NYPD settles lawsuit after illegally spying on Muslims


5/5/2018


  • Muslim leaders say agreement will prevent future abuses
  • 2012 suit after report revealed NYPD spied on mosques and student groups in New Jersey



Muslim leaders and their lawyers say a settlement of legal claims that the New York City Police Department illegally spied on Muslims empowers them to prevent future abuse.

The deal was announced Thursday by the city and the Islamic community.

Baher Azmy, legal director of Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), told a news conference that the agreement ensures the NYPD will act legally as an increasingly empowered Muslim community asserts its rights.

The agreement resolved a 2012 suit in Newark, New Jersey, after the Associated Press revealed how the NYPD infiltrated Muslim student groups and put informants in mosques to try to prevent terrorist attacks.

The AP reported that the effort crossed into New Jersey, where the department collected intelligence on ordinary people at mosques, restaurants and schools starting in 2002. The surveillance extended across at least 20 mosques, 14 restaurants, 11 shops, two schools and two Muslim student groups in New Jersey alone.

By the NYPD’s own admission the blanket surveillance failed to produce a single intelligence lead.

“There is no reason a police officer should be scribbling notes on little girls attending school, or noting what type of clothes someone wore to a store. This was not lawful policing, it was blatant discrimination against innocent Americans,” said Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates which brought the lawsuit jointly with CCR.

Under the terms of the settlement, the NYPD confirmed that it has dismantled the surveillance unit formerly known as the “demographics unit” that carried out the spying on Muslim communities. The department also agreed that it would not engage in religious-based surveillance in the future in New Jersey, as it had already accepted for New York.

In addition, there will be a new set of guidelines for intelligence gathering, and the NYPD will submit their training procedures for police officers to review by the plaintiffs in the case. The force will pay damages that amount to a total of $47,500 to businesses and mosques that suffered economic harm as a result of the blanket spying, and $25,000 to individuals who were stigmatised.

Azmy said that the settlement had to be seen in the context of the anti-Muslim messages emanating from the White House. He said the lawsuit was concluded in the “age of Trump when full-throated racism and xenophobia is part of White House policy. We hope the decision sends a strong signal that profiling of the sort that consumes this White House is unconstitutional, and there are communities that will mobilise and exert their growing power to challenge those activities and prevail.”

The named plaintiff in the case, Farhaj Hassan, a US army sergeant from Helmetta, New Jersey, said that joining the lawsuit had been an effort “to speak out in defence of the constitution and to resist any activity, even from law enforcement, that would attempt to destroy or curtail the values it stands for. When I found out about the NYPD’s illegal surveillance of my mosque, my community, little girls going to Sunday school, it hit me that officers from the most powerful police force in the country were targetting Muslims in my back yard, my home.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/05/nypd-muslim-surveillance-settlement