Posted by on June 27, 2013 in Blog

By Abdulaziz Al-Alami

AAI Summer Legal Fellow

Two significant developments are shifting the public debate and putting pressure on the NYPD surrounding its controversial spying program targeting Arab American and American Muslim communities. Today, the New York City Council voted to pass two bills, one that would create an independent Inspector General to oversee the NYPD, and another that paves the way to allow victims of racial profiling by law enforcement to pursue legal action in state court. The other development includes a lawsuit filed against the NYPD and the City of New York to end unreasonable spying and surveillance of innocent Muslims. The lawsuit names Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, and Deputy Commissioner of intelligence David Cohen as defendants.

The lawsuit, submitted by the ACLU, the New York Civil Liberties Foundation, and the CLEAR project at CUNY law school, claims the NYPD's surveillance against American Muslims violates the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause, the First Amendment's right to the free exercise of religion, and the New York State Constitution. It has been filed on behalf of religious and community leaders, mosques, and a charitable organization.

The suit claims the NYPD’s Intelligence Division has “built a program dedicated to the total suspicionless surveillance of Muslims in the greater New York City area. Officers and informants routinely monitor restaurants, bookstores, and mosques, and create records of innocent conversations. The department also sends paid infiltrators into mosques, student associations, and beyond to take photos, write down license plate numbers, and keep notes on people for no reason other than because they are Muslim.” Despite all this activity,  “an NYPD official admitted that the mapping activities have not generated a single lead or resulted in even one terrorism investigation.”

Arab Americans were regularly targeted by the NYPD as evidenced by the “Locations of Interest Reports” released by the Associated Press.

One victim of the NYPD’s activities is Asad Dandia, who was befriended by a man claiming to want to learn more about Islam and contribute to the community, only to be revealed later as an NYPD informant. A charity leader, Dandia worked for Muslims Giving Back, an organization that “helped the homeless, donated money to families in times of need, and fundraised to support these and other charitable activities.” Dandia testified that he felt betrayed once the informant was revealed because they had become so close that the informant visited him in his home, met his parents, and spent the night on one occasion.

As a consequence, Muslim charity organizations are under needless stress and pressure. The lawsuit aims to “end the NYPD's Muslim Surveillance Program, and to prevent future surveillance based solely or predominantly on religion in the absence of individualized suspicion of criminal activity. It also seeks to expunge the records that were created because of the program, and to appoint a monitor to ensure that New York City truly ends all of the unconstitutional practices inherent in its religious profiling practices.”

The lawsuit comes after details of the program were released by the Associated Press, which alleged Muslims were targeted purely because of their religion, with the cooperation of the CIA.

AAI will keep you updated as the case progresses. 



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