Good news: The Federal Bureau of Investigation is reportedly launching an investigation into possible wrongdoing by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, only hours after Republican Representative Peter King followed several senior Democratic senators in asking the Department of Justice to look into the matter.
In response to requests from members of Congress and at least one news media report, the Federal Bureau of Investigation in New York on Thursday opened a preliminary inquiry into allegations that News Corporation journalists sought to gain access to the phone records of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, people briefed on the matter said.
The investigation is in its earliest stages, one of the people said, and its scope was not yet clear. It also was unclear whether the F.B.I. had identified possible targets of the investigation or possible specific criminal violations.
Meanwhile, over in the United Kingdom, police have arrested another former News of the World editor, Neil Wallis, who was actually hired by Scotland Yard following his tenure at the paper to be a consultant. (Wallis is the ninth person to have been arrested as a result of the scandal.) London’s Metropolitan Police are now in the uncomfortable position of having to investigate themselves due to their inability to run a clean force. The police’s handing of the phone hacking scandal is also to be probed by an official inquiry led by a respected judge, Lord Justice Leveson.
Also, in an abrupt about-face, Rupert and James Murdoch have written to Parliament (PDF) to confirm that they will obey a summons to testify before the Culture, Media, and Sport Select Committee, chaired by John Whittingdale, who has served as an MP since 1992. Their decision sets up what will be an extremely intense and closely watched hearing next Tuesday.
Their deputy, Rebekah Brooks, had already agreed to testify.
Each passing day seems to bring a new defeat of sorts for Murdoch and his media empire. They were forced to shut down the News of the World, they were compelled to delay and then drop their bid of BSkyB, and now, they’re agreeing to be grilled by MPs after initially refusing to appear. Not to mention being continually embarrassed by fresh revelations about the unethical and criminal activities that were taking place in the offices of their publications.
It is indeed appropriate that there is now an investigation on this side of the Atlantic. We need to know: Were the sorts of activities that were going on in the United Kingdom mimicked by News Corporation’s U.S. operations? Did Murdoch’s outlets try to hack into the voicemail boxes of September 11th victims? Have people working for Murdoch been trying to get celebrity dirt by illegally obtaining messages that should be the private property of actors and other public figures?
We know that the hacking in the United Kingdom was not perpetrated by just a couple of guys, as Murdoch and his executives initially claimed. Since we can’t trust them or take them at their word, we need an investigation. We need to know if the modus operandi of the News of the World became the M.O. or even just part of the M.O. at any of Murdoch’s American outlets.
And, of course, U.S. authorities should be looking into whether bribes paid to police officers in the United Kingdom by News Corporation subsidiaries violated our Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).
It is time for Rupert Murdoch and his minions to be held accountable for the corruption and destruction they’ve caused.