FBI Opens Investigation Into News Corporation Hacking Scandal

The phone hacking scandal that started at one newspaper in London, has now crossed the Atlantic Ocean:

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.

The inquiry was prompted in part by a letter from Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, to Robert S. Mueller III, the F.B.I. director, in which he asked that the bureau immediately open an investigation of News Corporation, citing media reports that journalists working for its subsidiary, The News of the World, tried to obtain the phone records of 9/11 victims through bribery and unauthorized wiretapping, the people said.

The decision to open a case in New York stemmed from the mushrooming hacking scandal that has wracked Britain for days, ever since The News of the World admitted that it had illegally intercepted the voice mail of Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old girl abducted and murdered in 2002. It also follows a decision by the News Corporation chairman, Rupert Murdoch, to withdraw from the biggest media takeover bid in British history.

The investigation was expected to be handled jointly by two F.B.I. squads in the bureau’s New York office, one that investigates cybercrimes and another that focuses on public corruption and white collar crimes, one of the people said. They all spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case.

In all honesty, I’d be surprised if any of News Corporation’s American holdings were involved in the activities that have been uncovered in Britain. What’s happened there strikes me as being something that arose out of the rather unique, and cut-throat, nature of the London tabloid business and the manner in which both of the major political parties used those papers, and were used by them, to promote their own agendas.


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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. legion says:

    In all honesty, I’d be surprised if any of News Corporation’s American holdings were involved in the activities that have been uncovered in Britain.

    I’m not so sure, Doug. I’ve heard Rupert was fairly regularly swapping senior management back & forth across the Atlantic. Assuming these people were aware, even if not actively responsible for it, the question then becomes – is it notably more (or less) difficult to do the same kinds of shenanigans in the US? I honestly don’t know that one…

  2. Liberty60 says:

    I am thinking of David Frum’s observation that while the GOP thought Fox worked for them, it turned out that it was the other way round.

    Given the power Murdoch and Ailes hold over the Republican Party, why wouldn’t they operate with a sense of impunity, in an environment where they were free to do anything they pleased, without consequences?

    Power corrupts, and all that.

  3. Gustopher says:

    Clearly, it couldn’t happen here. Breaking British laws, well, that’s just quaint and amusing, but no one would ever dare do the same thing here.