NEW YORK — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has temporarily allowed enforcement of a law that permits the indefinite detention of people believed to have supported terrorists, despite a judge’s claim that it could infringe on First Amendment rights.
The court order was issued by Circuit Judge Raymond J. Lohier after the government warned in court papers that the law was necessary in the nation’s battle against terrorism.
Judge Lohier said the order would remain in effect until Sept. 28, when a three-judge panel was scheduled to hear arguments on the government’s effort to block a ruling that struck down the law.
The law says the U.S. government can indefinitely detain anyone who “substantially” or “directly” provides “support” to forces such as al-Qaida or the Taliban.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest ruled that the government already has plenty of authority to detain terrorists and anyone suspected of aiding them without help from the vaguely written law. She urged Congress to make the law more specific so journalists, scholars, political activists and others would not worry that contacting enemies of the United States would put them in jeopardy of indefinite incarceration.
Lawyers for the government wrote that the judge’s actions were unprecedented and exceeded her authority. They also complained that it seemed to be worldwide in effect, “intruding upon military operations in the ongoing armed conflict against al-Qaida, the Taliban and associated forces.”
Plaintiffs’ attorney Carl Mayer said it was “astounding” that Judge Lohier’s order was issued before evidence was presented.
“The government hasn’t put in any evidence. They just keep making these broad assertions,” Mayer said. “It’s all a ‘trust us’ proceeding.”
Jerika Richardson, a spokeswoman for federal prosecutors, said the government had no comment.
In May, Judge Forrest temporarily struck down the law. She heard additional arguments last month before issuing her final ruling.