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Published: Tuesday, 7/12/2011

2 more papers are accused of data breaches

Victims reportedly include queen, ex-prime minister

ASSOCIATED PRESS

LONDON -- Rupert Murdoch's media empire was besieged Monday by accusations that two more of his British newspapers engaged in privacy violations that included accessing former Prime Minister Gordon Brown's bank account information and stealing the medical records of his seriously ill baby son.

If proved true, the charges by rival papers appear certain to dramatically increase pressure on Mr. Murdoch's News Corp. from a scandal that seems to grow wider and deeper by the hour.

The public outrage began a week ago over wrongdoing at the Murdoch-owned tabloid The News of the World.

It has since disrupted the media titan's plans to take over the highly profitable satellite broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting and slashed billions off the value of his global conglomerate, News Corp., which also owns the Wall Street Journal and Fox Entertainment Group in the United States.

In Britain, the scandal has cast a harsh light on the unparalleled political influence of his collection of newspaper titles, and it is taking an increasing toll on Prime Minister David Cameron. The conservative leader's former communications chief, Andy Coulson, was arrested last week in connection with allegations of payments to police when he was editor of the News of the World.

The public criticism of Mr. Murdoch's British operation, News International, has been fueled by a relentless stream of new allegations of wrongdoing at its properties.

London's Evening Standard newspaper reported that corrupt royal protection officers threatened national security by selling personal details about Queen Elizabeth II -- including phone numbers and tips about her movements and staff -- to journalists working for the News of the World, raising questions over a national security breach.

The scandal spread beyond the now-defunct tabloid as British media began reporting Monday that Mr. Brown was one of thousands whose privacy was breached by News International papers. Reports said that his personal details -- including his bank account and his son's medical records -- had been stolen by people working for the Sun and the Sunday Times. Both are owned by News International. None of the media cited sources.

The Guardian, which set off the scandal last week with a report that the News of the World had hacked the phone of a kidnapped teen, said on its Web site that the Sun had illegally obtained details from the medical records of Mr. Brown's 4-year-old son Fraser, who has cystic fibrosis. The Sun broke the story of Fraser's illness soon after he was born in 2006.

A spokesman for Mr. Brown said Monday the former premier was shocked by the alleged "criminality and unethical means by which personal details have been obtained" about his family.



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