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Court Gives NYPD Green Light to Conduct Religious Surveillance

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Federal Trial Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Challenging NYPD’s Spying on Muslim Americans

press@ccrjustice.org

February 20, 2014, Newark and New York – Today, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging the New York City Police Department’s broad surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey. In a summary 10-page opinion, and without oral argument, the case was dismissed for lack of standing and because the court considered plaintiffs’ claims of discrimination from NYPD’s Muslim surveillance program not “plausible.”  Muslim Advocates and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) case, Hassan v. City of New York, was brought on behalf of a broad group of American Muslims from a variety of backgrounds – including a decorated Iraq war veteran and the former principal of a grade school for Muslim girls – who have been subjected to invasive NYPD spying. The City had argued that the events of 9/11 justified broad surveillance of any and all New Jersey Muslims, without any indication of wrongdoing. Hassan is the first direct legal challenge to the NYPD’s surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey.

“In addition to willfully ignoring the harm that our innocent clients suffered from the NYPD’s illegal spying program, by upholding the NYPD’s blunderbuss Muslim surveillance practices, the court’s decision gives legal sanction to the targeted discrimination of Muslims anywhere and everywhere in this country, without limitation, for no other reason than their religion,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Legal Director Baher Azmy. “The ruling is a modern day version of the discredited Korematsu decision allowing the wholesale internment of Japanese Americans based solely on their ancestry. It is a troubling and dangerous decision.”
 
Since 2002, the NYPD has spied on at least 20 mosques, 14 restaurants, 11 retail stores, two grade schools, and two Muslim Student Associations in New Jersey. This monitoring has included video surveillance, photographing, community mapping, and infiltration. Moreover, internal documents, including a list of 28 “ancestries of interest,” reveal that the NYPD used racial and ethnic backgrounds as proxies to identify and target adherents to the Muslim faith. After more than a decade in operation, the surveillance program has produced not a single lead on terrorist activity.
 
“The fight is not over by any means. The surveillance program violates the Constitution, and we are confident that this decision will not hold up to review upon appeal,” said Glenn Katon, legal director of Muslim Advocates. “The NYPD’s blatantly discriminatory program has hurt the lives of many innocent Americans—moms who fear sending their children to school, students who simply want to pray, and Muslim-owned businesses that have lost customers.”

Hassan was initially filed by Muslim Advocates. The Center for Constitutional Rights joined as co-counsel in December, 2012. Ravinder S. Bhalla of Florio, Perrucci, Steinhardt & Fader, LLC serves as local counsel. 
 
The court’s ruling is here.
 
For more information on the case, visit www.muslimadvocates.org/endspying and http://www.ccrjustice.org/hassan.
 
Muslim Advocates is a national legal advocacy and educational organization working on the frontlines of civil rights to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths. Through high impact lawsuits, policy advocacy, and community education, Muslim Advocates serves as a resource to empower communities and ensures that the American Muslim community is heard by the courts and leaders at the highest level of government. Visit Muslim Advocates at www.muslimadvocates.org and follow @muslimadvocates.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.