* Request also made of Justice Department, Congressman
* US probes whether News Corp reporters hacked 9/11 phones
By Daniel Trotta
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Relatives of victims of the
Sept. 11 attacks have asked to meet the FBI and the U.S.
Justice Department to discuss the agencies' preliminary inquiry
into reports that News Corp reporters may have tried to hack
the phones of 9/11 victims.
U.S. authorities have acknowledged they are looking into a
report by Britain's Daily Mirror newspaper that reporters with
the rival News of the World offered to pay a New York police
officer for private phone records of some 9/11 victims.
The Mirror's report, citing an unidentified source, has yet
to be independently verified but already has fueled U.S.
emotions over the wider phone hacking scandal that has consumed
Britain and rocked Rupert Murdoch's News Corp media empire.
New York attorney Normal Siegel, who represents Sept. 11
family members in three legal cases, sent letters on Monday
requesting meetings with FBI Director Robert Mueller, U.S.
Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Representative John
Conyers, the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee.
"We commend the FBI for opening a preliminary inquiry into
this serious issue and we are requesting a meeting to ascertain
the scope, goals and timetable of the inquiry," the letter to
A spokesman for the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation
said he could not comment on the inquiry but said the FBI's
Victim Assistance Program had been in regular contact with 9/11
family matters about the probe.
"We will, of course, provide an appropriate response to any
letter from representatives from the 9/11 victims," said Bill
Carter of the FBI's national press office.
Siegel has represented relatives of Sept. 11 victims in a
number of cases, including a successful attempt to force New
York City to release audio tapes of phone calls to emergency
responders during the disaster and a losing bid to recover
traces of human remains from debris buried in a landfill.
"My clients are troubled about the allegation of potential
hacking and they are particularly upset that there now exists
an allegation that a newspaper would seek to illegally obtain
information about their loved ones," Siegel said.
"I tried in the letter not to accuse anyone, especially
News Corp, of anything yet because you don't want a media
frenzy accusing someone if the facts aren't there. We want to
find out what the truth is," he said.
The Daily Mirror report said News of the World journalists
had wanted the phone numbers of the dead as well as details of
the calls they had made and received in the days leading to the
The estates of those killed on Sept. 11 or survivors would
have grounds to sue the newspaper for damages if phones were
illegally hacked, with potentially greater punitive damages
possible if the hacking was found to be intentional and
deliberate, Siegel said.
Even if an unsuccessful attempt was made to illegally
access voice mails the paper could be liable, he said.
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Mark Egan and Cynthia
© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.