Request for files on Diana rejected

Father of boyfriend killed in Paris crash sought NSA documents

February 06, 1999|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

A federal judge in Baltimore has rejected a request by the father of Princess Diana's boyfriend for classified National Security Agency documents he believes could shed light on the fatal car crash that killed the couple.

In a six-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Frederic N. Smalkin said it would be "extremely ill-advised" to grant the request of billionaire businessman Mohamed Al Fayed, who might have wanted to present the documents in an inquiry by a French magistrate into the 1997 crash in Paris that killed his son Dodi Al Fayed, Princess Diana and the couple's driver, Henri Paul.

Smalkin noted that the request did not come directly from the French tribunal but said that even if it had he would have been "extremely hesitant" to order the agency to produce classified documents or to send a representative to testify in the inquiry, which Fayed also requested.

Terrence O'Donnell, Fayed's Washington attorney, said yesterday that he wanted to study Smalkin's opinion before deciding whether to appeal.

"We have a grieving father who wants to know everything he can surrounding the accident in Paris," said O'Donnell, a member of the firm Williams & Connolly.

O'Donnell said he did not know what might be in the files, or whether they might be useful to the inquiry. But he said the request for a subpoena was "an effort by Mr. Al Fayed to assist the French investigation in any way that he can."

Fayed's application for the court-ordered subpoena, filed Wednesday, was prompted by the disclosure last December that the highly secretive spy agency at Fort Meade had 1,056 pages of classified information about Diana.

The disclosure, which prompted banner headlines in London's tabloids, came in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by a New York-based Internet news service, which was seeking classified material on Diana.

In turning down the request by apb.online, the spy agency said it had "39 NSA-originated and NSA-controlled documents," according to a letter in the court file. The documents were classified top secret because their disclosure could "cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security," the letter said.

The subpoena request also sought information on a former CIA operative and a Czech spy -- what Smalkin called an "assortment of figures of international intrigue" -- who were allegedly involved in a scheme to sell falsified CIA documents to Fayed.

Pub Date: 2/06/99

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