US judge whitewashes NYPD spying on Muslims

US judge whitewashes NYPD spying on Muslims
Sat Feb 22, 2014 10:16:03

A US federal judge has claimed in a ruling that New York City's secret police surveillance of mosques, Muslim businesses and a Muslim student group in New Jersey did not violate the US Constitution, which includes articles that guarantees freedom of religion, expression and assembly.

US District Judge William Martini in Newark, New Jersey, threw out a lawsuit brought by several New Jersey Muslims who said the New York Police Department illegally targeted them for undercover monitoring solely because of their religion, Reuters reported on Friday.

The police department's widespread program was first revealed in a series of articles by the Associated Press, which reported that officers had infiltrated Muslim organizations throughout the region following the World Trade Center attacks of September 11, 2001.

The plaintiffs in the case, led by Syed Farhaj Hassan, a US Army reservist, said the program impaired their freedom of expression, caused them to stop attending religious services and threatened their careers.

In a 10-page ruling, Martini boasted that the city had "persuasively argued" that its surveillance was intended as an anti-terrorism, not an anti-Muslim, measure.

"While this surveillance program may have had adverse effects upon the Muslim community after the Associated Press published its articles, the motive for the program was not solely to discriminate against Muslims, but rather to find terrorists hiding among ordinary, law-abiding Muslims," Martini further claimed.

Baher Azmy of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which filed the lawsuit along with a group called Muslim Advocates on behalf of several Muslim individuals and groups, compared Martini's decision to the US Supreme Court's ruling in 1944 that the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II was constitutional.

"The decision gives legal sanctions to broad, undifferentiated racial and religious profiling," he said, calling it a "dangerous" finding. Azmy said the plaintiffs would appeal the decision.

The New York Civil Liberties Union has filed a similar federal lawsuit against New York City in Brooklyn, which remains pending.

In September, New York Assistant Corporation Counsel Peter Farrell claimed the NYPD had legitimate reasons to put mosques and Muslim worshippers under surveillance as part of its counterterrorism efforts.

The California-based Civil Rights Organization for Muslim Advocates sued the NYPD over its counterterrorism programs in 2012 while in another action earlier this year civil rights lawyers urged a judge to stop the NYPD from watching Muslims in restaurants and mosques.


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