Government wins temporary freeze of military detention order

NEW YORK Tue Sep 18, 2012 11:42am EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The government won an emergency suspension of a ruling that blocked the indefinite military detention of terrorism suspects after arguing it would hurt America's ability to fight wars overseas.

An appeals court order late on Monday granted a temporary stay sought by the Justice Department after a judge had ruled unconstitutional part of a statute that authorizes indefinite military detention for people deemed to have "substantially supported" al Qaeda, the Taliban or "associated forces."

The government had asked the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York on Monday to freeze the ruling by U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest.

The Justice Department, which represents U.S. President Barack Obama, argued the judge's September 12 injunction barring enforcement of a portion of the National Defense Authorization Act's "Homeland Battlefield" provisions would harm U.S. war efforts abroad.

The case stems from a lawsuit filed in January by former New York Times war correspondent and Pulitzer Prize-winner Chris Hedges and others. They said they had no assurance that their writing and advocacy activities would not fall under the scope of the provisions.

The United States argues that the plaintiffs had no basis to fear being locked up for their activities, and that the judge's order interfered with the president's powers at a time of war.

Monday night's order by Circuit Judge Raymond Lohier said the district court's order is stayed until an appeals panel considers the issue.

Carl Mayer, a lawyer for Hedges, said Tuesday that the order was procedural and "we are confident the district court opinion will be vindicated."

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan declined to comment.

The cases are Hedges et v. Obama, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 12-cv-331 and Hedges et v. Obama, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 12-3176.

(Reporting By Grant McCool and Basil Katz; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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