UK lawmaker to take phone-hacking campaign to US

AP News
Posted: Oct 19, 2011 1:55 PM
UK lawmaker to take phone-hacking campaign to US

A British lawmaker who led efforts to expose the country's tabloid phone hacking scandal was heading to the United States Wednesday, where he said he would try to raise the issue at the annual general meeting of News Corp., the global media giant at the center of the furor.

Opposition Labour Party legislator Tom Watson told a parliamentary committee that he planned to attend the Friday meeting in Los Angeles after acquiring "a proxy shareholding vote" in the company. Usually, a shareholder unable to attend a meeting can nominate someone to appear in his place.

"I want the institutional investors to be in no doubt about the wrongdoing that is taking place in name of News Corp.," Watson was quoted as telling The Birmingham Mail newspaper as he boarded his flight.

On his Twitter feed, he wrote: "Hollywood here I come."

Revelations that the News of the World, News Corp.'s flagship Sunday tabloid, routinely eavesdropped on the voicemail messages of celebrities, politicians, royalty and even crime victims have appalled Britons and shaken Rupert Murdoch's international media empire.

The scandal has already led to the resignation of two of London's top police officers, ousted executives at News Corp. and seen Prime Minister David Cameron's former communications chief, Andy Coulson _ an ex-tabloid editor _ resign from his post.

Watson was one of a small number of lawmakers who helped force the scandal into the spotlight. His trip to Los Angeles came as a lawyer involved in the case said he believed up to four victims of the scandal may have had their phones hacked while in the U.S.

In a hearing with Parliament's culture committee on Wednesday, lawyer Mark Lewis, who represents such victims, disclosed new details of legal action that he is seeking to bring in the United States. Lewis said he believes there are two cases in which phone hacking could potentially have taken place inside the U.S.

"They are not necessarily Americans, but they were in America at the time they were hacked," he told the committee.

Asked by legislator Louise Mensch how many instances related to hacking that took place on "American soil," Lewis said he was handling "two cases and potentially that includes four people."

The lawyer had previously discussed an intention to begin legal action in the U.S., but has disclosed few details. Lewis has retained U.S. lawyer Norman Siegel, who represents families of many Sept. 11 victims, to take on News Corp.

The company did not immediately return a call seeking comment on Watson's trip or the allegations made by Lewis.