The U.S. Justice Department is appealing the decision by a U.S. District Judge that former Chicago gang member Jose Padilla can not be held indefinitely as an enemy combatant.
President Bush gave Mr. Padilla that designation in 2002, after he was arrested on his return to the United States from Pakistan where investigators say he received weapons and explosives training from members of al-Qaida.
The government says Mr. Padilla was planning to blow up hotels and apartment buildings and was also considering an attack with a so-called radiological dirty bomb.
Mr. Padilla's attorney successfully argued that as an American citizen, his client has the right to defend himself in court against charges or be released.
The judge ruled that allowing the government to continue to detain Mr. Padilla without charge would not only offend the rule of law, but betray what he called America's commitment to the separation of powers safeguarding democratic values and individual liberties.
The White House says the decision restricts the president's ability to fight terrorism.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan says that in a time of war, the president as commander-in-chief, has to have the authority to act when someone who is associated with an enemy enters the country seeking to do harm to the American people. He says the Justice Department decision to appeal the ruling is about protecting the American people.
The court ruling gives the Bush administration 45 days to charge or release Mr. Padilla, who has spent most of his time in detention in a Navy brig in the state of South Carolina.