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Widespread scope of U.K. hacking scandal revealed

LONDON — Britain's phone hacking scandal intensified Wednesday as the scope of tabloid intrusion into private voice mails became clearer: Murder victims. Terror victims. Film stars. Sports figures. Politicians. The royal family's entourage.

Almost no one, it seems, was safe from a tabloid determined to beat its rivals, whatever it takes.

The focal point is the News of the World — now facing a spreading advertising boycott — and the top executives of its parent companies: Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International, and her boss, media potentate Rupert Murdoch.

In his first comment on the matter, Murdoch said Wednesday Brooks would continue to lead his British newspaper operation despite calls for her resignation.

The scandal, which has already touched the office of Prime Minister David Cameron, widened as the Metropolitan Police confirmed they were investigating evidence from News International that the tabloid made illegal payments to police officers in its quest for information.

The list of potential victims grew. Revelations emerged that the phones of relatives of people killed in the July 7, 2005, terrorist attacks on London's transit system, as well as those tied to two more slain schoolgirls, may have been targeted.

Graham Foulkes, whose 22-year-old son, David, died in the 2005 terrorist attacks, was told by police that he was on a list of potential hacking victims.

Foulkes, who plans to mourn his son on today's sixth anniversary of the attack, demanded the resignation of Brooks. She is the former News of the World editor who is now chief executive of News International, the U.K. newspaper division of Murdoch's News Corp. media empire. News Corp. owns a swath of newspapers, including News of the World, the Sun, and the Wall Street Journal.

"She's got to go," Foulkes said. "She cannot say, oops, sorry, we've been caught out. Of course she's responsible for the ethos and practices of her department. Her position is untenable."

Brooks maintains she did not know about the phone hacking. She said she will continue to direct the company.

Foulkes also challenged Murdoch to meet with him to discuss the intrusion into his privacy. "I doubt he's brave enough to face me," he said.

Lawmakers held an emergency debate to call for the prosecution of those responsible for hacking into the phone of Milly Dowler, the 13-year-old murder victim whose case touched off the scandal, and others. The paper is accused of hampering the police investigation by deleting some of Milly's phone messages, which gave her parents and police false hope that she was still alive after she disappeared in 2002.

"We are no longer talking here about politicians and celebrities,'' Cameron said, "we are talking about murder victims, potentially terrorist victims, having their phones hacked into."

Widespread scope of U.K. hacking scandal revealed 07/06/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 6, 2011 10:59pm]
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