Washington: America's FBI has started
inquiry into allegations that media mogul Rupert Murdoch's
News Corp tried to hack into the phones of 9/11 terror attack
victims, media reports have said.
FBI's decision to investigate came after its Director
Robert Mueller received many request in this regard from
several lawmakers. The FBI routinely makes preliminary
inquiries into issues raised by lawmakers to determine whether
a full-blown investigation is needed.
"The (US) law says that any US corporation that bribes
a foreign official is subject to severe penalties, not only
fines but even criminal penalties. We want to make sure that
this company, with all of its influence and the information
that it passes to our region, isn't doing that," said New
Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, who was among the first to
demand an investigation.
"They be doing the same thing here and filtering out
the news that they want to hear or that they want to steal, in
this case, and use it and we don't want that to happen,"
Lautenberg told the CNN, referring to the phone-hacking
scandal in Britain where the News of the World had hacked into
the phone of a teenage murder victim in 2002.
Justice Department spokeswoman Laura Sweeney said that
it has received letters from several members of Congress
regarding allegations related to News Corp, the US Company
held by Murdoch.
"We are reviewing those," the spokeswoman said without
providing any further detail.
The suggestion that September 11, 2001 victims also
may have been were targeted surfaced in the Mirror, a British
rival of News Corp's The Sun.
Referring to the developments in Britain where Murdoch
is expected to appear before the British parliament,
Lautenberg said he would be watching this event with interest.
"Right now I'm not calling on our committee to bring
in Rupert Murdoch. What I want to do is get to the truth of
the matter. When we find that out from the Justice
Department's review, then we'll make decisions about whether
or not it's necessary to bring Murdoch in or other senior
people in his operation," he said.
Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley of Iowa asked the
chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform
Committee to get involved in this case.
"Our committee has a jurisdiction to look into these
very troubling allegations against News Corp and find out
whether any federal laws were violated, such as the Foreign
Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits US companies from
bribing foreign officials or other types of criminal
violations," he said.
"One of the reasons this is so important is because
Congress has important oversight responsibilities to make sure
that these laws are being followed," Braley told the CNN.
"It appears that News Corp is getting into the field
of political espionage or personal espionage, and that's one
thing that we need to be very concerned about," he alleged.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the US officials
said the FBI is trying to determine if a full investigation is
warranted, and no evidence has yet emerged to confirm that
News Corp. employees sought to hack phones in the US.
"The FBI probe also raises the politically delicate
possibility that the Obama administration which has
questioned the objectivity of News Corp.'s Fox News could
bring criminal charges against employees of the network's
parent company," The Washington Post said.
First Published: Friday, July 15, 2011, 09:04