Saturday 20 January 2018

FBI launches investigation into hacking of 9/11 dead

Alex Spillius in Washington and Richard Blackden in New York

The FBI has launched an investigation into allegations that Rupert Murdoch's News Corp tried to hack the mobile phones of September 11 victims, it was disclosed last night.

Several congressmen had demanded an inquiry into the claims, which had provoked a furious response from the families of those who lost their lives.

The launch of an inquiry into alleged phone hacking in the US means the scandal has now moved beyond the UK for the first time into News Corp's most valuable commercial market.

It opens up a potentially hugely damaging new front for Mr Murdoch following days of revelations which have already forced the closure of the 'News of the World', prompted the launch of multiple criminal and judicial inquiries and led to News Corp withdrawing its bid for BSkyB.

It came as Mr Murdoch and his son James last night caved into pressure from British Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and MPs and agreed to give evidence to a Commons select committee next week. They will be joined by Rebekah Brooks, the News International chief executive.

The FBI inquiry follows the intervention of Peter King, a New York congressman, who wrote directly to the bureau demanding an inquiry into the 9/11 claims. Reports had suggested that the 'News of the World' attempted to buy the phone records of victims of the 2001 attacks.

In his letter, Mr King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, had urged the FBI to look into claims that the 'News of the World' tried to illegally access telephone records of 9/11 victims through bribes to US law enforcement officials and also illegal wiretapping.

"The 9/11 families have suffered egregiously, but unfortunately they remain vulnerable against such unjustifiable parasitic strains. We can spare no effort or expense in continuing our support for them,'' Mr King wrote in a letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller.

Jim Riches, a former deputy chief in the New York Fire Department whose 29-year-old fireman son was killed in the 9/11 attacks had also been among those calling for an investigation.

"Someone should look into it to see if their rights were violated -- the family members I've talked to are appalled, they're disgruntled, they have to relive the pain all over again.

"I think they crossed the line. They're trying to get messages from loved ones in the last moments of their lives. It's horrible, and they should be held accountable. It's despicable and unethical."

America is News Corp's largest market and home to Mr Murdoch's Fox cable network. The 80-year old billionaire has lived in New York since 1974, and is a US citizen, something that is required to own TV stations in the country.

News Corp's overall cable television business generates about 60pc of the company's profits. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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