DIANA BUGGED FOR CALLS TO A BIG APPLE TYCOON
By ANDY GELLER
December 12, 2006 -- U.S. intelligence agencies bugged Princess Diana's phone because of her relationship with Big Apple buyout bigwig Ted Forstmann, according to a bombshell report yesterday.
In fact, Di was forced to abandon plans to vacation at the handsome billionaire's Southampton home in the summer of 1997 because - for reasons that weren't immediately clear - the agencies considered the vacation a security risk, London's Evening Standard newspaper said.
As a result, Diana ended up going to Paris with Dodi Fayed, whom she had been dating for several months. The pair died there in a car crash Aug. 31, 1997, while trying to outrun the paparazzi.
The British media had reported that U.S. intelligence agents bugged Diana's phone - without the permission of their British counterparts - up until the night she died.
The Evening Standard says the new details of the bugging are contained in a report, due to be released Thursday, by London's former top cop, Lord John Stevens, who conducted a $3 million investigation into Diana's death.
The princess and Forstmann, head of the Forstmann Little buyout and investment firm, became good friends after meeting at a dinner party in the early '90s.
A source familiar with the situation told The Post that in 1997, Diana called the 66-year-old billionaire and said she was thinking about renting a summer home near his mansion in Southampton.
She asked about activities for her two sons, Princes William and Harry. Forstmann replied that he would set her up with a good broker who could find her a place, the source said. But two weeks later, the source said, Diana called up and said the plan was off.
"They won't let me come. They say it's a security risk," the source quoted the princess as saying.
Diana did not spell out exactly what the problem was, and the source said yesterday, "What about Southampton is a security risk?"
In its report, the Evening Standard said the princess had originally hoped that she and her sons might be able stay at Forstmann's mansion for a week.
But since she was traveling with the princes, the trip had to be cleared by Britain's security services. After the U.S. intelligence agencies passed along to the Brits what they had learned from tapping Diana's phone, the British security services vetoed the princess' plans "because of concerns about the security surrounding the billionaire's home or perhaps a possible threat from elsewhere," the newspaper said.
The Evening Standard also reported that the U.S. spy agencies have a number of secret files on Diana and her closest associates.
The files, which include reports from foreign intelligence agencies - including Britain's MI-5 and MI-6 - come under both the top-secret and secret categories, it said.
The files can't be released because it would cause "exceptionally grave damage to the national security," the paper said.
(get a reporter from the NY Slimes over there now)
The newspaper did not spell out which U.S. intelligence agencies were involved in the bugging. The Secret Service, the CIA and the National Security Agency have denied tapping Diana's phone.
U.S. and British media have speculated that the princess was targeted by the spy agencies because she was an activist who campaigned against such things as the use of land mines.
Forstmann, who also owns the sports talent agency IMG, is a Republican who considered running against Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2000.
Diana's former butler, Paul Burrell, claims the princess wanted to marry Forstmann, believing he would run for - and capture - the presidency and she would ride into White House as the new Jackie Kennedy.
Why Forstmann might be considered a security risk is not clear.
In 2002 - five years after Diana's death - he was sued by the state of Connecticut after one of its investments lost $2 billion. Two years later, the suit ended in a draw. A jury said Forstmann should have exercised more caution but awarded not one penny to the state.
In his report on Diana's death in Paris' Pont d'Alma tunnel, Lord Stevens is expected to say the princess died in an accident caused because their driver, Henri Paul - who had three times the French legal limit of alcohol in his blood - was driving too fast.