Attorney General Eric Holder met with a small group of 9/11 family members to discuss what he called "very disturbing" phone hacking allegations against Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and its now-defunct newspaper, News of the World.
The U.S. look at the alleged hacking of phones of 9/11 victims and their family members comes just weeks after it was revealed that News of the World journalists engaged in a systemic conspiracy to pay bribes to British police and private investigators to hack into people's phones in Britain.
"It is fair to say we are pleased with the meeting with the attorney general," said Norman Siegel, an attorney who is representing some of the 9/11 families, after the meeting. "The allegations with regard to potential hacking of the 9/11 victims and their families is a very serious and substantial allegation.
"Hopefully the allegations turn out to be not true," Siegel said. "The 9/11 families have had too many tragedies already."
Holder met with the 9/11 families for about 75 minutes on at Justice Department headquarters along with Kevin Perkins, assistant director of the FBI's criminal investigative division and other officials.
The investigation is being run by Justice Department officials and FBI agents in New York and Washington, and assets from FBI headquarters.
"From everything we saw today it appears that the government is taking these allegations very seriously," said Peter Gadiel, whose son James died in New York during the Sept. 11 attacks.
Siegel said that the 9/11 family members who attended the meeting made three recommendations to the FBI and Justice Department officials. They were that the FBI get the 9/11 victims and family members cell phone numbers to see if the numbers were accessed after 9/11, that they expand the focus and scope of the investigation to look not only at cell phones but at computer records and emails, and that they look at news stories to see if personal information could only have come from hacking into phones or emails.
"I was very encouraged today," said Jim Riches, who lost his son, Jimmy, a fireman with New York Ladder Co. 114 and a first responder to the World Trade Center. "Eric Holder said this was disgusting if anybody has done it. Unconscionable. He did not, in any way, want anybody who has done [this] to get away with it.
"He promised us today that there would be full justice if these allegations are true," Riches said.
"This is such a high priority with the Department of Justice that the attorney general himself gets briefed on it every single day," said Charles Wolf, whose wife, Katherine, died at the World Trade Center.
Justice Department officials declined to discuss the scope of the investigation other than to say it was in its preliminary stages, but the Justice Department and the FBI have established a hotline for the 9/11 family members to report any tips or concerns to law enforcement.
The family members said Holder and the FBI officials did not disclose if a grand jury had been convened to review information in the investigation.