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U.S. Wins Stay of Order Striking Down Military Detention Law

The U.S. government won an appeals court ruling delaying a judge’s decision that struck down a military detention law as unconstitutional.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in New York today granted a Justice Department request to stay a lower court’s Sept. 12 ruling, which invalidated parts of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012. The U.S. argued that the injunction, which blocked the government from enforcing sections of the law, posed a threat to national security.

“On its face, the statute does not affect the existing rights of United States citizens or other individuals arrested in the United States,” the appeals court wrote in a three-page order that said the injunction may be too broad and limit the government’s authority to use military force.

A group including former New York Times reporter Christopher Hedges sued President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in January, claiming the law may subject them to detention for acts protected by the U.S. Constitution, including writing and advocacy.

Portions of the law, which allows for detention by the U.S. military of those providing support to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, were struck down last month by U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in New York.

The government appealed, asking the appeals court to stay the decision until it considers the case.

“The case is very much alive,” Carl Mayer, a lawyer for Hedges, said today in a telephone interview. “We look forward to the next round. We were very happy with the outcome of the first half because we won at trial.”

The case is Hedges v. Obama, 1:12-cv-00331, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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