The FBI is evaluating allegations that the phones of any victims of the 9/11 attacks or their families were hacked by reporters to see if the charges warrant investigations. “We’re aware of the allegations and we’re looking into the matter,” says Tim Flanelly, a spokesman for the New York field office of the Bureau.
What are they evaluating, exactly? As I pointed out Wednesday, the allegations about the 9/11 hacking are almost laughably thin: single-sourced second-hand hearsay published by a British tabloid that specializes in colorful soccer stories. None of the more respected news outlets that have repeated the allegation have added to the Mirror’s “reporting” a single supporting fact.
This is either because the facts don’t exist, or because the NewsCorp scandal has actually brought the quality of journalism down to the News Of The World‘s standards rather than up from it. See for example The Guardian‘s correction of its allegation (quoted at length by me here) that the Sun (another NewsCorp tabloid) had obtained the medical records of then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s son.
But back to the FBI investigation. Here is my understanding, from conversations with officials from various parts of the Justice department, of what it going on: None of my sources would speak for attribution since the investigation hasn’t begun yet and the political atmosphere is so charged. The FBI has opened a file and will look into whether or not the allegations warrant an actual investigation. That means finding out if there is anything to substantiate the charges in the Mirror‘s article. That, in turn, means trying to find this supposed former New York cop-turned private investigator who supposedly told a source who supposedly told the Mirror that the News of the World once asked him to get 9/11 victims’ phone records. The FBI can then ask this PI all about what the News Of The World asked him to do, and can then see if they actually did it. The FBI can also contact families of the victims of 9/11 and ask them if they have any reason to believe they may have been hacked.
Justice Department officials know the allegations are thin and feel that no one should jump to conclusions, but given the calls from Republican and Democratic lawmakers and the sensitivity surrounding 9/11 victims, they have to look into the matter.