Wednesday, July 13 2011 - In the Media
Tabloid Phone Hackers Target 9/11 Victims
July 11, 2011
A New York police officer has claimed besieged British tabloid the News of the World attempted to hack into the voicemails of victims of the 9/11 terror attacks, as Rupert Murdoch arrived in London for emergency talks aimed at diffusing the international crisis surrounding his media empire.
Rival red-top newspaper the Mirror reported the officer was contacted by News of the World journalists who said they would pay him to retrieve the private phone records of the dead.
Now working as a private investigator, the ex-officer claimed reporters wanted the victims' phone numbers and details of the calls they had made and received in the days leading up to the atrocity.
The voicemails would likely include harrowing messages from desperate loved ones trying to make contact with their relatives caught up in the 2001 terror strikes on the World Trade Center, in which thousands perished.
A source told the newspaper: "This investigator is used by a lot of journalists in America and he recently told me that he was asked to hack into the 9/11 victims' private phone data. He said that the journalists asked him to access records showing the calls that had been made to and from the mobile phones belonging to the victims and their relatives.
"His presumption was that they wanted the information so they could hack into the relevant voicemails, just like it has been shown they have done in the UK. The PI said he had to turn the job down. He knew how insensitive such research would be, and how bad it would look.
"The investigator said the journalists seemed particularly interested in getting the phone records belonging to the British victims of the attacks."
Mr Murdoch made a mercy dash to London on the weekend as his News Corporation company shares took a dive and his takeover plans for Britain's digital broadcasting network, BSkyB, appeared in tatters.
His entire media empire has been tainted by revelations News of the World reporters allegedly hacked mobile phone accounts of murdered teenager Milly Dowler, families of dead British soldiers, politicians and celebrities.
Nine reporters allegedly at the centre of the phone scandal and claims of police corruption could face jail, along with three officers.
After spending time at the East London headquarters of News Corporation's UK arm News International, 80-year-old Mr Murdoch held crisis talks with News International chief executive, and former News of the World editor, Rebekah Brooks -- who denies any knowledge of the Milly phone tapping -- at his home in Mayfair.
The News of the World was shut down on Sunday after 11,000 documents seized from a private investigator revealed the ugly truth behind many of its scoops.
The operation has been described as "hacking on an industrial scale", which could have seen as many as 4000 people targeted.
Meanwhile Opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband urged Mr Murdoch to put his pay TV expansion plans on ice while police investigated claims of illegal practices and corruption at the News of the World.
And he secured high-level Liberal Democrat backing for a pause in the takeover process, heaping pressure on ministers to act if the News Corporation chairman does not.
Mr Miliband said the public would not understand if News Corporation was allowed to go ahead with taking full control of the satellite broadcaster in the present circumstances.
He spoke out amid reports that News International memos from 2007, handed to the police, appeared to acknowledge payments were made to police for information and that the practice of phone hacking was more widespread than previously thought.
Mr Murdoch clutched a copy of the final edition of the axed News of the World as he was whisked into News International's headquarters.
He and Mrs Brooks -- who is under pressure to quit -- then met for around an hour at his Mayfair residence before walking to a nearby hotel for a meal, where they were joined by Mr Murdoch's son James, the chairman of News International.
The News of the World marked its final edition with a "Thank You & Goodbye" headline and an apology for having "lost our way".
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