Watch CBSN Live

NSA To Deny Bugging Diana's Phone

The National Security Agency is working on a statement that will deny eavesdropping on Princess Diana, a U.S. intelligence official tells CBS News national security correspondent David Martin.

An official British report into the crash that killed Princess Diana concluded that a U.S. intelligence agency was bugging Diana's phone without the approval of its British counterpart on the night of her death, according to British newspaper reports.

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was filed with the NSA in 1998, asking for any files the agency had on her, the official tells Martin. The response acknowledged that the NSA had files on her. However, the NSA will say it had files on her not because she was being monitored, but because her name was mentioned by other people in conversations that were being monitored.

British newspaper reports say 39 classified transcripts held by an unspecified U.S. agency contain no new information about how the princess died.

CBS News correspondent Sheila MacVicar says it's long been rumored that Princess Diana's work as an anti-land mine campaigner brought her to the attention of the CIA, and it's been widely reported that British authorities were monitoring her closely.

Crispin Black, a former U.K. government intelligence analyst, told CBS News there are two possible motives for the U.S. government to have interest in monitoring Diana.

Photos: Remembering Diana
Why Would The U.S. Bug A Princess?
The first is a simple request from the British government to keep tabs on a former member of the royal family who was stripped of her official security detail, but who they still felt obligated to keep safe.

"Most likely we asked the Americans, 'Look, while she is traveling in America or while she is traveling in parts of the world where our electronic reach doesn't get to, could you keep an eye on her?' And if that is the case, that's interesting but not sinister," Black said.

On the other hand, he pointed out that the contacts in the world of international arms dealing, which Diana may have made in her campaign against land mines, or her research into a formerly legal weapon used by the Pentagon, could have been impetus for surveillance by U.S. agencies — with or without British consent.

Black said if the United States was, in fact, monitoring Diana's conversations without consent from a sister agency in Britain, it "will cause a bit of a spat, not a huge one, but perhaps discussions behind closed doors in Washington."

He added that the British government's response will be a bit more dramatic if it's discovered the U.S. was spying on Diana on U.K. soil.

It isn't know which U.S. agency carried out the alleged phone tapping in France, but Black said that across the American intelligence apparatus, "more than 1,000 pages" are held on the late princess.

But now, the reports of monitoring may become a diplomatic embarrassment, MacVicar reports. With both the British and the French likely to ask what the U.S. was doing and why, for conspiracists, it's given them one more reason to believe that Diana's death was not an accident.

MacVicar reports that the National Security Agency runs one of the world's largest international intelligence gathering centers in northern England, and its function is to rake in millions of electronic transmissions from cell phones, e-mails and all manner of satellite communications ever day from across the globe.

Ken Wharf, a former bodyguard for Diana, told CBS Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler that the reported phone tapping did not surprise him in this age of high-tech spy agencies.

"It's part of 21st-century technology, and it wasn't life-threatening to Diana. It wasn't the searching of that information that killed her, it was her drunken driver and the incompetence of the security provided by Fayed that was the reason," Wharf said, referring to the millionaire father of Diana's boyfriend, Dodi Fayed.

MacVicar reports that the last call Diana was known to have made was from the private dining room of a London restaurant.

It seems just one more incredible story about the death of the princess. In nine years since she died with her boyfriend, conspiracy theorists have had a field day. The report, by Lord Stevens, a former police commissioner, is designed to get at the truth.

The official French investigation found that Diana and Fayed died after their driver, Henri Paul, drunk at the wheel, lost control of their car.

New DNA evidence proves the driver of Diana's car was drunk on the night of her fatal crash in a Paris underpass in 1997, British Broadcasting Corp. said Saturday.

The tests confirm that original post-mortem blood samples were from Paul and that he had three times the French legal limit of alcohol in his blood, the BBC said, quoting from a documentary it will screen Sunday.

Conspiracy theorists have claimed Paul was not drinking that night, contending the blood samples were swapped with blood from someone else who was drunk.

The BBC said a source with access to the French investigation reported that within the past year, French officials took a DNA profile from Paul's blood samples and matched it with his parents' DNA. It did not identify the source.

The driver, the 36-year-old princess and Fayed, 42, died when their Mercedes crashed inside the Pont d'Alma tunnel Aug. 31, 1997, while being followed by media photographers.

Rumors and conspiracy theories continue to swirl around the death of the former wife of Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, despite a French judge's 1999 ruling that the crash was an accident.

Martyn Gregory, author of "Diana: The Last Days," has written extensively about the deaths.

"One thing about the Internet is that it's an evidence-free environment and what Lord Stevens has done, I believe, is to be led by the evidence and that has informed his decisions," Gregory tells MacVicar.

"It was Henry Paul's blood — yes, he was drunk," says Gregory. "I think that Lord Stevens will find that he was going far too fast and that he wasn't qualified to drive the car. So if you put those three elements together, that's the key reason for the crash."

The evidence then still suggests a tragic accident that could have been avoided.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue