A federal judge in New Jersey ruled Thursday that the New York Police Department’s surveillance of Muslims was legal.
According to The Associated Press, U.S. District Judge William Martini has dropped a lawsuit against the NYPD by a group of Muslims in New Jersey who alleged that the department’s spying on them infringed on their constitutional rights because they focused on religion, national origin and race.
Martini noted the plaintiffs had no proof that the NYPD “acted with discriminatory purpose,” spying on them just because of their religion. “The more likely explanation for the surveillance was to locate budding terrorist conspiracies,” he wrote.
The judge added: “The police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself.”
The Center for Constitutional Rights’ legal director, Baher Azmy released a statement criticizing the ruling, calling it troubling: “In addition to willfully ignoring the harm that our innocent clients suffered from the NYPD’s illegal spying program, by upholding the NYPD’s blunderbuss Muslim surveillance practices, the court’s decision gives legal sanction to the targeted discrimination of Muslims anywhere and everywhere in this country, without limitation, for no other reason than their religion.”
Along with CCR, California-based civil rights group Muslim Advocates also made it clear that they will appeal the ruling. Glenn Keaton, Muslim Advocates’ legal director, was quoted in the New York Village Voice saying, “The fight is not over by any means. The surveillance program violates the Constitution, and we are confident that this decision will not hold up to review upon appeal. The NYPD's blatantly discriminatory program has hurt the lives of many innocent Americans--moms who fear sending their children to school, students who simply want to pray, and Muslim-owned businesses that have lost customers.”
The city’s Law Department declined to comment on the ruling. Former Mayor Michael Michael Bloomberg and former Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has always backed the surveillance programs, saying they were necessary for the protection of the city from terrorist attacks.
A similar lawsuit filed in a Brooklyn federal court is still ongoing.