Judge rules Bush executive order invalid
President Bush lacks the constitutional authority to designate groups and persons as terrorists under a post-September 11 executive order, according to a federal judge in Los Angeles.
U.S. District Judge Audrey B. Collins,inachallengebroughtbythe Washington, D.C.-based Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of theHumanitarianLawProject,said a Sept. 24, 2001, executive order naming 27 groups and persons as “specially designated global terrorists” (SDGTs) allowed no way for those designated to challenge the ruling.
In a 45-page ruling, Judge Collins said the executive order “contains no definable criteria” to constrain the president’s use of it, and, as a result, “is unconstitutionally vague on its face.” She said the order is subject only to Mr. Bush’s “unfettered discretion.”
The judge also said the order “contains no definable criteria for designating individuals and groups as SDGTs,” and improperly gives the secretary of the Treasury the powertoimposepenaltiesfor“mere association” with the groups.
The ruling, made public on Nov. 28, came in a lawsuit in which the HumanitarianLawProject,through the Center for Constitutional Rights, sought to support the nonviolent work of two groups designated as terrorist: The Kurdistan Workers Party, the main Kurdish political party in Turkey, and the Liberation TigersofTamilEelam,arebelgroup fightingforaseparatehomelandfor Tamils in Sri Lanka.
“This law gave the president unfetteredauthoritytocreateblacklists, an authority President Bush then usedtoempowerthesecretaryofthe Treasury to impose guilt by association,” said David Cole, a Center for ConstitutionalRightsboardmember.
“The court’s decision confirms that even in fighting terror, unchecked executive authority and tramplingonfundamentalfreedoms is not a permissible option,” he said.
The Justice Department said the agency thought Judge Collins had erred in her decision.
Days after the September 11 attacks, Mr. Bush invoked his authority under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and issued Executive Order 13224, declaring that the “grave acts of terrorism” and the “continuing and immediate threat of future attacks” on the United States constituted a national emergency.
He blocked all property and interests in property of 27 groups and persons, each of whom were identifiedasterrorists.Healsoauthorized the secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the secretary of state and the attorney general, to designateadditionalterroristgroups and persons under the order.