Obama administration appeals ruling against anti-terror law
NEW YORK: The Barack Obama administration asked a US appeals court Monday to overturn a recent ruling that struck down part of a controversial anti-terrorism law, arguing the judge’s decision could cause “irreparable harm” to US security.
Last week’s ruling by Judge Katherine Forrest blocked a section of the National Defense Authorization Act, signed by the US president at the end of last year, which authorized the detention of US citizens accused of supporting terror groups.
The judge’s decision last Wednesday invalidating the part of the measure came after a group of scholars and lawyers filed a court challenge, arguing that the law’s “Homeland Battlefield” provision could see them locked up indefinitely for speaking their minds.
The measure, signed into law by Obama last New Year’s Eve, allowed the US military to detain anyone accused of supporting the Taliban or Al-Qaeda until “the end of hostilities.”
But lawyers for the US Justice Department argued in their emergency petition before a court in New York that law-abiding plaintiffs had nothing to fear from the law.
“This is a suit brought by a handful of journalists and activists who, based on their stated activities, are in no danger whatsoever of ever being captured and detained by the US military,” the department said in its filing obtained by AFP.
The government added that the ruling ties the president’s hands as “commander-in-chief” of US military forces by weakening his “central legislative authority for the ongoing military operations against Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces.
The suit was brought by activists, including former New York Times journalist Chris Hedges and outspoken academic Noam Chomsky, who said the law was vague and could be used to curtail reporters’ and other civilian citizens’ right to free speech guaranteed under the US Constitution’s First Amendment.
They argued that the Fifth Amendment, guaranteeing Americans’ legal rights, also was threatened.