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FBI probes alleged News Corp. 9/11 hacking

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FBI probes alleged News Corp. 9/11 hacking

Murdoch employees accused of trying to get attack victims' phone records

  • News Corp.'s New York headquarters.
    Scott Beale-Laughing Squid/FlickrNews Corp.'s New York headquarters.

The FBI is in the initial stages of an investigation of News Corp. over allegations employees hacked into a rival's website and its reporters sought access to phone records of 9/11 victims, Bloomberg reported Friday.

The FBI is pursuing a claim that News Corp. reporters tried to get a former New York police officer who is now a private detective to obtain phone records of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The detective declined.

The investigation is in the "most preliminary stage," a source said. On July 14th, Peter Donald, an FBI spokesman in New York said: "We are aware of the allegations and are looking into it," according to Reuters.

News Corp owns the U.S.-based New York Post and the Wall Street Journal. 

The FBI probe was prompted by calls from congressman Peter King of New York to investigate the hacking claims, first reported by Britain's The Daily Mirror newspaper.

The Mirror, citing an unidentified source, said journalists wanted the phone numbers of the dead as well as details of the calls they made and received in the days leading to the attacks.

Relatives of victims of the 9/11 terror attacks in New York are to meet with U.S. attorney general Eric Holder on Aug. 24 to discuss the allegations, the Guardian reported on July 27.

Norman Siegel, a lawyer who represents 20 9/11 families, said: "We are hoping the allegations of hacking prove to be untrue but we want a thorough investigation to determine what happened," the Guardian reported.

So far no evidence has emerged to corroborate the Mirror's story, but should the allegations gain traction, News Corp could face a mountain of civil litigation from family members. 

Legal experts said that even if there had been an attempt to obtain the records, it would be very difficult to uncover, according to Reuters.

"It would be a very, very involved and elaborate investigation unless they have someone on the inside of the scheme who is providing information," said Roland Riopelle, a partner at Sercarz & Riopelle and a former federal prosecutor. 

News Corp.'s New York Post told employes to retain files related to any attempts to access unauthorized third-party data, or illegal payments to government officials, according to a memorandum posted on The Poynter Institute's Romenesko Web site.

Alleged hacking of website

A lawyer who represented Floorgraphics, a grocery advertising firm, at a 2009 civil trial against News America Marketing In-Store Services said two Manhattan prosecutors and the FBI interviewed him on July 18. The civil suit alleged News America employees hacked into Floorgraphics website in 2003 and 2004, Bloomberg reported.

The lawsuit accused American Marketing, a News Corp. arm, of stealing business by hacking into Floorgraphics secure website 11 times from October 2003 to January 2004. At the trial, a News America lawyer admitted that his client's computers had been used to access Floorgraphic's site. Six days into the trial a settlement was reached whereby the company received $29.5 million and was bought by News America.

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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