Senator asks UK for evidence linking News Corp. scandal to Americans

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) has asked an investigator in the United Kingdom to reveal whether he has found any evidence that links the phone-hacking scandal at News Corp. to U.S. citizens.

Rockefeller sent a letter to Lord Justice Brian Leveson, the House of Lords member leading the investigation of News Corp. in the United Kingdom, and asked whether "any of the evidence you are reviewing … suggests unethical … and sometimes illegal business practices occurred in the United States or involved U.S. citizens."

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In his letter, the Senate Commerce Committee chairman noted that Leveson's inquiry and other investigations "are continuing to expose disturbing new evidence" about News Corp. employee conduct, ranging from illegal tapping of phones to outright bribery.

Rupert Murdoch heads News Corp., which is also the parent company of Fox. Murdoch's former newspaper, News of the World, is under investigation in England for allegedly bugging phones in order to obtain stories. 

Rockefeller said he’s concerned that some of the undisclosed victims identified by the U.K. investigation were U.S. citizens.

"I am concerned about the possibility that some of these undisclosed victims are U.S. citizens," he said, "and the possibility that telephone networks under the jurisdiction of U.S. laws were used to intercept their voice mail messages."

"Equally more disturbing," he said, are allegations that News Corp. journalists paid police and other public officials for information.

He cited testimony from Leveson's inquiry concerning "a culture … of illegal payments" and evidence of "the delivery of regular, frequent, and sometimes significant sums of money to … public officials by journalists."

Rockfeller said he would be "very concerned” if there was evidence that suggested U.S. employees of News Corp. had been aware of illegal payments.

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prohibits U.S. citizens and U.S.-based corporations, which some of News Corporation's subsidiaries are, from paying bribes to foreign officials.

Rockfeller asked for any "evidence suggesting News International employees … intercepted messages created by U.S. citizens, or messages that originated in the United States," or whether any News-owned business "used hacking, bribing, or other similar tactics when operating in the United States."

News Corp. did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The company is also under fire from a Washington watchdog group. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) on Tuesday asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to revoke licenses for the 27 stations the Fox network owns in the United States, citing the hacking scandal

CREW argued that U.S. law states that broadcast airwaves shall only be licensed to people of "good character" and used "in the public interest."