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Posted at 09:51 AM ET, 08/15/2011

Did News of the World hack 9/11 victims phones? ‘No hard evidence,’ says FBI


News Corp.'s Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch. (Nati Harnik - AP)
The FBI has found “no hard evidence” that the families of 9/11 victims had their phones hacked by the News of the World, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Wall Street Journal is owned by News of the World publisher News Corporation, the company at the center of a widening phone hacking scandal.

British police told the FBI that after examining “voluminous” phone records, no names or telephone numbers of Sept. 11 victims were found. But does that matter?

Investigations began after the Daily Mail published allegations citing unnamed individuals that the paper had hired a New York investigator to hack the phones of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S.

The allegations were among the most serious against News Corp in the hacking scandal.

Even if these allegations of 9/11 phone hacking are not true, other allegations about News Corp.’s bad behavior in the U.S. have not quite been put to rest.

Those allegations come from New Jersey-based supermarket advertising business Floorgraphics (FGI), whose founders allege that after they rebuffed an offer by a News Corp.-owned rival company called News America to buy the FGI, News America’s CEO Paul Carlucci threatened to destroy the company.

Carlucci is now publisher of the New York Post, which is owned by News Corp.

Later, FGI claimed employees at News America hacked into its Web site in 2003 and 2004.

Although FGI urged U.S. officials to investigate the phone hacking, the case was not prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s office in New Jersey, which was then run by Chris Christie. Media Matters points out that Christie, who is the current governor of New Jersey, and Fox News chief Roger Ailes have a “close working relationship.”

Fox News is owned by News Corp.

Instead, the lawsuit was settled in 2009 when News Corp. bought Floorgraphics’ assets and clients for $29.5 million.

FGI’s case is more than five years old, meaning the statute of limitations would likely bar prosecution even if investigators uncovered criminal activity.

But for one thing: U.S. authorities now say they are widening their query to see if they can establish a broader pattern of misconduct.

Should they find a broader pattern, that five-year time frame could be extended and FGI’s case finally investigated.

As David Carr at the New York Times writes: “the damage is likely to continue to mount, perhaps because the underlying pa­thol­ogy is hardly restricted to those who have taken the fall.”

By  |  09:51 AM ET, 08/15/2011

 
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