U.S. District Judge William Martini in Newark, New Jersey, threw
out a lawsuit brought by several New Jersey Muslims who claimed the
New York Police Department illegally targeted them for undercover
monitoring solely because of their religion.
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 U.S. Army
reservist, claimed the program impaired their freedom of expression,
caused them to stop attending religious services and threatened
In a 10-page ruling, Martini said the city had persuasively argued
that its surveillance was intended as an anti-terrorism, not an
"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 Muslim terrorists hiding among
ordinary, law-abiding Muslims," Martini wrote.
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 U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in 1944 that the internment of
Japanese-Americans during World War II was constitutional.
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"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.
A spokesman for the city's law department declined to comment.
The New York Civil Liberties Union has filed a similar federal
lawsuit against New York City in Brooklyn, which remains pending.
In addition, a group of civil rights lawyers have filed court papers
in Manhattan federal court claiming the city's surveillance runs
afoul of a longstanding court order governing how police can monitor
certain political organizations.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and police officials
defended the program as vital to anti-terrorism efforts. It is
unclear whether the new mayor, Bill de Blasio, will change the
city's legal approach to the surveillance issue.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; editing by Ken Wills)
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