June 30, 2013

FBI Opens Investigation in News Corp

“News Corporation is under investigation by the FBI in New York, due to allegations that journalists tried to obtain the phone records of 9/11 victims.

The inquiry was opened after FBI director Robert Mueller received a letter from Representative Peter King, Rep-NY, demanding an immediate investigation into journalists who worked for The News of the World, a UK tabloid owned by News Corporation. News reports have surfaced that the journalists used bribery and unauthorized wiretapping to attempt to access the phone records of victims of 9/11.

“”We’re aware of certain allegations pertaining to a possible hacking by News Corp, personnel and we’re looking into these charges,”" said Jim Margolin, a spokesman for the New York office of the FBI.

The News of the World is currently under criminal investigation in Britain for hacking the phones of a multitude of people, including the voice mail of 13 year old Milly Dowler, who was kidnapped and murdered in 2002. There are also accusations of bribing police for stories. A number of journalists have been arrested, The News of the World has closed its doors after 168 years in business, and Rupert Murdoch has withdrawn his attempt to take over British Sky Broadcasting.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal (which is owned by News Corp), Murdoch defended his company, saying that they are handling the phone-hacking scandal “”extremely well in every possible way”" with only “”minor mistakes”". He said that an independent committee, led by a “”distinguished non-employee”" would investigate the allegations.

In an article in Monday’s Daily Mirror, a rival tabloid in the UK, it was reported that journalists from The News of the World has been in contact with a New York private investigator and former police officer, offering him money in exchange for 9/11 victims’ phone numbers, and details of any calls made in the days prior to the attacks.

Rep. King wrote “”If these allegations are proven true, the conduct would merit felony charges for attempting to violate various federal statutes related to corruption of public officials and prohibitions against wiretapping. Any person found guilty of this purported conduct should receive the harshest sanctions available under the law.”"

Along with Rep. King, a number of Democratic lawmakers have spoken out, including Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, and New Jersey Senators Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg.

Murdoch and his son James are scheduled to testify before the UK Parliament next week. Rebekah Brooks, CEO of News International before her sudden resignation today, will also testify.

Details of the inquiry have yet to be disclosed, including those under investigation and specific criminal acts. At this point the FBI is treating the case as an assessment, a step that is taken before possibly issuing subpoenas. It is thought that the inquiry will be overseen by two FBI departments, one focussing on white-collar crime and public corruption, and the other investigating cybercrime.

Relatives of 9/11 victims have spoken out, thankful that the FBI is looking into the matter.

Sally Regenhard, who lost her son, firefighter Christian in the attacks, said: “”I’m very happy. The FBI is being very responsive in acting on our call for a full investigation.”"

New York firefighter Jim McCaffrey, whose brother-in-law Orio Palmer, also a firefighter, died on 9/11, said: “”If these claims are found to be true I think it’ a terrible revelation and very, very upsetting to 9/11 family members.”"

If the FBI investigation determines that the allegations are indeed true, it may prove difficult to move forward with the investigation. A former lawyer for the FBI has noted that there is a five-year statute of limitations when it comes to prosecuting people accused of wiretapping.”

NYTimes.com

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