By Jordy Yager - 09/12/11 04:50 PM EDT
A group of eight Democrats blasted Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) for not pursuing allegations that News Corp. may have hacked phones belonging to family members of victims killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The Democrats — led by Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) — wrote to Issa on Monday, pressing the committee chairman to investigate the allegations.
“The committee on Oversight and Government Reform has a responsibility to protect the interests of U.S. citizens against the illegal actions of corporations, regardless of their political leanings,” they said.
Issa’s office blasted back, saying that the push by Democrats was an attempt to divert committee resources away from successful investigations such as the chairman’s pursuit of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives’ (ATF) failed gun tracking operation, Fast and Furious.
“It’s disappointing to see our minority continually trying to steer oversight away from failures like Operation Fast and Furious instead of using their resources to find and examine actual evidence,” said Frederick Hill, a spokesman for Issa.
Hill also pointed to the upper chamber, where several senators immediately called for the FBI to investigate the matter after the news broke, but none have called for a congressional probe thus far.
“Given the lack of an investigation on the Democratic controlled Senate side of a matter where a tabloid report is the basis of allegations, this is yet another whiny admission by the minority of their ineffective approach to oversight that is more focused on obstructing current investigations than on using their resources to uncover waste and abuse in government.”
The controversy surrounding News Corp. erupted in July as one of the company’s best-selling British newspapers, the News of the World, was shuttered over allegations that employees bribed U.K. law enforcement officials and illegally hacked phones in pursuit of stories.
The Justice Department immediately launched its own investigation into the company to see whether it violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Attorney General Eric Holder met with families of 9/11 victims late last month to update them on the agency’s progress.
Braley sent two letters to Issa in July asking him to investigate the allegations after the news made headlines. The committee Democrats said it was “unacceptable” that Issa had not responded to their earlier letters.
The Democrats said that while they were mindful of not interfering with the DOJ investigation, the committee should take “preliminary steps to determine how to proceed,” such as arranging a meeting with the families of 9/11 victims and a meeting with DOJ.
Braley said he was “disappointed” in Issa’s lack of response to his calls for an investigation and that “the victim’s families of these horrific attacks deserve to know whether their loved ones were targeted in this offensive and potentially illegal manner.”
-- This story was last updated at 1:44 p.m.