Religious, civil rights groups demand investigation of NYPD spying

October 25, 2013

 

A coalition of 125 religious, civil rights, and community-based organizations sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice Thursday (Oct. 24) urging a civil rights investigation into a New York City Police Department program that spies on Muslims.

Groups from several faith traditions signed the letter including the Presbyterian Church (USA), the National Council of Jewish Women, the Hindu American Foundation, and the Sikh Coalition. Civil rights groups include the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union, South Asian Americans Leading Together, and the National Network for Arab American Communities.

The NYPD program is already the target of two federal lawsuits, one filed in June by the ACLU and the City University of New York Law School’s Center for Law Enforcement Accountability and Responsibility, and the other filed in June 2012, by several Muslim plaintiffs represented by Muslim Advocates and the law firm Bhalla and Cho.

“Putting a class of Americans under surveillance based on their religion is a clear violation of our Constitution’s guarantees of equality and religious freedom,” Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project, said in a statement. “The NYPD’s surveillance program has stigmatized Muslims as suspect and had deeply negative effects on their free speech, association, and religious practice.”

 

www.religionnews.com: http://www.religionnews.com/2013/10/25/religious-civil-rights-groups-demand-investigation-nypd-spying/

Federal court reviews legality of NYPD Muslim surveillance program

Judge will rule whether strict limits on surveillance apply to the NYPD’s investigations into hundreds of Muslims.

 

A federal judge on Tuesday revisited at a decades-old court settlement restricting how the New York Police Department conducts surveillanceafter civil rights lawyers accused the department of breaking those rules by monitoring Muslims.

 

The dispute centers on the restrictions set by the Handschu decree, which was put in place in response to surveillance used against war protesters in the 1960s and 70s. The decree was relaxed following the September 11 terror attacks to allow police to more freely monitor political activity in public places.

 

“I’ve come to think of this case as a volcano that’s asleep most of the time … but every now and then blows up,” District Judge Charles Haight said at the start of a hearing in federal court in Manhattan.

 

The latest eruption stems from the NYPD‘s monitoring of Muslims, where they eat, study and worship as part of its counterterrorism efforts.

 

The police measures directed at Muslims violate the Handschu decree “because they’re not rooted in the fact that there’s a criminal predicate”, said plaintiff attorney Paul Chevigny. “They’re rooted in the fact that the subjects are Muslims.”

The city has countered by claiming that it closely observes the Handschu guidelines when making decisions about how to fight terror. A city lawyer, Peter Farrell, told the judge on Tuesday that the department launches investigations based on evidence of legitimate threats, not religion.

 

The civil rights lawyers filed the latest motion following a series of stories by the Associated Press that revealed the NYPD intelligence division infiltrated dozens of mosques and Muslim student groups and investigated hundreds.

NYC defends Muslim surveillance in court; plaintiffs say suspicions were based on innuendo

NEW YORK — The New York Police Department had legitimate reasons to put specific mosques and Muslim worshippers under surveillance as part of its counterterrorism efforts, a city lawyer said Thursday at the first court date in a civil rights lawsuit accusing the NYPD of religious profiling.

Peter Farrell of the city Law Department argued that before the case goes forward, the city should be allowed to present evidence specific to the six plaintiffs that he said would prove police were acting with legitimate law enforcement purposes. If the judge agrees, “then this case is over,” he said.

An American Civil Liberties Union attorney, Hina Shamsi, countered that her clients already had sufficient legal standing to sue the city and that the NYPD should be ordered to begin turning over sensitive reports and documents detailing the alleged spying on Muslims.

In a letter filed on Tuesday, city lawyers outlined evidence they say shows that a security team at a mosque named as a plaintiff in the suit sponsored survival training outings and referred to team members as “jihad warriors.” Another plaintiff mosque was frequented by a man convicted earlier this year of lying to the FBI about plans to team up with the Taliban or al-Qaida, the letter said.

The NYPD didn’t target particular mosques “simply because the attendees were Muslim,” the letter said. “Rather, the NYPD followed leads suggesting that certain individuals in certain mosques may be engaging in criminal and possibly terrorist activity.”

In response, the ACLU accused the city of vilifying its clients “through inflammatory and insinuation and innuendo, suggesting (they) are worthy of criminal investigation on the basis of First Amendment-protected speech, activities or attenuated — and unwitting — association alone.”

It added: “This strategy is a deliberate distraction at best. At worst, it verges on the very type of discriminatory and meritless profiling at the heart of this case.”

‘Fiction’: Ray Kelly Rebuts Allegations That NYPD Monitored Mosques

On Morning Joe Wednesday morning, New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly fought back against allegations that the NYPD had monitored entire mosques in the course of counterterrorist operations, telling host Joe Scarborough that the charges were the result of two reporters with an axe to grind, and the police department’s tactics were conducted lawfully and in the interests of the city’s security.

