By Basil Katz
NEW YORK, Sept 14 The U.S. government on Friday
asked a federal judge to suspend her decision to block part of a
law that permits indefinite military detention, saying it was an
"extraordinary" ruling that would hurt its ability to fight wars
U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest ruled in New York on
Wednesday in favor of non-profit groups and reporters whose work
relates to conflicts in the Middle East. Those groups and
individuals said they feared being detained under a section of
the law, signed by President Barack Obama in December.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan, acting on behalf of the
U.S. government, appealed the judge's permanent injunction on
Thursday. In court papers on Friday, they asked the judge to
immediately freeze her order until it is taken up by the 2nd
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.
The opinion is "unprecedented, and the government has
compelling arguments that it should be reversed," prosecutors
said. They called it an "extraordinary injunction of worldwide
The judge on Friday denied the government's request for an
immediate stay of her injunction and said she would rule on
Wednesday on whether to suspend it from then on.
The permanent injunction prevents the U.S. government from
enforcing a portion of Section 1021 of the National Defense
Authorization Act's "Homeland Battlefield" provisions.
The provision authorizes indefinite military detention for
people deemed to have "substantially supported" al Qaeda, the
Taliban or "associated forces."
The judge's 112-page opinion Wednesday extended a temporary
injunction issued in May. The case stems from a January lawsuit
filed by former New York Times war correspondent and Pulitzer
Prize winner Chris Hedges and others.
The plaintiffs said they had no assurance that their writing
and advocacy activities would not fall under the scope of the
In their court papers on Friday, government lawyers said 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.
Government attorneys argue that the executive branch is
entitled to latitude when it comes to cases of national security
and that the law is neither too broad nor overly vague.
Plaintiffs said the U.S. court filing was the government's
latest attempt to undo the judge's rulings.
"The Obama administration is doubling down in their effort
to chill civil liberties, reporter activities and activists in
the United States by hyper aggressively trying to overturn an
opinion by a federal judge," Carl Mayer, an attorney for the
plaintiffs, said on Friday.
The case is Hedges et al v. Obama et al, U.S. District Court
for the Southern District of New York, No. 12-cv-331.