Friday, July 15, 2011

Let the Fox Hunt Begin

Hopefully, it'll be an ever-exponentially-expanding witch hunt and media circus with guys in DOJ and FBI windbreakers carting off truckloads of documents, and with streams of company execs, TV celebs, expert witnesses and assorted hangers-on marching to and fro before umpteen Congressional hearings. Let the games begin. Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, a U.S. company, has been under fire in the United Kingdom, and contagion has brought the circus to America.

Circus it may be, but it is a circus of sad clowns, in part because of what the crazed international media empire that runs Fox News did to a thirteen-year-old girl while she was tragically losing her brief life. Police in England have compiled a list of 12,000 names and numbers that might have been hacked by News Corp.

While Rupert Murdoch was in London busting a desperate public relations move visiting the family of the thirteen-year-old murder victim whose voicemail his minions hacked when she was still a missing person, his chief executives were dropping like flies, and law enforcement agencies on this side of the pond were limbering up for what might be a long slog through a great many News Corporation files.

After weeks of hanging tough, Rebekah Brooks, Murdoch's chief honcho in England, and British Prime Minister David Cameron's pal and neighbor, resigned as chief executive of British newspaper operations for News Corp. Les Hinton, chairman of Dow Jones and publisher of News Corp's Wall Street Journal, figured it was time he, too, packed his office tsotchkes into a cardboard box and took the long elevator ride into history. Hinton had been top dog at News International, the British publishing subsidiary among Murdoch's rabbit warren of News Corp companies, from 1997 to 2005, when The News of the World had been rummaging through people's voicemails.

Murdoch himself, doubtless at the behest of PR giant Edleman, spent the day Friday in Jolly Old having a spot of tea with the family of poor Milly Dowler, the murder victim whose voicemails News Corp hacks hacked. Murdoch hired Edleman to take care of News Corp's spinning in the hacking and bribery scandal.

The list of alleged hacking victims included former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the British Royal Family. News Corp minions allegedly bribed police officers and officials for information. Nine persons have been arrested in the scandal so far, including former Cameron press secretary Andy Coulson.

Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking Friday from Sydney, Australia, where he'd been meeting with foreign justice officials, announced the US Justice Department would be looking into the phone hacking and police bribery scandal.

"There have been serious allegations raised in that regard in Great Britain and there is an ongoing investigation here," Holder said. "There have been members of Congress in the United States who have asked us to investigate the same allegations, and we are progressing in that regard using the appropriate federal law enforcement agencies in the United States."

The Federal Bureau of Investigations Thursday said they'd begun their own preliminary probe of allegations News Corp hacked the voicemails of  9/11 terrorist attack victims. An ex-New York police officer and private investigator told British media that now-defunct News of the World asked him to get phone records of 9/11 victims.

Aside from the phone hacking itself, US lawmakers asked Holder to look into possible News Corp violations of American anti-bribery laws.

"I am writing to express my deep concerns regarding allegations that News Corporation and its subsidiaries bribed foreign law enforcement officials for information to advance their business interests," Sen. Frank Lautenberger (D-NJ) told Holder in a letter dated July 13. "If true, these allegations may be a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977..."

Lautenberger was one of several US lawmakers who'd jumped into the News Corp fray. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) became the first Republican to join Democrats Lautenberger, Commerce Committee chair Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (WV), Sen. Barbara Boxer (CA), Sen. Robert Menendez (NJ), and Rep. Louise Slaughter (NY) in calling for probes into News Corp's doings.

"It is revolting to imagine that members of the media would seek to compromise the integrity of a public official for financial gain in the pursuit of yellow journalism," Homeland Security Committee chair King wrote to FBI Director Robert Mueller. Murdoch throw money at people for gain? Unbelievable!

Murdoch is one of the moneybags bankrolling the Tea Party movement in America.

King is not exactly a shy and retiring wallflower, and he claims his district was home to more than 150 victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He recently held hearings on how patriotic American Muslims might be, so he's not exactly reticent about holding a hearing or two, either. One could only hope that his truly justifiable outrage over the deplorable possible violation of his heroic constituents won't precipitate a crazed media circus tearing into News Corp. Or not.

Murdoch might have to hope his Tea Party juggernaut can prevent the federal government from raising its debt ceiling, forcing a government default and shutdown. News Corp may not survive the ensuing catastrophic cascade failure of the global financial markets, but at least it won't be alone.

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