Were 9/11 Victims Hacked by Rupert Murdoch's News of the World, Too?

Despite the last issue of News of the World being published yesterday, the phone hacking scandal haunting Rupert Murdoch's British tabloid -- and his whole News Corp. empire -- is only getting scarier, with new allegations continuing to surface. Over the weekend, another grain-of-salt-required British gossip rag, The Mirror, came out with one of the most startling revelations yet -- at least for the majority of New Yorkers who may have never read an edition of the News. In addition to kidnap and murder victim Milly Dowling, war veterans and victims of the 7/7 British terrorist attacks, the Mirror reports that journalists from News of the World tried to hack into the phones of 9/11 victims. Cue non-media-obsessed Americans paying attention.

Murdoch arrived in London yesterday to address his staff on the occasion of the embattled paper's end, "But he flew straight into another storm as it was claimed 9/11 victims may have had their mobiles tapped by News of the World reporters," reports the Mirror.

Their claims come from an anonymous former New York cop via another anonymous source who says the officer was contacted by News journalists "who said they would pay him to retrieve the private phone records of the dead," presumably to use the same dirty voicemail tricks they pulled with the royals and other innocent people.

The paper, he claims, was looking for calls to and from victims and their families just before the attacks. British victims were especially prized by the snooping News people, supposedly.

But if the News scandal has reminded us of anything, it's that these papers -- the Mirror included -- probably deserve a skeptical eye every day. There's nothing like a thinly sourced, unsubstantiated 9/11-related accusation to grab some attention, so the Mirror report should be considered with that in mind. This specific accusation has not been reported independently by any other source.

That said, if Murdoch incurs the wrath of the American government in addition to the already-angry Brits, this News Corp. madness becomes something else altogether.

[jcoscarelli@villagevoice.com / @joecoscarelli]


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