US authorities have launched a probe into possible phone hacking of Sept. 11, 2001, victims by News Corp journalists, victims’ relatives were told on Wednesday, according to a US Department of Justice official.
During a 75-minute “initial” meeting with about 10 people whose relatives died during the terrorist attacks in New York, US Attorney General Eric Holder “broke protocol by acknowledging there is an investigation,” said an attorney for the victims’ families, Norman Siegel.
Holder “listened to their questions, told them the department was taking the allegations seriously, that the allegations were disturbing,” said the Department of Justice official, who confirmed a probe into the affair was running and was in a “preliminary stage.”
The official asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly about an active investigation.
“Hopefully, the allegations turn out to be not true, because if it’s true, it’s only more pain for 9/11 families,” Siegel said.
“If it happens to be true ... the allegation is illegal both criminally and civilly ... [which brings] up to 5 years of prison and punitive damages,” he added.
Siegel said the families are not accusing News Corp of “any wrongdoing,” but he added it is “logical” to ask about what happened in the US after revelations that reporters from the media group hacked into phones in Britain.
Diane Horning, whose son was killed in the attacks, said even an unsuccessful attempt to hack into the phones should be punished.
“The attempt to invade this privacy is reprehensible and will be treated [as such] even if this attempt was not successful,” Horning said.
News Corp has been shaken up by a phone hacking and corruption scandal in Britain that erupted into a full-blown crisis for Rupert Murdoch’s media empire last month and caused the media titan to close Sunday tabloid the News of the World.