigations, and parliament's media committee has held hearings with witnesses including News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch.
His son James has been called twice as lawmakers try to determine how much he knew about phone hacking.
Police say notebooks belonging to a private investigator at the heart of the scandal contain the names of 5,800 potential victims.
The Independent says police have seized 20 computers in connection with the e-mail hacking probe, and say the machines suggest there could be as many computer-hacking victims as phone-hacking victims. It does not name the source of the claims.