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Durbin wants wider hacking probe

Says Congress should launch investigation

- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 17, 2011

The No. 2 Democrat in the Senate on Sunday called for a congressional investigation into the phone-hacking scandal that has rocked Rupert Murdoch's media behemoth News Corp.

Speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press," Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said Congress should join an FBI investigation into whether News Corp. — the parent company of Fox News, the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal — engaged in illegal activity.

"What's going on in England is startling. We need to follow through" with a congressional inquiry, Mr. Durbin said.

His comments came only hours after Rebekah Brooks, Mr. Murdoch's former British CEO, was arrested in London. Ms. Brooks, 43, is being questioned on suspicion of phone hacking and suspicion of corruption, the Associated Press reported. She is the former editor of Mr. Murdoch's News of the World, which published its final edition July 10, just days after it was revealed journalists working for the tabloid hacked into hundreds of voicemail accounts of celebrities, politicians and the victims of crimes.

The FBI investigation was launched to find out if 9/11 victims or their families were also the targets of News Corp. journalists.

There have also been allegations that high-level law enforcement officials received bribes from journalists and other News Corp. employees. London Police Commissioner Paul Stephenson resigned Sunday over those claims, according to the AP.

Last week, Les Hinton, the publisher of the Wall Street Journal and CEO of Dow Jones, also resigned, becoming the first significant casualty of the episode on this side of the Atlantic.

Beyond Mr. Hinton's resignation, Mr. Murdoch's American outlets have not yet been tied directly to the scandal.

"They've not been touched by it, they've told me," said Ohio Gov. John Kasich, referring to Fox News, for which Mr. Kasich, a Republican, worked as a host and commentator before returning to politics.

Mr. Durbin said the congressional investigation, if opened, would focus on whether Mr. Murdoch or other News Corp. employees violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits payments to foreign officials designed to influence their actions.

Republicans appear less interested in an investigation. Also speaking on "Meet the Press," Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, said Congress should simply "let law enforcement work here" and not get involved, instead focusing on more pressing matters like the national debt.

Regardless of whether the scandal touches American companies, Mr. Kasich said it's a "terrible thing" that will "change journalism" throughout the world, not just in the U.K.

The affair has already cost Mr. Murdoch dearly by sinking his bid to take over British Sky Broadcasting. Along with Ms. Brooks and his son, James, Mr. Murdoch is set to answer questions before a parliamentary committee on Tuesday, though Ms. Brooks may be able to avoid answering questions directly related to her arrest and the ongoing police investigation.

As the spotlight grows hotter, Mr. Murdoch is trying to stop the bleeding and restore faith in his company. He ran full-page ads in his U.K. papers on Saturday that began by saying, "We are sorry."

"It may take some time for us to rebuild trust and confidence but we are determined to live up to the expectations of our readers, colleagues and partners," the ad continued.

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