Updated 3 p.m. PT:
Five members of the U.S. Congress have asked federal agencies to investigate whether News Corp. broke the law on either U.S. or U.K. soil by hacking cell phones and allegedly bribing public officials.
It all began with Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-West Va.), who told CNN on Tuesday he was considering launching an investigation. He followed up on that Wednesday morning when he and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) sent a letter to the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission calling for an investigation into whether News Corp. violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Rockefeller is Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.
Wednesday afternoon, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, joined the chorus. Menendez and Lautenberg each sent letters to the DOJ and SEC while King sent his letter to Robert Mueller, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
A DOJ spokesperson acknowledged receiving the letters (excluding King's), and said that they would be reviewed. However, that does not guarantee an investigation is forthcoming.
Boxer and Rockefeller initially raised two main allegations — that News Corp. employees bribed members of the Metropolitan Police and that they hacked phones belonging to victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“The reported allegations against News Corporation are very serious, indicate a pattern of illegal activity, and involve thousands of potential victims,” Boxer and Rockefeller wrote. “It is important to ensure that no United States laws were broken and no United States citizens were victimized.”
Of the two main claims — bribery and hacking — it would appear only the former violates the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits American companies and citizens from making payments to foreign officials that could influence their administrative duties.
However, the hacking of 9/11 victims — still unconfirmed — is still a criminal act, and one of particular importance to Menendez, Lautenberg and King. All three represent areas close to New York City, and thus their constituencies include the families of the victims.
"If these allegations are proven true, the conduct would merit felony charges for attempting to violate various Federal statutes related to corruption of public officials and prohibitions against wiretapping," King wrote in his letter. "Any person found guilty of this purported conduct should receive the harshest sanctions available under law." Related Articles: News Corp. Drops BSkyB Bid as Phone Hacking Scandal Consumes Company Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch, Rebekah Brooks Asked to Appear Before Parliament