The New York Times reports:
In response to requests from members of Congress and to at least one news report, the Federal Bureau of Investigation in New York opened a preliminary inquiry on Thursday into allegations that News Corporation journalists sought to gain access to the phone records of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, according to several people briefed on the matter.
The investigation is in its earliest stages, two of the people said, and its scope is not yet clear. It also is unclear whether the F.B.I. has identified possible targets of the investigation or possible specific criminal violations.
The bureau is “taking a hard look at it from a couple of angles,” one of the people said. The person said the matter was being treated as an assessment, a term the bureau uses to characterize the early stages of an investigation that precede the possible issuance of subpoenas or the use of other investigative tools like wiretaps.
The inquiry was prompted in part by a letter from Representative Peter T. King, a Long Island Republican, 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 news reports that journalists working for its subsidiary, The News of the World, had tried to obtain the phone records of 9/11 victims through bribery and unauthorized wiretapping, the people said.
Meanwhile, The Guardian reports:
Rupert Murdoch donated $1m to a pro-business lobby in the US months before the group launched a high-profile campaign to alter the anti-bribery law – the same law that could potentially be brought to bear against News Corporation over the phone-hacking scandal.
News Corporation contributed $1m to the US Chamber of Commerce last summer. In October the chamber put forward a six-point programme for amending the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or FCPA, a law that punishes US-based companies for engaging in the bribery of foreign officials.
Progressive groups in the US have speculated that there is no coincidence in the contemporaneous timing of the Murdoch donation and the launch of the chamber’s FCPA campaign, which they claim is designed to weaken the anti-bribery legislation. “The timing certainly raises questions about who is bankrolling this campaign – if it’s not News Corporation who is it?” said Joshua Dorner of the Centre for American Progress action fund.
Ilyse Hogue of the monitoring group Media Matters said the donation was in tune with Murdoch’s track record. “Time and again we’ve seen News Corporation use their massive power and influence to change laws that don’t suit them. The proximity of this contribution and the chamber’s lobbying campaign at least should raise eyebrows.”