In a ruling that threw into doubt one of the government’s main counterterrorism tools, a federal judge said the Treasury Department acted unconstitutionally three years ago when it froze the assets of an Ohio charity suspected of aiding terrorists.
The ruling challenged a key tactic used by the government under an emergency executive order signed by President George W. Bush two weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks. If upheld, the ruling could severely undercut the government’s authority and ultimately require it to get a warrant and submit to court review in moving against charities.
In the last eight years, the Treasury Department has used its broadened authority to freeze tens of millions of dollars in assets held by eight charities within the United States and hundreds of other groups and individuals outside this country, all without warrants and court approval.
The ruling was issued late Tuesday by James G. Carr, the chief federal judge in northern Ohio. Judge Carr set a hearing in September to determine how to correct what he said were constitutional flaws in the government’s case. [continued…]