From the Field

New Jersey Muslims back in court today to challenge NYPD spying

Imagine 2050 Staff • Jan 13, 2015

After more than a decade in operation, the NYPD surveillance program has not produced any actual leads to terrorist activity.

Muslim residents in New Jersey will be in court today to challenge a ruling that found New York City police could legally spy on their communities.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit will hear oral arguments about whether individuals targeted and surveilled by the NYPD without suspicion and solely based on their religious affiliation have the right to sue.

“The NYPD’s surveillance program has had a chilling effect on Muslim American communities,” according to the Center for Constitutional Rights. “By suggesting that Muslims pose a special threat to public safety and treating them with suspicion as such, the program has led to the alteration and reduction of religious practices, decreased mosque attendance, and loss of business—not to mention a widespread sense of fear, distrust, and alienation.”

CCR added that, after more than a decade in operation, the surveillance program has not produced any actual leads to criminal activity.

In February 2014, New Jersey Judge William Martini threw out the case, saying the program was not discriminatory in nature.

It’s no surprise that Martini’s decision was lauded by members of the organized Islamophobia movement in the United States. At his blog Jihad Watch, Robert Spencer fell back on his usual bigoted stance and said the suit was a “craven attempt” to end counterterrorism efforts. After Martini’s ruling, Spencer wrote:

“[T]here is no doubt that Islamic supremacists and their allies in the mainstream media will try again, and again, and again, until they get the outcome they want, while free people stand by on the eroding bank of their freedoms and refrain from getting involved in anything ‘controversial.’”

The lawsuit, Hassan v. City of New York, was the first ever case brought on behalf of Muslim Americans who were surveilled under NYPD’s program. It was first filed by Muslim Advocates in 2012, with CCR joining as co-counsel the same year.

The plaintiffs include a decorated Iraq war veteran, current and former Rutgers University students, a coalition of New Jersey mosques and the owners of a grade-school for Muslim girls.

NYPD’s Muslim surveillance program was the subject of a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation by the Associated Press. The journalists, Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, later published a book, based largely on leaked NYPD documents, that details the agency’s attempts to find hidden terrorist cells and how rights were trampled in the process.

Another lawsuit was filed against the NYPD in 2013 by rights groups led by the New York Civil Liberties Union.

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