“They’re hyping a book that’s coming out next week,” Kelly said of the authors of the article with the allegations. “The book is based on a compilation of about fifty articles two AP reporters did on the department. If it’s a reflection of the article, then the book will be a fair amount of fiction. It will be half-truths, it will be lots of quotes from unnamed course sources.”

Scarborough asked if Kelly agreed that it would be improper to place entire mosques under police suspicion.

“Of course,” Kelly said. “We do according to the law. What we’re investigating, and how we investigate it, is done pursuant to a federal judge’s direction.”

 

Documents: NYPD Secretly Designated Entire Mosques As Terrorism Organizations to Record Sermons and Spy on Imams

NEW YORK — The New York Police Department has secretly labeled entire mosques as terrorist organizations, a designation that allows police to use informants to record sermons and spy on imams, often without specific evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Designating an entire mosque as a terrorism enterprise means that anyone who attends prayer services there is a potential subject of an investigation and fair game for surveillance.

Since the 9/11 attacks, the NYPD has opened at least a dozen “terrorism enterprise investigations” into mosques, according to interviews and confidential police documents. The TEI, as it is known, is a police tool intended to help investigate terrorist cells and the like.

Many TEIs stretch for years, allowing surveillance to continue even though the NYPD has never criminally charged a mosque or Islamic organization with operating as a terrorism enterprise.

The documents show in detail how, in its hunt for terrorists, the NYPD investigated countless innocent New York Muslims and put information about them in secret police files. As a tactic, opening an enterprise investigation on a mosque is so potentially invasive that while the NYPD conducted at least a dozen, the FBI never did one, according to interviews with federal law enforcement officials.

The disclosures come as the NYPD is fighting off lawsuits accusing it of engaging in racial profiling while combating crime. Earlier this month, a judge ruled that the department’s use of the stop-and-frisk tactic was unconstitutional.

The American Civil Liberties Union and two other groups have sued, saying the Muslim spying programs are unconstitutional and make Muslims afraid to practice their faith without police scrutiny.

One confidential NYPD document shows police wanted to put informants in leadership positions at mosques and other organizations, including the Arab American Association of New York in Brooklyn, a secular social-service organization.

 

CAIR Welcomes Ruling Against NYPD Stop-and-Frisk Program

(New York, N.Y., 8/12/13) — The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY) today welcomed a federal court ruling that the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk program has violated the constitutional rights of tens of thousands of the city’s residents.

The judge’s ruling came in response to a lawsuit brought against the city by the Center for Constitutional Rights challenging the constitutionality of the police practice. NYPD documents reveal that between 2004 and 2012 police had detained, questioned, and searched some 4.43 million people, and that 80 percent of those stopped were minorities.

Manhattan Federal District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that the stop-and-frisk program violates the Constitution’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, which protect against unreasonable searches and promise equal protection under the law. She also ordered that an independent monitor be appointed to oversee immediate changes in some police procedures.

The long-awaited decision declaring the New York Police Department’s use of stop-and-frisk tactics unconstitutional was mostly expected; even the staunchest defenders of the practice anticipated that Judge Shira A. Scheindlin would find the stops violated the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

 

But it was her other finding — that the police had violated the 14th Amendment by engaging in racial profiling in carrying out those stops — that drew blood.

 

In a statement responding to today’s ruling, CAIR-New York said:

 

“We welcome the court’s decision against the NYPD’s racially biased and unconstitutional stop-and-frisk program. Judge Scheindlin and the Center for Constitutional Rights helped us mark a milestone today in balancing the power between the people and the state and moving the civil rights movement one important step forward.

 

“We hope that today’s rebuke of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program will end any discussion of the potential nomination of New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly as the next secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Kelly has called this unconstitutional program ‘essential’ and said ‘you can’t police without doing it.’

 

“We repeat our call for increased oversight and investigations of the NYPD’s continued surveillance of American Muslim communities, houses of worship, and student clubs across the mid-Atlantic region. This unconstitutional spying program has interfered with lawful religious practice, cost taxpayers too much, and strained relations between the NYPD and one of the many diverse communities it is meant to serve.

 

“We still have a long way to go, and the Community Safety Act and other similar legislation is also key to ensuring the rights of New Yorkers of all colors.

 

“Additionally, we urge other courts to follow Judge Scheindlin’s lead in striking down law enforcement practices that rely on the profiling of minority communities.”

