The U.S. Justice Department is preparing subpoenas as part of a preliminary investigation into allegations that News of the World journalists hacked into the voicemails of 9/11 victims, a government official told the Wall Street Journal.
The subpoenas, which would “broadly seek relevant information from the company,” have yet to be approved by senior DOJ officials. The department is also looking into claims that News of the World bribed British police officers, which would potentially be a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).
According to News Corp. insiders, the company has been “bracing” for heavy scrutiny from the DOJ and also anticipates that the SEC could launch a FCPA-related investigation, although it’s unknown whether either has actually launched a formal probe yet. But legal experts said that the DOJ and SEC would “have to rely on a broad interpretation of the FCPA” to pursue News Corp. in the U.S.; one source close to the company called the subpoenas “a fishing expedition with no evidence to support it.”
The FBI has already launched its own investigation into the 9/11 hacking issue. A News Corp. spokeswoman commenting on the probe said, “We have not seen any evidence to suggest there was any hacking of 9/11 victim's phones, nor has anybody corroborated what are clearly very serious allegations. The story arose when an unidentified person speculated to the Daily Mirror about whether it happened. That paper printed the anonymous speculation, which has since mushroomed in the broader media with no substantiation.”
She also said that the company hasn’t seen “indication of a connection or similarity between the events, allegations and practices being investigated in the U.K. and News Corp's U.S. properties.”