Tuesday, September 16, 2014

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Judge Dismisses Suit Challenging NYPD's Surveillance of Muslim-Americans

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TWC News: Judge Dismisses Suit Challenging NYPD's Surveillance of Muslim-Americans
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A federal judge delivered a victory to the New York City Police Department Thursday by throwing out a case that alleged that police officers discriminated against Muslims in New Jersey. NY1's Michael Herzenberg filed the following report.

Syed Hassan has served in the United States Army for more than a decade. Born in Chicago, he attends mosques in New Jersey where he lives.

He says he goes less now because of New York City Police Department surveillance and worries about his security clearance in the Army.

"Constant fear," he said. "The fact that there's a possibility that my license plate would have been recorded at a suspected location for no apparent reason was extremely detrimental to my career."

He is not alone in his fight against the NYPD's surveillance program. He filed a civil suit with others against the city of New York. Plaintiffs include five other Muslim individuals who claim that the surveillance hurt their careers or property values.

A Rutgers University student association and two New Jersey organizations that run mosques say that the police program got in the way of engaging members in open discussion.

The mosques claim that the NYPD watching them with video cameras on utility poles squashed attendance, while two Newark businesses complain that customers stopped coming when it became publicly known that police were monitoring them.

The judge ruled, "Plaintiffs have demonstrated neither the injury in fact element nor the causation elements of standing required."

Lawyers for the plaintiffs promise an appeal, maintaining that the NYPD targeted Muslims solely on the basis of religion violating their First and 14th Amendment rights.

"The court today said police departments can profile Muslims anywhere, any time without limitation," said Baher Azmy, a plaintiff who is part of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

The Judge wrote, "the Plaintiffs in this case have not alleged facts from which it can be plausibly inferred that they were targeted solely because of their religion. The more likely explanation for the surveillance was a desire to locate budding terrorist conspiracies."

The city Law Department declined to comment.

A similar federal suit in Brooklyn is still pending.

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