Muslims criticize Bloomberg veto of NYPD watchdog

Muslim-American civil rights groups are criticizing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for vetoing a bill on Tuesday (July 23) that would have created an independent inspector general to oversee the New York City Police Department.
The New York City Council passed the bill June 27 as a check against controversial NYPD policies that critics say violate the civil rights of Muslim and other minority New Yorkers. Reports that the NYPD spied on mosques, Muslim businesses, organizations and students began surfacing in 2011.
Critics say the surveillance program has caused many Muslims to stop going to Islamic institutions or speaking out in public, worried it could land them in legal troubles.

Ray Kelly: Things Falling Apart

How did Kelly’s policies manage to alienate the City Council, groups of Muslim-Americans and African-Americans, the New York Times, the FBI and even the Obama administration?

For the past 11 years, Kelly has been described as the most powerful and respected police commissioner in the history of New York City, whose anti-terrorism and crime-fighting policies have stopped 16 terrorist plots and resulted in record-low murders and shootings.

The police historian, Tom Reppetto, has said New Yorkers felt Kelly “stood between New York City and another terrorist attack.” NYU professor Mitchell Moss called Kelly “our secretary of defense, head of the CIA and … chief architect rolled into one.”

The confluence of its Stop and Frisk and its Muslim spying has brought together City Councilmen Brad Lander and Jumaane Williams – who have led the fight for an Inspector General — with Faiza Patel, an outspoken Muslim opponent of the NYPD’s spying who is affiliated with the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU. It was she who helped draft the City Council bill calling for an outside Inspector General.

How efficacious an Inspector General will be remains to be seen as he will be appointed by the Dept. of Investigation, an agency that in theory fights corruption but in reality protects the mayor from it.

Kelly has refused to acknowledge missteps on either Stop and Frisk or on the NYPD’s Muslim spying.

Last week he promoted to three-star chief status both Thomas Galati, the commanding officer of the Intelligence Division, and James Waters, the commanding officer of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau, to which detectives on the Joint Terrorist Task Force report.

 

Civil rights groups sue NYPD over Muslim spying

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Police Department’s widespread spying programs directed at Muslims have undermined free worship by innocent people and should be declared unconstitutional, religious leaders and civil rights advocates said Tuesday after the filing of a federal lawsuit.

“Our mosque should be an open, religious, a spiritual sanctuary, but NYPD spying has turned it into a place of suspicion and censorship,” Hamid Hassan Raza, an imam named as a plaintiff, told a rally outside police headquarters shortly after the suit was filed in federal court in Manhattan.

The suit asks a judge to order the nation’s largest police department to stop its surveillance and destroy any related records. It’s the third significant legal action filed against the NYPD’s Muslim surveillance program since details of the program were revealed in a series of Associated Press reports starting in 2011.

The lawsuit said Muslim religious leaders in New York have modified their sermons and other behavior so as not to draw additional police attention. The suit was filed against Mayor Michael Bloomberg, police commissioner Raymond Kelly and the deputy commissioner of intelligence, David Cohen.

 

The NYPD did not immediately respond to a phone call and email asking for comment.

New York City’s law department said police intelligence-gathering tactics in Muslim communities is legal and critical to combating terrorism.

The lawsuit is the latest legal challenge to the activities of the NYPD Intelligence Division. A year ago, the California-based civil rights organization Muslim Advocates sued the NYPD over its counterterrorism programs. This year, civil rights lawyers urged a judge to stop the NYPD from routinely observing Muslims in restaurants, bookstores and mosques, saying the practice violates a landmark 1985 court settlement that restricted the kind of surveillance used against war protesters in the 1960s and ’70s.

The lawsuit describes a pattern of NYPD spying directed at Muslims in New York since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

CLEAR Project Issues Report on Impact of NYPD Surveillance on American Muslims

mapping muslimsMarch 11, 2013 – American Muslim civil liberties groups released a new report today, Mapping Muslims: NYPD Spying and Its Impact on American Muslims, documenting the devastating impacts of the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) extensive surveillance program that targeted American Muslims throughout the Northeast and spread outrage throughout the nation.

Since 2002, the NYPD embarked on a covert domestic surveillance program that monitored American Muslims throughout the Northeast, from spying on neighborhood cafes and places of worship to infiltrating student whitewater-rafting trips – a program that continued despite the NYPD’s own acknowledgment that, over the course of six years, these efforts had not generated a single lead. The report is an unprecedented collection of voices from affected community members reflecting how the NYPD spying and infiltration creates a pervasive climate of fear and suspicion that encroaches upon every aspect of their religious, political, and community lives.

The report was prepared by the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition, and its partner organizations the Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility (CLEAR) project at Main Street Legal Services, Inc. of the CUNY School of Law, and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF). American Muslim community members delivered the report to NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence David Cohen today at 1 Police Plaza.

Mapping-Muslims.pdf