WASHINGTON - Attorney General Eric Holder yesterday called a report of possible phone hacking targeting 9/11 victims and their families disturbing and he assured relatives in a meeting that the department will pursue a preliminary criminal investigation of the matter.
At a news conference after the 75-minute session, the family members and their lawyer said they were pleased that Holder made the commitment for a preliminary inquiry into whether Sept. 11 victims or their families were the focus of phone hacking by journalists at Rupert Murdoch’s now-shuttered News of the World.
The lawyer, Norman Siegel, told reporters that Holder had used the words “very disturbing’’ to describe the possibility that cellphones of 9/11 victims and their relatives might have been hacked. A Justice Department spokeswoman confirmed that account.
Three FBI officials participated in the session along with five Justice Department officials. The FBI’s New York City office participated by video hookup.
Siegel said he and the families recommended that the Justice Department get the cellphone numbers of 9/11 victims and family members, then have the phone company search their records to find out whether someone engaged in hacking.
The families also recommended that the scope of the investigation be expanded to computers.
The suggestion that Sept. 11 victim families in the United States might have been subject to phone hacking rests on a thinly sourced news story in the Daily Mirror, a London tabloid rival to Murdoch’s The Sun.
The US-based parent company for Murdoch’s