In a major setback to the White House, a federal judge has ruled that certain provisions of US President George W Bush's post-9/11 order blocking financial assistance to terror outfits were unconstitutional.
District Judge Audrey Collins in Los Angeles ruled that the Bush's executive order of September 23, 2001 were 'impermissively vague' because it allowed the President to unilaterally designate organisations as terrorist groups and prohibiting association with them.
At least five organizations, including Sri Lanka's Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the Kurdistan Workers Party in Turkey and the Humanitarian Law Project had challenged Bush's order, which blocked all the assets of groups or individuals he named as 'specially designated global terrorists' after the 2001 terror attacks.
The judge also struck down the provision in which Bush had authorized the secretary of the treasury to designate anyone who 'assists, sponsors or provides services to' or is 'otherwise associated with' a designated group.
The latest ruling is clearly a setback to the administration, which is fighting its broad terrorism laws that have been challenged in courts. For instance, this August a federal judge in Detroit ruled that the warrantless wiretap programme run by the National Security Agency was unconstitutional.
It is not yet clear if the Justice Department will seek a higher legal recourse about the ruling, but officials have maintained that the court has erred in striking down certain provisions of the executive order.
"It is the first decision to challenge the constitutionality of what is clearly the broadest power to blacklist individuals and groups on the statute books," David Cole, professor of Law at Georgetown University and representing the plaintiffs said.
Bush's order was based on a 1977 amendment to the Trading with the Enemy Act, which gave the president broad power to block transactions when the nation faces an 'unusual and extraordinary threat.'In addition, to designating the 27 groups and individuals, the order gave broad authority to the treasury secretary to add more people or groups who provided services to or were 'otherwise associated with' the original ones.