by Emily Flitter, Reuters
(Reuters) – The U.S. government is considering using a powerful national security law to halt a private lawsuit against a non-profit group, United Against A Nuclear Iran, according to a source familiar with the case.
Greek businessman and ship owner Victor Restis last year sued UANI for defamation after the New York-based group, whose advisors include former intelligence officials from the United States, Europe and Israel, accused him of violating sanctions on Iran by exporting oil from the country.
Earlier this year, U.S. government lawyers declared their interest in the lawsuit, warning that information related to UANI could jeopardize law enforcement activities.
An intervention by the government in a private civil lawsuit is rare, and its use of a privilege under state secrets statutes to clamp down on the case would be a highly unusual move. Other cases where the government has invoked the privilege include lawsuits filed against the National Security Agency in the wake of leaks to journalists by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment on the case.
A spokesman for UANI declined to comment on the potential action by the Justice Department.