An investigative report on the New York Police Department’s surveillance of mosques has prompted a motion to stop the program.
The 1985 Handschu agreement, the guidelines that regulate the NYPD’s behavior regarding political activity, limits indiscriminate surveillance. Videotaping and photographing of large public gatherings are prohibited under the agreement if there is no evidence that criminal activity is taking place. Also, in order to surveil any group under the agreement, it had to be approved three-member Handschu Authority.
Plaintiffs who filed suit in February against the city now say the NYPD is violating those rules.
The police surveillance of Muslims violates 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 NYPD claims mosques are surveilled if they have been deemed “terrorist organizations.”
After September 11, the Handschu guidelines were “watered-down” because “the world had changed since Al Qaeda attacked America, and the NYPD needed to change with it,” TechDirt reported.
City attorney Peter Farrell said Tuesday that the NYPD launched mosque investigations based on legitimate threats and regardless of religious affiliation.
"It's undeniable that New York City remains at the center of the threat by Islamists who have been radicalized to violence," Farrell said.
Republican Mayoral Candidate Joe Lhota defended the broad surveillance program during an interview with BuzzFeed Tuesday.
“When you look at the facts they don’t willy-nilly go there because of the people there,” Lhota said. “I have yet to see any place where they have gone where there was not at least one, if not two people that they were focused on that brought them to that mosque. The mosque didn’t come first.”