Family members of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks said ahead of a planned meeting with top Justice Department officials that they plan to press the Obama administration to widen its inquiry into allegations that the family members' phones were hacked by employees of News Corp.
Norman Siegel, the New York-based attorney who represents at least 17 Sept. 11 family members, told reporters in Manhattan on Wednesday morning that in this afternoon's closed-door session in Washington, the families will ask Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate whether News Corp. employees might have hacked into the family members’ computers, as well.
To assist the ongoing probe, Siegel said the family members will provide old cell phone numbers used by their loved ones, as well as other data, to the Justice Department. In turn, Siegel said he expects government lawyers to contact cell phone carriers like Verizon and AT&T to seek evidence of potential hacking.
News Corp. is the parent company of Fox News Channel and FoxNews.com.
Siegel and the family members acknowledged there is presently no evidence that anyone hacked into the phones or computers of anyone connected to Sept. 11.
"It's merely an allegation at this point," Siegel told Fox News. "We hope it’s not true."”
But the attorney made clear that suspicions persist.
"There's one family member who is concerned" about the publication of "certain personal information about their son that potentially only could have been ascertained through some hacking," Siegel said.
Jim Riches, a New York Fire Department deputy chief whose firefighter son, Jimmy, was killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center, did not identify himself as the individual Siegel was referring to. But Riches, standing alongside Siegel, told reporters: "I received many phone calls after 9/11 concerning body parts and my son. ... These are things that people don't realize that 9/11 families had to go through. And I would hate to know that people were listening in on these personal phone calls."
Holder agreed earlier this month to meet with the Sept. 11 family members after allegations surfaced in the British press suggesting that News Corp. employees violated the privacy of Sept. 11 victims and/or their family members. The allegations formed only the latest twist in a burgeoning scandal that has already seen the closure of the 168-year-old News of the World, the resignations and arrests of multiple News Corp. executives, editors and reporters, and the death of a key whistleblower, in which authorities ruled out foul play.
The affair has also damaged the reputation of Scotland Yard, amid allegations that British police officers routinely accepted bribes from News of the World personnel to facilitate the hacking of phones belonging to celebrities, murder victims, and others. News Corp. founder and chairman Rupert Murdoch and his son James, a top News Corp. executive, have both appeared before official inquests conducted by the British Parliament, where they denied personal knowledge of the wrongdoing but pledged to redress it.