The FBI has launched an inquiry into allegations that employees of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. tried to illegally hack the phones of September 11 victims.
An FBI spokesman told CNET in a phone conversation today that the agency "is aware of the allegations and we are looking into it."
Until earlier this week, the U.S. had remained out of the scandal in Britain surrounding News Corp. over cell phone hacking. However, the Daily Mail in the U.K. reported on Monday that News Corp.-owned News of the World, a British tabloid, had contacted a private investigator and former New York police officer to try to hack phone data of British victims of the September 11 attacks. The Daily Mail said that the investigator, who was contacted in the wake of the horrific event, refused to do so.
Following those claims, British Prime Minster David Cameron vowed to probe their validity.
Just yesterday, U.S. lawmakers also expressed concern that News Corp. employees might have illegally hacked the phones of September 11 victims. Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) was especially outspoken, saying that such actions would prompt a "severe" response.
"I am concerned that the admitted phone hacking in London by the News Corp. may have extended to 9/11 victims or other Americans," Rockefeller was quoted as saying in The London Evening Standard. "If they did, the consequences will be severe."
The trouble surrounding News Corp. erupted earlier this month when a private investigator working for News of the World was alleged to have hacked the mobile phone of a 13-year-old abducted nine years ago. The Guardian, which first reported on the story, said that News of the World journalists allegedly deleted voice mails on the child's phone to free up room for more messages.
Further investigations into the publication found that over the course of the last several years, employees allegedly hacked voice mails of other families of child victims, soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, and victims of the 2005 London bombings.
Following the outcry over those reports, News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch last week decided to shutter News of World .
Law enforcement officials in the U.K. are also investigating allegations that News Corp. outlets tried to bribe police for information on potentially newsworthy topics.
As of this writing, News Corp.'s shares are down 49 cents to $15.44 following reports of the FBI probe. Over the last five days, the company's shares have dropped 14 percent.