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ACLU v. NYPD: Is It Legal to Single Out Muslims for Surveillance?

The American Civil Liberties Union, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the CLEAR Project of Main Street Legal Services at the CUNY School of Law recently filed a lawsuit against the New York City Police Department. At issue is whether the NYPD’s Muslim Surveillance Program is legal.

Under the program, the NYPD:

  • Specifically identifies neighborhoods inhabited predominantly by Muslims
  • Targets mosques for video surveillance by police officers in patrol cars on the street and cameras mounted on light poles
  • Pays informants to take photos inside mosques and bait Muslims to make inflammatory statements
  • Uses plainclothes officers to gather information in businesses and restaurants that are frequented by Muslims
  • Collects data on thousands of individually targeted Muslims

Explaining the basis for the lawsuit, the director of ACLU’s National Security Project, Hina Shamsi, said, “When a police department turns law-abiding people into suspects because they go to a mosque and not a church or a synagogue, it violates our Constitution’s guarantees of equality and religious freedom. No one questions that the NYPD has a job to do, but spying on innocent New Yorkers because of their religion is a wrong and ineffective way to do it. We are asking the court to end the NYPD’s unconstitutional religious discrimination.”

The lawsuit was filed in Brooklyn’s U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in June. As a law firm interested in protecting the rights of New Yorkers, we intend to keep you posted as the case progresses.

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