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ACLU Letter Asks DOJ to Investigate NYPD for Muslim Surveillance

Kalia Abiade • Nov 05, 2013

As reported by Imagine 2050, NYPD spying tactics throughout the New York region have been one of several ways the police department has used racial profiling and, in the process, sewn mistrust between law enforcement and communities of color. In a letter signed by the Center for New Community and more than 125 other faith, civil rights, and community organizations, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)  recently called on the Justice Department to investigate the NYPD for its “discriminatory surveillance of American Muslim communities.”

Knowledge of the program became widespread in 2011 when Associated Press reporters Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman began reporting on it. Since then, the surveillance program has spurred two lawsuits against the City of New York. The first was filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Muslim Advocates in June 2012 on behalf of several New Jersey plaintiffs who were targeted by the NYPD. Another lawsuit was filed earlier this year by rights groups lead by the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Apuzzo and Goldman, who won a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting on this issue, released a book earlier this year with even more details about the NYPD’s attempts to find hidden terrorist cells in the New York area and how rights were trampled in the process.

The spying tactics — coupled with the city’s stop-and-frisk policy — have become a focal point of the city’s heated mayoral race between Republican Joe Lhota, who supports the NYPD program, and frontrunner Bill de Blasio, a Democrat who says he’d end it. No surprise, anti-Muslim activists including Pamela Geller have backed Lhota, largely because of his position on this.

The coalition letter to the DOJ  states, in part: 

This surveillance is based on the false and unconstitutional premise, reflected in the NYPD’s published “radicalization” theory, that Muslim religious belief, practices, and community engagement are grounds for law enforcement scrutiny. That is a premise rooted in ignorance and bias: it is wrong and unfairly stigmatizes Muslims, who are a law-abiding, diverse, and integral part of our nation and New York City. Unsurprisingly, the NYPD’s surveillance program has had far-reaching, deeply negative effects on Muslims’ constitutional rights by chilling speech and religious practice and harming religious goals and missions. It has frayed the social fabric of Muslim communities by breeding anxiety, distrust, and fear. The NYPD’s biased policing practices hurt not only Muslims, but all communities who rightfully expect that law enforcement will serve and protect America’s diverse population equally, without discrimination.

Read more by Faiza Patel, co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice Liberty and National Security Program, about why discriminatory policing is not only unconstitutional, it is counterproductive.

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