Judge: NYPD Surveilling Muslims in New Jersey Did Not Violate Civil Rights

A judge in Newark, New Jersey, dismissed a lawsuit against the New York City Police Department for having spied on Muslim Americans at mosques, restaurants, and schools. The judge found that spying on individuals for their Muslim faith was a logical step to take in uncovering terrorist plots by Islamic extremists.

“The police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself," wrote U.S. District Judge William Martini in his opinion dismissing the lawsuit. The lawsuit, a result of a series of Associated Press articles uncovering the detailed surveillance of Muslim communities in the United States, alleged that the monitoring of groups based on their religious affiliation violated the civil rights of those being monitored. Judge Martini dismissed the idea that discrimination fueled the surveillance, instead suggesting that "the more likely explanation for the surveillance was to locate budding terrorist conspiracies."

The facts of the lawsuit, brought in 2012, were not disputed: the NYPD did, in fact, launch surveillance programs aimed at American Muslims. The programs also involved incorporating undercover NYPD agents into Muslim communities to follow their activities and look for any indication of Muslim extremism. Judge Martini blamed the AP for much of the outrage, as its reports were based on classified documents from the NYPD. He notes in the decision that "none of the Plaintiffs' injuries arose until after the Associated Press released unredacted, confidential NYPD documents... nowhere in the Complaint do Plaintiffs allege that they suffered harm prior to the unauthorized release of the documents by the Associated Press." The judge concluded that, if any injury against anyone exists, it was toward the NYPD for having their classified programs exposed, and "is not fairly traceable to the city."

The plaintiffs in the case expressed outrage at the dismissal of their case. One plaintiff, a Muslim soldier who served in Iraq, called the ruling a "slap in the face" after having "dedicated my career to serving my country." While the suit at hand has been dismissed, a similar one against the NYPD in Brooklyn is still pending a decision.

Read the full decision by Judge Martini here.


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