News Corp.'s building in New York. (Justin Lane / European Pressphoto…)
Responding to allegations from several Washington lawmakers, the FBI has opened an investigation into whether Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. attempted to hack into the telephones of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the families of those who died.
According to federal law enforcement sources, the decision by the FBI's field office in New York to launch the criminal probe came after several members of Congress raised concerns in letters to FBI headquarters, questioning whether reporters for the media empire may have tried to compromise Sept. 11 victims just as they reportedly hacked into the phones of numerous individuals in England.
"We are doing this based on their requests," said an FBI source, who asked not to be identified because the investigation is just getting underway. "But after reviewing the letters and their allegations, and after consultation with the U.S. attorney's office in New York, we are proceeding."
At the Department of Justice, officials also acknowledged they are "reviewing" the allegations by Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and others that Sept. 11 victims and families may have been put at risk by News Corp.
"If these allegations are proven true," King wrote in his letter to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, "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 law."
The source added that "ultimately the decision on how far this will go will be decided by the Department of Justice."