(CN) – The Treasury Department acted unconstitutionally when it seized $1 million from a Columbus, Ohio-based charity that it suspected of aiding terrorists, a federal judge ruled. If upheld, U.S. District Judge James Carr’s ruling could pare back former President George W. Bush’s executive order, signed just after the Sept. 11 attacks, which gave the Treasury Department expanded authority to freeze charities’ assets without warrants or court approval.
KindHearts for Charitable Humanitarian Development was “effectively shut down” in 2006 when the Office of Foreign Asset Control, an arm of the Treasury Department, froze its bank accounts after suspecting it of funding the militant Islamic group Hamas, the ruling states.
Three years later, the group still has not been named a “specially designated global terrorist,” according to the ruling.
Carr, of the Cleveland Federal Court, also found that the Treasury Department failed to inform KindHearts of its decision, and that repeated requests for information came only after a “long, unexplained and inexplicable delay.”
Carr called the Treasury Department’s refusal to allow KindHearts access to its own money to hire lawyers and defend itself over the past two years “arbitrary and capricious.”
The Justice Department cited the president’s national security authority in its argument that the Fourth Amendment does not apply to groups suspected of terrorism.
But Judge Carr cited British seizures in colonial America in calling the Fourth Amendment “a bulwark against the abuses and excesses of unchecked government authority.”
He added, “Nothing in our Fourth Amendment jurisprudence or constitutional tradition supports complete elimination of the probable cause, prior judicial review and warrant requirements.”Carr set a hearing in September to determine what happens next