The FBI is investigating reports that journalists and their associates working for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. may have tried to hack the phones of victims of the 9/11 attacks.
A growing number of U.S. senators have called for an investigation into Murdoch’s embattled company, which last week shut its News of the World tabloid over the alleged hacking of phones belonging to U.K. politicians, celebrities and even crime victims and their families.
The allegation that phone messages of victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks were targeted by the News of the World was made by a rival British tabloid, the Daily Mirror, citing an unnamed source, the BBC says.
"We are aware of the allegations and are looking into them," an FBI source told CNN. "We'll be looking at anyone acting for or on behalf of News Corp., from the top down to janitors.”
The probe is a "high priority,” the source told CNN.
Murdoch, in an interview with the News Corp.-owned Wall Street Journal, defended his company’s handling of the continuing crisis.
While Murdoch acknowledged "minor mistakes" in News Corp.'s response to the scandal, he said the company had dealt with it "extremely well in every way possible.”
The phone hacking scandal has crossed the Atlantic to the United States, and the FBI’s involvement takes it into the serious territory of a criminal investigation, the BBC says.
News of the World was the most widely read English-language newspaper before it was shut in a shock move by Murdoch.
Peter King, a Republican congressman from New York who is chairman of the House homeland security committee, on Wednesday asked FBI director Robert Mueller to investigate the phone hacking allegations.
"The thought that anyone would have hacked into the phones of either those who were killed, those who were missing, the family members, during that tragic time... is contemptible," he told the BBC on Thursday.