News Column

FBI Widens Inquiry Into News Corp. Beyond 9/11 Hacking

Aug. 15, 2011
Rupert Murdoch

American authorities have widened their investigation into Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. to look into allegations of wrongdoing at the company beyond the claim that News of the World journalists attempted to hack the phones of 9/11 victims.

It was reported this weekend that FBI investigators, who are checking damaging claims that reporters at the now-defunct Sunday tabloid asked a New York-based private detective to access the voicemails of those killed in the 2001 terrorist attacks, have so far found no evidence that attempts were made to eavesdrop on the messages.

The Wall Street Journal, which is owned by News Corp., said U.S. agencies were now examining whether there were further claims of misconduct at the company's American subsidiaries that merit further investigation. The move comes as members of Parliament in Westminster prepare to consider tomorrow the release of new documents related to hacking, which one former minister described as "dynamite".

The widened U.S. inquiry, said to be at "an early stage," will look at past claims against News Corp. companies, including a lawsuit brought by Floorgraphics, an advertising company, which alleged computer hacking on the part of its Murdoch-owned competitor.

A New Jersey senator wrote to the U.S. attorney general's office last month asking for an inquiry into News Corp.'s behaviour in the U.S., citing the case of Floorgraphics, whose founders claimed their Murdoch-owned rival, News America, threatened to destroy their company when they rejected a takeover bid. A jury was told that 11 breaches of Floorgraphics' password-protected website in 2004 were traced back to an address registered to a News America office and that sensitive information could have been accessed.

News Corp., which ended the lawsuit after agreeing to buy Floorgraphics for $29.5 million, denied any claim that it threatened the company and said it condemned the hacking, suggesting it may have been carried out without its knowledge by an employee. News Corp. is now facing questions about its U.S. operations, including whether American corruption laws were broken if it is proven that NOTW journalists made payments to British police officers.

The developments came ahead of a potentially difficult week for Murdoch's son, James, as the House of Commons' media select committee meets tomorrow to discuss further submissions arising from his testimony last month.

James Murdoch last week supplied written answers to questions from MPs after two former NOTW executives -- Colin Myler and Tom Crone -- said Mr Murdoch had been "mistaken" in his testimony relating to an out-of-court settlement he approved with the Professional Footballers' Association boss Gordon Taylor.

Source: (C) 2011 The Independent - London. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

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