Tell Congress: Investigate Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. for Its Ties to the British Phone-Hacking Scandal
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It's becoming increasingly hard to swallow Rupert Murdoch's claims of ignorance about News of the World reporters' phone-hacking habit. As if the story of hacking a dead young woman's voicemail, giving her family false hope about her survival, wasn't enough, it's now been reported that NOTW reporters hacked the phones of British soldiers in Afghanistan, victims of a London bombing, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and possibly even victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks. The work of a few "rogue" reporters, as the paper's leaders claimed? It seems unlikely.
Now that the scandal has made its way across the pond, American activists are urging Congress to investigate News Corporation, the U.S.-based Murdoch media empire that operates the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, and Fox News. As a Change.org petition launched by CREDO puts it:
[I]f any News Corporation outlets were spying on Americans, we deserve to know....
The hacking activities at News of the World were not limited to a few rogue reporters, but reflect systematic orchestration from the highest levels of News Corporation — just as we have seen the lies and misinformation agenda of FOX News get handed down from senior management there....
Spying on victims of the worst terrorist attack in our history — to help sell more newspapers, or for any other reason — is totally unconscionable. And if executives knew about these abuses, or implemented similar abuses at other American outlets, they must be held accountable.
Also pushing for a Congressional investigation is the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, whose executive director, Melanie Sloan, said last week, "It is becoming increasingly clear this scandal was not perpetrated by a few rogue reporters, but was systematically orchestrated at the highest levels of News Corp. If Mr. Murdoch’s employees can be so brazen as to target the British prime minister, then it is not unreasonable to believe they also might hack into the voicemails of American politicians and citizens."
As CREW also points out, it's noteworthy that in 2007 one of NOTW's top executives at the time, Les Hinton, apparently lied before a parliamentary committee by claiming that a single bad-apple reporter was responsible for phone-hacking at the paper. (At the time, the investigation focused primarily on celebrities' phones.) Hinton is one of Murdoch's closest friends and advisers and was subsequently made the head of Dow Jones, which publishes the Wall Street Journal. Hinton resigned from that post on July 15, in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal. Need we ask why?
CREW drafted a letter to several Congress members on July 11:
British Prime Minister David Cameron has ordered an investigation into the hacking scandal, but given the shocking allegations regarding the 9/11 scandal, the number of News Corporation publications involved, and the fact that the company owns many American media outlets as well...it is imperative that the United States begin its own inquiry immediately.
Congress should immediately investigate whether and to what extent News of the World journalists hacked or attempted to hack the voicemails of American terrorist victims, politicians, and celebrities, as well as whether journalists working for any other News Corporation media outlet in the United States engaged in such tactics.
One of the recipients of the letter was Sen. John D. Rockefeller, who has already indicated that he supports an American probe into News Corp., although he has stopped short of saying Congress should be involved. The scandal "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," Rockefeller said in a statement. "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."