WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is wrestling with whether to disclose a name sought by the plaintiffs in a long-running lawsuit that seeks to link the government of Saudi Arabia to the 9/11 attacks.
Attorney General William Barr faced a Friday deadline for deciding whether to release the name or to invoke a rarely used state secrets privilege and refuse to divulge the information. But Justice Department officials decided they needed more time, submitting a request to a federal court in New York for an extension until Sept. 12. A judge granted the request.
“We make this request because the FBI’s response to the motion is being coordinated at the highest levels of the Department of Justice, and additional time is needed to finalize the FBI’s submission and the scope of the privilege assertions,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, said in a letter.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the 9/11 case want the government to disclose the name, which was redacted from a 2012 FBI document describing assistance given by men in southern California to two of the hijackers. The lawyers believe the person may be a Saudi official they suspect tasked two men in California with assisting the hijackers.
The suit, filed in 2003 by injured victims, families of victims and others, alleges Saudi government employees knowingly assisted the hijacking plot.
Terry Strada, national chair of the 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism, welcomed the development.