The Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigations will be releasing the name of a previously redacted Saudi official who helped the terrorist hijackers prepare for the 9/11 attacks.
After months of urging by the families of 9/11 victims and repeated delays, the FBI said it would provide the name, but no additional information, and the name will only be provided to the families — not the public — under a protective order, NBC News reported Thursday.
The FBI said the decision was made due to the “exceptional nature of the case.”
A federal court gave Attorney General William Barr, who was coordinating with the FBI, a deadline of Sept. 12 to decide whether the name would be released, or refused via state secrets privilege rule.
Barr previously was given a deadline of Sept. 6 to make the decision, but asked for a six-day extension, citing communication coordination with the FBI.
“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,” said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, according to The Wall Street Journal.
“The Attorney General has decided not to assert the State Secrets privilege over that name,” the FBI said.
The Department of Justice had refused to allow the release of FBI transcripts that include redactions in order to protect a Saudi government official, while citing national security concerns.
The families’ legal team subpoenaed the FBI last year for an unredacted copy of the four-page 2012 summary of an FBI probe into three people suspected of assisting the hijackers.
The probe had revealed two of the individuals — Omar al-Bayoumi, an alleged Saudi spy who was in the U.S. and contacting the hijackers, as well as Fahadal-Thumairy, former Los Angeles consular official and Imam at the mosque the hijackers attended.
However, the name of the third individual, suspected of being an authority figure over the two named individuals and perhaps a senior Saudi official himself, was redacted.
The refusal was criticized and left families wondering why the U.S. is protecting a Saudi figure and their involvement in the 9/11 attacks, especially after 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals.
The families have been suing the Saudi government since 2003, alleging that Saudi government officials supported the 9/11 hijackers, as well as contributed funding to Al Qaeda. The Saudi government has always denied involvement in the terror attacks.
Last year, a federal judge denied the Saudi government’s motion to throw out the lawsuit. Because of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act – passed by Congress in 2016 – the families were able to continue their legal fight against the Saudi government after the rejection.