Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) called on the chairman of the Energy & Commerce Committee to investigate News Corp. over the widening phone-hacking scandal, joining requests for a Justice and SEC investigation by two prominent Democratic senators and a reported FBI inquiry.
Eshoo's call came during a House hearing Thursday on privacy. "I would like to call on the chairman of the full [House Energy & Commerce] Committee to use its jurisdiction to probe the whole issue of privacy, hacking and this burgeoning scandal at News Corporation. It fits with the subject matter we are here in a joint hearing today for."
She pointed out it was one of the most powerful committees in Congress. "We certainly have the jurisdiction and I thnk it needs to be exercised."
The issue of the hacking of phones in Britain actually came up in the hearing more than once, used by Republican legislators to suggest that if other countries have stricter privacy laws than the U.S., as proponents of stricter laws here assert, how did this alleged hacking happen?
AP was reporting Thursday that the FBI was investigating whether News Corp. had sought to hack into phones of 911 victims.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) had earlier called for investigations by relevant agencies of the hacking scandal--the FBI would certainly be one of those--including allegations of the 911 hacking attempts. "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," he said earlier this week.
Rockefeller, joined by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) has since called for an investigation by Justice and the SEC of whether News Corp., which is encorporated in the U.S., violated the "Foreign Corrupt Practices Act," which prevents payments to influence any act or decision of a foreigh official. Among the allegations are that News Corp. bribed British police officials.
"It is important to ensure that no United States laws were broken and no United States citizens were victimized," Rockefeller and Boxer wrote in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro, which is reprinted below.
"Dear Attorney General Holder and Chairman Schapiro:
We write to request that the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission investigate whether News Corporation, a U.S.-based corporation, has violated United States law-specifically the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 (15 U.S.C. §§78dd-1, et seq.)
As you know, senior officials of News Corporation subsidiaries have recently been arrested on allegations that they bribed members of London's Metropolitan Police to gain access to private information. If these allegations are true, they may constitute a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits corrupt payments intended to influence any act or decision of a foreign official.
There have also been allegations that News Corporation employees may have illegally accessed the phone records of victims of the attacks of September 11, 2001. We urge you to investigate whether any United States citizens had their privacy violated by this alleged hacking.
The reported allegations against News Corporation are very serious, indicate a pattern of illegal activity, and involve thousands of potential victims. It is important to ensure that no United States laws were broken and no United States citizens were victimized."
A News Corp. spokesman declined comment on the calls for investigation as well as the underlying allegations of hacking 911 victims' phones.