In the first allegations of News Corporation phone hacking involving a U.S. telecommunications carrier, British actor Jude Law has claimed now-defunct News of the World illegally accessed voicemail messages he was exchanging with his personal assistant while they both were at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport in 2003.
Law's allegations, reported in the British media, were significant as they were the first involving voice communications originating in and being carried on American cellular and long distance telephone networks. If true, there may have been violations of American wire-tapping and privacy laws.
"If phones or messages were hacked while these individuals were here in the U.S., this would clearly be a criminal offense under the federal wiretap acts," said Los Angeles attorney Brian Kabateck, who has represented clients in U.S. wiretapping cases.
U.S. telephone companies are public utilities licensed by the Federal Communications Commission, just as American television companies are public utilities licensed by the FCC.
Under U.S. law, anyone convicted of a criminal offense may not be issued an FCC broadcast license. News Corp owns Fox News, and a number of other American media outlets.
Law's claims are separate from his ongoing tussle with News Corp's British tabloid The Sun, which Law also alleges hacked his voicemails. In additional, Law is suing the News of the World, and was among several persons selected by a British judge to move forward with lead cases this coming January to establish guidelines for damages and to determine whether company executives had been involved in the hacking.
Law alleges News of the World published information obtained by hacking his cellular telephone voicemail box while he was in the baggage claim area of New York's JFK airport. He was in New York for a brief stay en route to Canada for filming I Heart Huckabees.
A News of the World story published Sept. 7, 2003 described how Law sent his personal assistant, Ben Jackson, ahead to see whether reporters and photographers were waiting for him in the terminal, and reported Law "refused to leave the baggage reclaim hall until Ben had spent 20 minutes scouring the arrivals lounge."
The story also detailed Law's stay at New York's Carlyle Hotel, including Law's room number and room service tab.
The widening scandals involving Rupert Murdoch's News Corp subsidiary News of the World has already led to nine arrests and to the resignations of Dow Jones CEO and Wall Street Journal editor Les Hinton and News Corp newspaper honcho Rebekah Brooks. As many as 4,000 people may have had their voicemails hacked, including 13-year-old murder victim Milly Dowler, whose hacking has provoked widespread revulsion and outrage.
Other victims include former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose son's medical records had been revealed, and the British Royal Family. News of the World has been alleged to have bribed police officials for information.
In the U.S., a half-dozen lawmakers, including Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Rep. Peter King (R-NY), have called on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller to open investigations into allegations News of the World hacked the phone records of 9/11 terrorist attacks victims, and possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act anti-bribery law.