In the wake of the scandal that has enmeshed Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation in the UK, watchdogs have been asking for an investigation into the company’s practices in the United States. Now two US Senators have jumped on the bandwagon.
Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) sent out a generalized call to “appropriate agencies.” He said, “The reported hacking by News Corporation newspapers against a range of individuals—including children—is offensive and a serious breach of journalistic ethics. This raises serious questions about whether the company has broken U.S. law, and I encourage the appropriate agencies to investigate to ensure that Americans have not had their privacy violated. I am concerned that the admitted phone hacking in London by the News Corp. may have extended to 9/11 victims or other Americans. If they did, the consequences will be severe.”
Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) was more specific – his call was directed in a letter to the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission and questions if News Corp. may be in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. He said, “The limited information already reported in this case raises serious questions about the legality of the conduct of News Corporation and its subsidiaries under the FCPA. Further investigation may reveal that current reports only scratch the surface of the problem at News Corporation. Accordingly, I am requesting that DOJ and the SEC examine these circumstances and determine whether U.S. laws have been violated.”
Lautenberg suggested there may be a US angle, citing allegations that News Corp. may have sought information on 9/11 victims, among other things, from law enforcement officers who were allegedly being paid for information.
Watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington have said that other News Corp. publications have used tactics similar to the now-disintegrated News of the World, and given that even as high-ranking an official as the British prime minister was subject to phone hacking, suggests it’s not unreasonable to question whether similar practices are being employed in the US.
Another group, the Public Campaign Action Fund, is one of several calling for investigations by appropriate congressional committees, and is concerned that a fair hearing on the Hill may be impossible due to News Corporation contributions to sitting legislators.