July 11, 2011
Sydney Morning Herald
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
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
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”.