Over 120 Rights And Religious Groups Join ACLU In Call For DOJ To Investigate NYPD's Surveillance Of Muslims
from the pushing-back dept
Over the last few years, the NYPD's intrusive surveillance of the city's Muslim population has raised many concerns about civil liberty violations while simultaneously failing to turn up much in the way of terrorist plots.
The ACLU has gathered the support of 125 civil rights, religious, racial justice and other community organizations, all of which have signed its letter requesting that the DOJ investigate the NYPD's surveillance of Muslims.
Dear Acting Assistant Attorney General Samuels and Section Chief Smith:As we've seen previously, the NYPD has placed blanket surveillance on entire mosques, justifying it with guidelines weakened by a former CIA officer who exploited post-9/11 paranoia to broadly expand the department's surveillance powers and eliminate built-in protection of civil liberties. This surveillance continues to this day despite an NYPD official admitting these programs have yet to generate a single useful lead or investigation.
The undersigned civil rights, faith, community, and advocacy groups request that the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice commence a prompt investigation under 42 U.S.C. § 14141 into the New York City Police Department’s (“NYPD”) discriminatory surveillance of American Muslim communities.
As shown by the NYPD’s own documents, for over a decade, the Department has engaged in unlawful religious profiling and suspicionless surveillance of Muslims in New York City (and beyond). This surveillance is based on the false and unconstitutional premise, reflected in the NYPD’s published “radicalization” theory, that Muslim religious belief, practices, and community engagement are grounds for law enforcement scrutiny. That is a premise rooted in ignorance and bias: it is wrong and unfairly stigmatizes Muslims, who are a law-abiding, diverse, and integral part of our nation and New York City. Unsurprisingly, the NYPD’s surveillance program has had far-reaching, deeply negative effects on Muslims’ constitutional rights by chilling speech and religious practice and harming religious goals and missions. It has frayed the social fabric of Muslim communities by breeding anxiety, distrust, and fear. The NYPD’s biased policing practices hurt not only Muslims, but all communities who rightfully expect that law enforcement will serve and protect America’s diverse population equally, without discrimination.
Under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 § 210401, the United States Attorney General is authorized to conduct investigations concerning “a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers . . . that deprives persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.” 42 U.S.C. § 14141(a)...
The ACLU has drawn support across a variety of religious groups, many of which recognize that while the NYPD may be focused on Muslims now, any other religious (or political, activist, etc.) group could be subject to the same intrusive surveillance if a future attack brings with it guilt by association.
If the DOJ follows through, this will be the second time in recent months that it has weighed in on the NYPD's questionable tactics. Back in June, Attorney General Eric Holder filed a brief recommending that if Judge Scheindlin found the department's stop-and-frisk program to be unconstitutional, independent oversight should be appointed to keep the department in line. Sheindlin did find elements of the program unconstitutional and one of the remedies was, indeed, independent oversight.
As was pointed out then, the DOJ's reputation may be terrible, but one of the few areas in which it has been "aggressive and commendable" is its handling of civil rights violations by police departments. Hopefully, this will result in more of the same.