9/11 families headed to meeting with Eric Holder

August 24, 2011 - 9:20 AM

NEW YORK (AP) — Relatives of 9/11 victims were headed to Washington on Wednesday to meet with Attorney General Eric Holder about allegations surrounding Britain's phone hacking scandal.

According to a London tabloid's story based on unnamed sources, a former New York police officer who became a private investigator said he rejected requests by journalists from Rupert Murdoch's News of the World to retrieve private phone records of Sept. 11 victims. The U.S.-based parent company for Murdoch's News Corp. has called the report "anonymous speculation" with "no substantiation."

Norman Siegel, an attorney representing some 9/11 victims' relatives, said the family members want to cooperate with the FBI and the Department of Justice "to determine if such hacking was attempted, and/or occurred."

"We are going to the meeting with the attorney general to listen to what he can tell us about the investigation and to ascertain the scope, the goals and timetable of the inquiry," Siegel said.

Retired New York Deputy Fire Chief Jim Riches was among family members from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut taking a train from Manhattan to Washington on Wednesday to attend the meeting with Holder. Riches said federal investigators "have permission to investigate my cell lines, my family's, whatever they need."

He lost his son, Firefighter Jimmy Riches, 29, in the attacks and also was involved in search and recovery efforts at the World Trade Center site, "picking up body parts."

"We just want some information, whether these allegations are actually true or not true," said Riches. "We feel we deserve to know."

If the allegations are true, the families affected should be notified and those responsible should be held accountable, he said.

"Something like this — a terrible loss, losing a son like that — I don't think anybody has the right to pry into our personal lives, unless they're invited in," said Riches.

Riches noted that about six months after his son's body was found, the family received calls telling them that more remains had been located.

"We wouldn't want something so horrible, for someone else to be listening to that. Nobody should invade that privacy," he said.

Asked if the upcoming 10th anniversary of the terror attacks gave added resonance to the meeting, Riches replied that the "pain is coming back for a lot of the families."

But while the anniversary is refocusing the attention of "the whole nation and the whole world," Riches said, "we live 9/11 every day. My son is never going to walk through the door. There will never be any closure."