James Harding said in a letter made public Wednesday that the unnamed reporter told his superiors that he'd tried to hack an email account to expose the detective behind the well-known NightJack blog, which gave readers a behind-the-scenes look at police work.
The acknowledgment that senior journalists at the Rupert Murdoch-owned publication knew of the hacking is potentially damaging for the venerable Times, one of the world's best-known newspapers. Revelations of illegal phone hacking and police bribery at Murdoch's News of the World have led to the tabloid's closure in July and the resignation of a slew of senior executives.
On Wednesday, one of the most-high profile of the executives, former Murdoch protege Rebekah Brooks, announced that she had become a parent through a surrogate mother.
Brooks' spokesman David Wilson said that Scarlett Anne Mary Brooks was born at The Portland, a private hospital in central London.
Wilson said that Brooks and her husband Charlie "are obviously overjoyed and relieved at a safe birth."
"It is tremendous news for them. They have been trying for five years to have a baby — since they got together," he said.
Brooks edited the News of the World at a time when many reporters have said that phone hacking at the paper was at its height. It was during her tenure that the tabloid broke into the phone of murdered teenager Milly Dowler, one of the most sordid episodes of the hacking saga.
Brooks, who is out on bail and has not been charged, denies any wrongdoing.