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News Corp. exec resigns over phone hacking

Rebekah Brooks, who headed the News Corp. unit under fire, steps down less than two weeks after allegations that employees have repeatedly hacked phones of crime victims.

News of the World has been closed and Rebekah Brooks is out.

An embattled News Corp. executive has stepped down following a phone-hacking scandal that has rocked the U.K. media world.

Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News Corp. newspaper unit News International, which also publishes The Times and The Sun, resigned this morning, saying that she no longer wants to be the "focal point of the debate" surrounding News Corp.

"As chief executive of the company, I feel a deep sense of responsibility for the people we have hurt and I want to reiterate how sorry I am for what we now know to have taken place," Brooks said in her resignation letter.

Brooks has become the latest casualty in a scandal surrounding News Corp.'s U.K. tabloid News of the World. Earlier this month, it was reported that a private investigator was accused of hacking the phone of a 13-year-old girl who was abducted in 2002 and killed. At the time of the alleged hacking, Brooks was editor of News of the World.

The U.K.'s Guardian, which first reported the charges earlier this month, said that a private investigator hired by the News of the World allegedly deleted voice mails on the child's phone to make room for more messages. As a result, the girl's family falsely believed she was checking messages.

In subsequent investigations, News of the World was found to have allegedly hacked voice mails of victims of the 2005 London bombings, as well as of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq and families of other child victims. Law enforcement officials are currently investigating a host of related allegations, including reports that News of the World employees tried to bribe police for information on potentially newsworthy stories.

Following public outcry, News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch shuttered News of the World last week.

Related links
• CBS News: Murdoch in crisis
• FBI investigating News Corp. over 9/11 claims
• Kevin Mitnick shows how easy it is to hack a phone
• From BNET: Murdoch dumps loyal lieutenant Brooks. Next step: Redemption!

Earlier this week, the scandal crossed the Atlantic as the U.K.'s Daily Mail reported that News of the World employees allegedly contacted a former New York police officer and private investigator to hack phones of British victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. According to the report, the investigator declined to hack the devices.

Following that report, outcry erupted on Capitol Hill, with lawmakers calling for an investigation into the matter. Just yesterday, the FBI told CNET in a phone interview that it was "looking into" the claims.

Though Brooks hasn't been named as one of the alleged hackers, she has been a lightning rod for controversy surrounding the scandal as she tried to steer News International, which published News of the World, through the troubled waters.

"I have believed that the right and responsible action has been to lead us through the heat of the crisis," Brooks said in her resignation letter today. "However my desire to remain on the bridge has made me a focal point of the debate. This is now detracting attention from all our honest endeavors to fix the problems of the past."

Brooks said that both Rupert Murdoch and his son James Murdoch, who oversees News International, accepted her resignation. At the same time, she took the opportunity to thank the media magnates for their support over the years.

"Rupert's wisdom, kindness and incisive advice has guided me throughout my career and James is an inspirational leader who has shown me great loyalty and friendship," Brooks wrote. "I would like to thank them both for their support."