NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

FBI to investigate possible wrongdoing by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation

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.

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