US Attorney General Eric Holder has called a report of possible phone hacking of 9/11 victims and their families very disturbing and he assured them that the department will pursue a criminal investigation.
At a news conference, families said they were pleased that the attorney general is probing whether victims were the focus of phone hacking by journalists at Rupert Murdoch's now-closed News Of The World.
The lawyer for the families, Norman Siegel, told reporters that the attorney general had used the words "very disturbing" to describe the possibility that mobile phones of 9/11 victims and their family members might had been hacked.
Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler confirmed that account of the meeting. "The attorney general said this was ... the beginning of a dialogue" with 9/11 families, Mr Siegel said.
He said that he and the families recommended that the Justice Department get the 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 investigation be expanded to computers in addition to mobile phones.
They also called for a review of newspaper, TV and radio stories about 9/11 victims and their families to determine whether personal information in the stories only could have come from someone engaged in hacking.
"From everything we saw today it certainly appears that the government is taking these allegations very seriously," 9/11 family member Peter Gadiel told a news conference.
"I find the idea that somebody would have hacked into my son's cellphone reprehensible. I certainly hope that the individuals responsible are found and prosecuted."
Mr Gadiel's 23-year-old son, James, worked on the 103rd floor of the World Trade Center's North Tower and died in the September 11 attacks.
"I was very encouraged today," said retired New York Deputy Fire Chief Jim Riches, who lost his son, firefighter Jimmy Riches, 29, in the attacks.
Regarding possible phone hacking, "Eric Holder said this was disgusting if anybody has done it; unconscionable, and he did not in any way want anybody who would possibly have done that get away with it," Mr Riches said.
The suggestion that 9/11 victims in the US might have been subject to phone hacking rests on a story in the Daily Mirror, a tabloid rival to Murdoch's Sun.
According to the Daily Mirror's story, a former New York cop who became a private investigator said he rejected requests by journalists from Murdoch's News Of The World to retrieve private phone records of September 11 victims.
Murdoch's News Corps called the report "anonymous speculation" with "no substantiation".