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Murdoch's News Corp and 9/11 phone row: FBI begins probe

July 15, 2011 11:48 IST

America's Federal Bureau of Investigation 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.

Federal Bureau of Investigation'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.

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