WASHINGTON - The FBI is just cranking up a preliminary review of whether alleged phone hacking and bribery by Rupert Murdoch’s media empire violated US laws, but any resolution may well have to await the outcome of British investigations.
The FBI’s early fact-gathering could turn into a long saga that tests or reinforces the long-standing cooperation between US and British law enforcement.
Most of the records and witnesses to prove or disprove the allegations are in the hands of British investigators.
The problem for Murdoch is that his entire business, not just his now-closed British tabloid News of the World, faces investigations on two continents.
According to published reports, the company has hired Brendan Sullivan, the high-priced Washington criminal attorney who defended Oliver North in the Iran-Contra scandal, and Mark Mendelsohn, an acknowledged expert on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
News Corp., Sullivan, and Mendelsohn would not confirm the hirings.
For now, US investigators are not only looking at the phone hacking and bribery allegations but also kicking the tires on any other old allegations against Murdoch entities that appear in print or even old court records.
Murdoch’s properties include the Fox television network.