(Updates with comment from lawyer for 9/11 victims in fourth paragraph.)
July 19 (Bloomberg) -- The Federal Bureau of Investigation contacted the New York City Police Department about an investigation into whether News Corp. employees tried to hack the phones of victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a police spokesman said.
The Daily Mirror, a U.K. newspaper that competes with News Corp. publications, said that an unidentified former New York police officer claimed that News of the World reporters offered to pay to get the phone records of Sept. 11 victims. The former officer, now working as a private investigator, turned down the job, according to the July 15 Daily Mirror article.
Norman Siegel, a New York lawyer representing about 20 families of Sept. 11 victims, said he wrote yesterday to FBI Director Robert Mueller, offering access to victims’ telephone records in order to determine if any were improperly accessed. Siegel also requested a meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder “to ascertain the scope, goals and timetable of the inquiry” and said he hasn’t yet heard back from authorities.
“The story in the Daily Mirror said that the police officer turned down the request and said affirmatively that no hacking took place,” Siegel said in a phone interview today. “We’re not accusing anyone of any wrongdoing, but if illegal hacking occurred in the U.K. we need to know if that happened here. But let’s see what the facts are first.”
Siegel said he’d also written to Representative John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, on behalf of the families.
The NYPD has no information to confirm the Mirror story and isn’t conducting its own investigation, said Paul Browne, a department spokesman. News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch today denied any knowledge of phone hacking and payments to police at News of the World, blaming “people I trusted” during three hours of questioning by British lawmakers.
“We’ll be ready to assist in any way, but we at this point don’t have any information as to whether that account is true,” Browne said in a telephone interview.
The FBI said on July 15 that it had started a probe into possible attempts to hack into Sept. 11 victims’ phones after U.S. Representative Peter King, the Republican chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, asked Mueller to investigate the company.
The phone-hacking scandal escalated on July 4, when the Guardian newspaper reported that the News of the World had intercepted and deleted voice mails of a murdered schoolgirl, Milly Dowler. Two of the U.K.’s most senior policemen have resigned and Prime Minister David Cameron, who employed a former News of the World editor as his director of communications, cut short a trip to Africa to make a statement to Parliament tomorrow.
The scandal led News Corp. to abandon its $12.6 billion (7.8 billion-pound) bid for full control of British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc and close the 168-year-old News of the World.
Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, competes with News Corp. units in providing financial news and information.
--Editors: Stephen Farr, Andrew Dunn
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