2 Dem. sens. seek further News Corp. probe

WASHINGTON, May 3 (UPI) -- Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. may need to be probed for possible phone hacking and other illegal activities in the United States, two Democratic senators said.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Homeland Security subcommittee Chairman Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., said they were increasingly concerned about News Corp.'s U.S. conduct and conduct affecting Americans after a British parliamentary committee issued a scathing report of corporate malfeasance, police bribery and official misrepresentation throughout News Corp.'s British newspaper chain stemming from phone hacking at its now-closed News of the World tabloid.


The House of Commons' Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee report said Murdoch, News Corp.'s chairman and chief executive officer, "turned a blind eye and exhibited willful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications" when faced with hacking and other revelations.


It said a "don't ask, don't tell" culture "permeated from the top throughout the organization and speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corp. and News International," its British newspaper subsidiary.

"The whole affair demonstrates huge failings of corporate governance at the [British] company and its parent, News Corp.," the report said.

News Corp's directors gave Murdoch, 81, their unanimous backing in a conference call Wednesday.

The company, the world's second-largest media group, includes The Wall Street Journal, New York Post, Fox News Channel, 27 Fox TV stations and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. among its U.S. holdings.

Rockefeller sent a five-page letter Wednesday to British appeals court Judge Brian Leveson, who is leading Britain's inquiry into News Corp. and the British press' overall conduct, asking "whether any of the evidence" Leveson found "suggests that these unethical and sometimes illegal [News Corp.] business practices occurred in the United States or involved U.S. citizens."

"I would like to know if you find evidence suggesting that News International employees or their agents intercepted messages created by U.S. citizens, or messages that originated in the United States," the letter said.

"I would also like to know if you find any evidence that News Corp. officials were aware that News International employees were intercepting telephone messages and making large cash payments to police officers and other public officials in the United Kingdom," it continued.


"More generally, I would like to know whether News International or any other News Corp. business used hacking, bribing or other similar tactics when operating in the United States," it said.

Leveson's office had no immediate comment on the letter.

Rockefeller first raised concerns about phone hacking last July, calling for investigations "to ensure that" U.S. victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and other Americans were not victims of News Corp. phone hackings.

The FBI followed Rockefeller's call by opening a probe into News Corp.

Rockefeller's letter said public U.S. companies such as News Corp. are "prohibited by U.S. law from paying bribes to officials of foreign governments."

Lautenberg, who called last summer for investigations into possible breaches of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, said allegations in Tuesday's parliamentary report made it "critical" that U.S. authorities ensured U.S. laws had not been broken.

News Corp. had no immediate comment.

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