Jewish World Review Jan 9, 2012/ 14 Teves, 5772
Feds need to find if Brit hackers targeted 9/11 families
By Dan K. Thomasson
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | In the "good old days" of American journalism, reporters were encouraged to get the news anyway they could -- by hook or crook at whatever expense to those about whom they were writing. If things got out of hand now and then, it was just chalked up to being part of the game in the highly competitive, rough and tumble world of early 20th century newspapering.
Ethics in journalism was an oxymoron. Those who overly subscribed to ethical behavior were likely to be out of a job sooner than later in a culture that thrived on "scoop" reporting and myriad editions each more sensational than the other. Yellow became the color of choice for some of our most prominent journals.
But somewhere between 1900 and 1940, newspapers grew up and responsibility and integrity became bywords for a new era, at least in this country. The lofty ideals often stated in a sentence on the front of the evening or morning papers took on a new meaning. Beating the competition was still important but there was a new recognition that the First Amendment assurance of a free press carried with it a responsibility for fair and accurate reporting of the public's affairs.
In Mother England, however, where national tabloids are dependent on street sales, sensationalism was uninterrupted, that is until last summer when revelations of the electronic keyhole peeping in the tabloid world threatened to bring down a hunk of Rupert Murdoch's big News Corporation right on top of his head. The Press Lord's peepers had gone a bit too far even for a populace weaned on prurient reporting.
So far the scandal has been confined to Britain but the question remains whether some 10 years ago following the horrendous Sept. 11. 200l, terrorist attack on America, survivors of the victims might have been subjected to the same sort of telephone hacking that forced the closing of the News of the World and so scandalized Britons.
Some of the 9/11 family members believe that is the case, citing a string of strange incidents involving their telephones and answering systems that are too similar to those experienced by British victims to be coincidental. The Justice Department doesn't seem all that convinced.
Attorney General Eric Holder met with a delegation from the 9/11 families and their lawyer last August, but nothing has been forthcoming so far, leaving most observers doubtful that what is said to be a continuing investigation by the FBI is going to turn up much.
Investigators reportedly believe that any leads would come from the records of Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator implicated in the British hacking. His records are being held by Scotland Yard and presumably have been made available to U.S. investigators.
Whatever the case, Holder has a big time obligation to provide some answers, not to leave the impression that he is sweeping the hacking charges under the rug. Murdoch is an important figure in this country as well as England and neither the Justice Department nor the White House can afford to make it seem they are catering to his power. That's part of what happened in the British affair where several of his top lieutenants, not to mention him, were too wired (no pun intended) to officials and politicians.
This country has been through its share of scandals, but fortunately the press has held to the strictures that it has mainly practiced since the days of phony pictures and embellished stories. There have been exceptions but those instances have been acknowledged by the publishers, print and electronic, and fully vetted for the public. In one instance a Pulitzer Prize was withdrawn from a winner, ironically for a story that might have been accepted by the publisher for whom the awards are named. The gossip columns of old largely have disappeared and newspapers now have strict codes of ethics.
Every society at every time is vulnerable to the kind of abuses the British hackers perpetrated. Most of the British press is as responsible as its American counterparts. It would be a tragedy if those who were blatantly not so in England violated our laws too. Finding out shouldn't be that difficult.
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